How long does it take a nation to fall away from its spiritual heritage?
Well in Exodus 32 it’s been 50 days since the Israelites had arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai. They had been redeemed from slavery, brought through the Red Sea and carried by the Angel of God on eagle’s wings. He has brought them to hear the voice of God Most High speaking the ten words. And they all responded:
“All the words which the LORD hath said will we do.” (Exodus 24:3)
Well, with such assurances of the people’s moral resolve, Moses stays up on the mountain receiving instructions for the tabernacle. And while Moses is away, the Israelites play.
When the people saw that Moses delayed 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 that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. (Exodus 32:1)
How quickly they had forgotten the LORD Christ who had led them so faithfully. And how soon they turned from God’s Presence to idols, breaking the very heart and foundation of the law.
Well, Aaron complies with the people’s wishes immediately. He compels the people to give towards this false god (verse 2). This is in stark contrast to how money was raised for the tabernacle, where every donation was a free-will offering (e.g. Exodus 35:4-29). But while true worship of the LORD is always free, false religion is always forced.
So, instead of being pressed into the LORD’s service, the goods they had taken from the Egyptians are made into a golden calf! (Exodus 3:22; 12:36)
Why a calf? Psalm 106:19-20 clarifies that this is the calf of an ox. Now when you put Ezekiel 1:10 and Ezekiel 10:14 together you see that cherubs are like oxen. And we know that the devil is a cherub (Ezekiel 28:14-19). Here’s the shock, Israel has not just descended into any old false worship. This is devil worship!
That’s not to say they were consciously invoking Satan’s name. In fact they liberally sprinkled their calf-worship with mentions of “the LORD”. But this only shows that saying “Lord, Lord” doesn’t mean a whole lot. You can worship Satan ‘in Jesus’ name.’
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. 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. And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?”
And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 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.’ 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.” (Exodus 32:19-24)
Justifications for sin are always ridiculous and Aaron’s is no exception. Moses responds thunderously with righteous anger. The law is hurled at a sinful people and tomorrow we’ll see the outcome.
But compare Moses with Christ.
Christ is the original Righteous Ruler of the people. He too dwelt in heavenly glory and His people gave up waiting and turned to idols. But when the time came, the Father did not send a thunder-bolt. He sent His Son. As a baby. And Jesus, when He came in the flesh, did not hurl the law at us. Though we deserve nothing but condemnation, He answers us with mercy. He doesn’t force us to drink down judgement. He offered us His own life-blood in salvation.
And of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (John 1:17-18)
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