Skip to main content

Don’t Have A Cow! Exodus 32

As a quick reminder, for the past several chapters, Moses has been atop Mount Sinai. Joshua has been about halfway up the mountain, waiting on him. The rest of Israel?

They’re at the foot of the mountain, camped out and waiting. Moses is gone for a week. They wait. Two weeks. They wait. Three weeks, and still waiting. Four weeks, and the waiting goes on. Then we come to Exodus 32 (link).

Finally, after about forty days, the people decide that perhaps Moses isn’t coming back. They are at the foot of a mountain, remember, that God has descended on in fire and thunder and cloud. After these forty days, the suspicion rises that whatever is going on up there, it’s not survivable.

So the people come to Aaron and tell him to make a god for them to worship and to be the center of their community. Aaron then tells the people to bring him some gold, and he fashions it into a calf. One question that has long troubled me about this passage is this: Why does Aaron know, so readily, how to fashion an idol? That begs for an answer, but I don’t have one.

After they start partying around the calf, God informs Moses that he had better get down the mountain and straighten them out, because God is ready to destroy them. They have, after all, bailed on the covenant commitment they made a mere 40 days before. Moses pleads with God for mercy, God grants it, and then Moses goes down to try and fix the problem.

The end result? People are killed in judgment, the original two tablets of the law are smashed, and the golden calf is ground up and added to drinking water. God threatens to send the people on without Him, and Moses pleads that God not do so.

Now, since none of us are headed from Egypt, up through the wilderness, and moving into Canaan (I assume), we need to dig through this and find the principles that apply to our lives. This is what you do in striving to understand Scripture. When you work through narrative passages, look at what is present. Examine the actions that are taken, examine the actions that are not taken.

Take the time to see if certain actions are given with a positive view or a negative view. If you want an example of how to look into that, find the same news story on CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews. It will be obvious in how it’s phrased whether the same facts are viewed positively or negatively. I’d recommend reading four or five major sources on the next unemployment report. It’s a hoot at times.

So, when we come to this passage, what do we see?

We see people who have been waiting for forty days, and who get restless. Their restlessness leads to a loss of focus, which leads to idolatry, which brings judgment. Even in the judgment, there is a longer-term response of grace and restoration.

How does this apply to us?

First: there are a great many times in our lives that the extraordinary is distant from us. We have a day-to-day life that is, more often than not, routine. Even as followers of Christ, every day is not stunning and adventurous. While we see more day by day how deep the grace and the love of God is, and this should grow our astonishment at Him, most days remain on the border of mundane.

Normal days, though, should not lead us into temptation. The people of Israel are the example of what not to do in the situation. There was enough to do in honoring the covenant they had made a mere forty days before. They were supposed to spend their time learning to live with one another and in relationship with God.

The extraordinary times will come often enough: these people crossed the Red Sea and will see other great things. We need to understand the same is true of us. We will see extraordinary things from time to time, just not all the time.

Second, we need to learn from Aaron’s example. He is, again, a negative example. Very rarely does a whole community, whether a nation or a church, go quietly into sin without asking a few people what their opinion is. Take a look at the coming political season: every candidate will tout religious people to back their opinions. Every one. Obama will have his, Romney will have his--

The question is how many who are Christians will have the courage to either in public or in private actually address issues from a true, honest Bible-based perspective.

Third, we need to learn from Moses’ example. There is always a reason to plead for God’s grace for those around us, no matter how far away they are running.

We also should learn from the example of destroying the golden calf.  Do not keep stuff around that has been entrapping you to sin!

Today’s Nerd Note: This passage also gives us the origin of the Levites as the priests/teachers of the Israelites. They were the first to be willing to stand, even forcefully, for the truth. Is that what we think of when we think of religious leaders today? Or do we think of quiet little people who would never rise up to destroy the enemies of righteousness?

Historically, it was often religious leaders who led the way. Sometimes wrongly, but sometimes rightly: a good many sermons encouraged the way to Lexington and Concord. A good many of those even lamented slavery and had they been heeded, the Civil War would have been avoided. Christian preachers in Germany warned of the Nazis. Christians have been fighting human trafficking, African warlords, and drug problems for decades and centuries before they make the news and draw celebrities.

Christian leaders have often been wrong, but they have also often been right. Rise up for what is right.


Popular posts from this blog

Book: By the Waters of Babylon

Worship. It is what the church does as we strive to honor God with our lips and our lives. And then, many churches argue about worship. I have about a half-dozen books on my shelf about worship, but adding Scott Aniol’s By the Waters of Babylon to the shelf has been excellent.

First of all, Aniol’s work is not based on solving a musical debate. While that branch of worship is often the most troublesome in the local church, By the Waters of Babylon takes a broader view. The starting point is the place of the church. That place is a parallel of Psalm 137, where the people of God, Israel, found themselves in a strange land. The people of God, again, find themselves in a strange land.
Second, in summary, the book works logically to the text of Scripture, primarily Psalm 137 but well-filled with other passages. Then it works outward from how the text addresses the problems submitted in the first chapter into how worship, specifically corporate worship, should look in the 21st century Weste…

Put Down That Tablet! Exodus 35

Moses assembles the people of Israel at Sinai one last time before they set out into the wilderness, headed for the Promised Land. He gives them a reminder of some portions of the commands of God and emphasizes the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 35 link).He also gives the one Biblical mention of tablet-type mobile devices in Exodus 35:3, where the command is given not to use your Kindle Fire on the Sabbath Day. Some of you just groaned. Some of you skipped the one-liner, and others just missed it. I’ll address you all in turn, but first let us address the person who thought this might be the hidden meaning of that command. After all, we are so easily distracted from our worship and commitment by all of the digital noise around us, why would we not take this text in this manner?The quite simple answer is: because it is not about digital devices. In total, the command to focus the day on Yahweh, Covenant God of Israel and all of Creation, and if your device subtracts from your f…

Book Review: The Heart Mender by @andyandrews (Andy Andrews)

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second ChancesEver read a book that you just kind of wish is true?  That's my take on The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  It's a charming story of love and forgiveness, and it's woven into the historical setting of World War II America.  For the narrative alone, the book is worth the read, but the message it contains is well worth absorbing as well.However, let's drop back a minute.  This book was originally published under the title Island of Saints.  I read Island of Saints and enjoyed it greatly.  Now, Andrews has released it under a new title, with a few minor changes.  All of this is explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, but should be noted for purchaser's sake.  If you read Island of Saints, you're rereading when you read The Heart Mender.  Now, go ahead and reread it.  It will not hurt you one bit.Overall, the story is well-paced.  There are points where I'd like more detail, both in the history and the geog…