The people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us…’ Exodus 32:1
‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any carved image … thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them’
In our last three lessons, we have seen how God spoke with the Israelites from Mount Sinai in the midst of the fire, thunder and lightning, and gave them His ten holy commandments. We also saw how God commanded the people of Israel to make an altar at the base of Sinai and offer some spotless animals as sacrifices.
Why did God order those animal sacrifices? God ordered them because He is righteous, and His holy law declares:
“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
Whoever breaks God’s law has sinned … and
the payment of sin is death!
(Jam. 2:10; 1 John 3:4; Rom. 6:23)
Since the Israelites could not keep all of God’s commandments, they had to present to God sacrifices without blemish, so that the innocent animal might die as a substitute for the guilty person. The animal gave up its life so the sinner would not have to. In this way God proved that He is righteous and that He cannot excuse sin based on man’s efforts. God can only forgive sin based on
the blood of a perfect sacrifice.
Our lesson today is called “Broken Commandments.” At this point in the story of the prophet Moses and the tribes of Israel, they are still camping in front of Mount Sinai in the desert. Let us now return to Exodus 24 to see what happened after God gave them the Ten Commandments.
The Scripture says: (Exodus 24:12-18) “And the Lord said unto Moses, Come up to me into the mount, and be there; and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written,
that thou mayest teach them.
And Moses rose up, and his servant, Joshua; and Moses went up into the mount of God. And he said unto the elders, tarry ye here for us, until we come again unto you: and, behold, Aaron and Hur are with thee; if any man have any matters to do, let him come unto them. And Moses went up into the mount, and
a cloud covered the mount.
And the glory of the Lord abode upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days; and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And
the sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire
on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and got up into the mount; and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights”.
Let us pause here. In the next study, Lord willing, we will learn what God told Moses on Mount Sinai during that forty day period. In this lesson, however, we are going to see what happened to the Israelites who were in the camp at the base of the mountain waiting for Moses to return. We all know that waiting for God patiently is not easy for the children of Adam. It is much easier for us to give up;
to forget God’s Word and go our own way.
Thus, what we are going to read now about the Israelites is important for us–very important. God wants to warn us through this shocking story.
In chapter thirty-two, we read: (verses 1-4) “And when the people saw that
to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and
bring them unto me.
And all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with an engraving tool, after he had made it a melted calf: and they said,
These are thy gods,
O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”
Do you see what the Israelites were doing? Not many days after they had said, “Everything that the LORD has said we will do!” we see them breaking the first and second commandments which God had just given them on Mount Sinai! God had said to them: One: “You shall have no other gods before me!” Two: “You shall not make for yourself an idol!” But what did the Israelites do?
They turned their backs on God
and made for themselves an idol in the shape of a calf like the idols they had seen in Egypt.
Why did the Israelites so quickly turn their backs on God and His Word? Because what they wanted was a god which they could see and touch.
They were like people today
who choose to ignore the Word of God and follow men and their traditions. Following a man whom the eye can see is easier than following God whom no one can see. That is why most of the children of Adam substitute the ideas of men, which have no solid basis, for
the true Word of God.
Let us see now what happened after the Israelites made for themselves the golden calf. The Scripture says: (Exodus 32:5-6) “And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast unto the Lord. And they rose up early on the next day and offered peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play”.
The Scriptures tell us that “he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, ‘Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD!’” Was that the truth? Could the Israelites worship the LORD in that way?
We know that God did not have any part of the worship festival that they were organising.
Now they had not only broken the first and second commandments, but also the third commandment which says: “You shall not use the name of the LORD your God in vain.” “God the LORD! God, God, God!” was in their mouths, but their hearts were far from Him.
Their worship was in vain.
Their words about God were worthless. Their prayers were only a lot of meaningless bowing down that could only make God angry!
Now, let’s finish the story: (Exodus 32:7-35) “And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, whom thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them:
they have melted a calf,
and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These are thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone,
that my wrath may burn against them,
and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath burn against thy people, whom thou hast brought out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?
Turn from thy fierce wrath,
and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou didst swear by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it forever. And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people. And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other were they written. And
the tables were the work of God,
and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tables. And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses,
There is a noise of war in the camp.
And he said, It is not the voice of them who shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them who cry for being overcome; but the noise of them who sing do I hear. And it came to pass, as soon as he came near unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing; and
Moses’ anger burned,
and he cast the tables out of his hands, and broke them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it. And Moses said unto Aaron,
What did this people unto thee,
that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord burn: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us; for as this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it to me: then I cast it into the fire, and
there came out this calf.
And when Moses saw that the people were naked (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies), then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said,
Let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. For Moses had said,
Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord,
even every man upon his son, and upon his brother, that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day. And it came to pass on the next day, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; perhaps I shall make an atonement for your sin. And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh,
this people have sinned a great sin,
and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me,
him will I blot out of my book.
Therefore go now, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee; behold, mine angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit,
I will visit their sin upon them.
And the Lord plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made”.
This is where the chapter ends.
They had broken God’s holy law. The evil heart of man showed itself again. In spite of all the LORD had done for the people of Israel, we see how quickly they left the way of righteousness which God had established. They chose to follow another way, to create for them-selves
their own religion.
They chose the path of the works of their hands. They turned their back on the way that God had established and rejoiced in a religion they chose for themselves. The Name of God was on their lips, but
their hearts were far from Him!
That is why they went as far as to have a calf forged, taking pleasure in the works of their hands, and turning their backs on the living and true God.
through this shocking story? God wants us to think about where we stand in our relationship with Him. Perhaps there are those who are thinking: “I am not like the Israelites. I have never turned my back on God and worshiped an idol.” You who think this way, are you positively sure that you have never worshiped an idol? Perhaps you have not had an idol forged for yourself. However, an idol is not limited to sculptured images to be worshiped. An idol is anything which comes
between us and God.
An idol can be money, clothes, sex, soccer, television, self, another person like yourself, or the traditions of your ancestors. Some cling to idols and charms. For others, their religious duties are their idols; they put more importance on praying and fasting than on listening to the Word of God! Anything that replaces God the Creator and His Word of truth is an idol.
Who is your God?
Whom do you really worship, the LORD God, or an idol? Is the name of God merely on your lips or is His Name inside your heart? There is something that distinguishes those who truly worship God from those who worship idols. It is
the Word of God.
What is your attitude toward the true Word of God? Do you know God’s Word?
Do you believe it?
Do you love it with all your heart? Or are you like the Israelites of whom God said, “These people draweth near unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”? (Matt. 15:8,9)
How about you?
Whom do you really worship, the LORD God who gave His righteous law to Moses?
Or are you placing your hope in the way of your own religious works as the Israelites did? Whatever the case may be, the Scripture says: “Now all these things happened unto them for examples, and they are written
for our warning,
upon whom the ends of the ages are come … wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men.” (1 Cor. 10:11,14,15) “But the fearful, the unbelieving … shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” (Rev. 21:8) “If we receive the witness of men,
the witness of God is greater;
for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son … the Son of God is come and has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true … Little children, keep yourselves from idols!” (1 John 5:9,20,21)
In the next lesson, God willing, we will look at the unusual plan God designed so that He might dwell among the sinful Israelites and still remaining righteous.
God bless you as you remember this important warning from His Word:
“Keep yourselves from idols!” (1 John 5:21)
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