When I first read the story about the Golden Calf in Exodus 32, it was very easy for me to judge both Aaron and the people. I could not believe that anyone would be that stupid. I was a very immature Christian at that time. Since then I have realized that there is a powerful story there for both you and me. So, I share this with you.
1 When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”
2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”
3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron.
4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”
5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.”
6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.
ESV (Ex 32:1–6)
Before we move on, let’s look at what God told Moses to do, as documented later in the same chapter.
- 7-10 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen these people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now, therefore, let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” (God is convinced by Moses to not do that.)
- 15-16, 19-20 Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.
- 21-25 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” 25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies),
- 26-29 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’ ” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”
- 30-32 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.”
- 33 But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”
- 35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.
ESV (Ex 32:7–35)
Sequence of Events
I believe that the Old Testament is very important for Christians. I honestly believe that God treated the nation of Israel as a group in the same way He treats each of us today. There is sin, then there are consequences and forgiveness. God fulfilled all His promises to them, in the same way that He fulfills all His promises to you and me. That is why this story is so fascinating to me. Let’s look at what happened, step by step.
- The people used idols to cope when slaves in Egypt.
- God freed them from slavery and promised them a “Promised Land”.
- Moses went up the mountain to converse with God, taking Joshua along.
- The people got impatient with Moses and God.
- They demanded that their religious leader stop waiting and create a “god”. (An object to represent God.)
- Aaron asked for all their gold earrings, melted the gold, and shaped it into a calf.
- They all agreed that this calf set them free, and an altar was built in front of the calf.
- They sacrificed at that altar what had been promised to the Lord.
- It was party time, thinking they were now closer to God.
- Moses was sent down and God would kill all of them.
- He destroyed the tablets, written by God on both sides.
- Moses crushes the calf into powder, adds it to water, and makes people drink it!
- He challenges Aaron about what he allowed to happen, and Aaron lies about it!
- Moses has the Levites sacrifice their close friends and neighbors, in order to get a specific blessing.
- He pleads with God for forgiveness, offering himself instead.
- God rejects Moses’ offer, and implies none of them will enter the Promised Land.
- God does this in steps, the first being a plague.
What About You and Me?
This is tougher because it demands we stop looking at them and look at ourselves. Let’s stop judging them, and instead, look at how we follow the same sequence today. Our hearts/souls are no better than theirs. Let’s see how we are the same as them.
|Their journey with God.||Our journey with God. (At least mine!)|
|1||The people used idols to cope when slaves in Egypt.||1||We are trapped in our own desires and selfishness. We develop favorite coping skills to deal with life.|
|2||God freed them from slavery, offering a “Promised Land”.||2||We accept God and He frees us from ourselves.|
|3||Moses went up the mountain to converse with God, taking Joshua along.||3||Part of us goes to spend time with God and learn more about Him.|
|4||The people got impatient with Moses and God.||4||Part of us gets impatient with God because His timing is not our timing. (Sound familiar?)|
|5||They demanded that their religious leader stop waiting and create a “god”. (An object to represent God.)||5||We take over the relationship with God and we go back to our old coping skills and seek approval.|
|6||Aaron asked for all their gold earrings, melted the gold, and shaped it into a calf.||6||There is a “small price” to go back, and we gladly pay it. We are back in our “comfort zone”.|
|7||They all agreed that this calf set them free, and an altar was built in front of the calf.||7||We are happy to go back to our old ways. (Being critical, drinking, partying … whatever it was!)|
|8||They sacrificed at that altar what had been promised to the Lord.||8||We give the precious parts of ourselves to #7, instead of giving our souls to God.|
|9||It was party time, thinking they were now closer to God.||9||Time to party, as we are back in our “comfort zone”.|
|10||Moses was sent down and God would kill all of them.||10||Jesus is sent down. God knows that the punishment of sin is death.|
|11||He destroyed the tablets, written by God on both sides.||11||Jesus destroys the laws, taking our relationship with God deeper.|
|12||Moses crushes the calf into powder, adds it to water, and makes people drink it!||12||He takes the remnant of those laws, and wants us to digest them, and go beyond them.|
|13||He challenges Aaron about what he allowed to happen, and Aaron lies about it!||13||Jesus challenges our souls as to why did we listen to people and go backward? We make excuses!|
|14||Moses has the Levites sacrifice their close friends and neighbors, in order to get a specific blessing.||14||He tells us to sacrifice the relationships we have with those people that took us backward, interfered with our walk with God.|
|15||He pleads with God for forgiveness, offering himself instead.||15||Jesus pleads with God for our forgiveness, offering Himself instead.|
|16||God rejects Moses’ offer and implies none of them will enter the Promised Land.||16||Instead of rejecting the offer, God accepts it. We can enter the Promised Land!|
|17||God does this in steps, the first being a plague.||17||God helps us fulfill His will in us, doing this in steps for the rest of our lives!|
- It is easier to condemn and judge others than to see the same thing in ourselves.
- More often than we care to admit, when we think God has failed us or is taking too long, we go back to our old ways of coping with stress.
- God calls us out of our “comfort zone”, and to trust Him it will be better than staying in it.
- Focus on your relationship with God and tighten that.
- Trust Him more than you or I do now!
Please comment and/or respond to what you heard inside of you as you read this! Let’s share!
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