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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

May 23, 2018

Exodus  32:15-35

  1. Verses 15-16. After 40 days, God finished sharing all the commands to Moses. In that time some of the people lost faith and returned to the idol worship that they were exposed to in Egypt. These people forced Aaron to make an idol and they engaged in orgies like the fertility rites they witnessed in Egypt. 40 days prior, God told them that he hated idolatry and that they should worship no other gods, but the people broke the very first commandment that they were given. God sends Moses down from the mountaintop to see how the people had fallen back into idolatry. In Moses hands, as he descended, were the tablets God inscribed on the front and back. The commands of God are written in stone, meaning they were not to be disobeyed in the slightest. The people don’t know all the commands of God, at that moment, but they did know the most important ones. It was these very first commands that some of the people disobeyed.

  2. Verses 17-18. We know from Exodus 24 that Joshua had accompanied Moses for part of his climb up the mountain. Apparently, Joshua had remained on the mountainside and Moses had met him on his way down. Joshua, being a military man, immediately associates so great a noise with battle. Moses quotes a saying already familiar that serves as a response to Joshua’s concern--remember Joshua didn’t hear what God told Moses about the people and their sin. Joshua thinks the commotion is an outside enemy, but it is an enemy of the heart and soul. The noise wasn’t an outside enemy attacking, but an inward enemy leading the people astray. Oftentimes our destruction is not by outside physical forces, but inward spiritual forces that fuel our lust. The people didn’t want a God to lead them, they wanted a God to let them do what their lust were desiring.

  3. Verses 19-20. The situation was worse than the description of the people’s sin that the Lord had given Moses when he was still at the top of the mountain in verse 8. The Lord had told him that Israel had made a golden bull, but Moses was not prepared to see them engaged in orgies. Because Moses was enjoying an intimate communion with the Almighty, he could not imagine the idolatry and the orgies. When Moses saw that many of the commands were already broken, he threw the tablets down in anger. The people didn’t last 40 days before falling into temptation. The breaking of the tablets is not simply an act of unrestrained anger. It is a ceremonial act. The breaking of the tablets, on which were written a summary of the covenant between Yahweh and Israel, meant that the covenant had been broken by Israel’s sin. Moses was acting on Yahweh’s behalf to indicate that the promises God had made to Israel were now forfeit because of her sin. It wasn’t the tablets that were shattered, in the first place, but Yahweh’s relationship with Israel. Not only did Moses throw down the tablets, he also smashed the idol into dust and made the people drink the dust of the idol. Making the Israelites drink the gold dust was intended to impress upon them the utter powerlessness of the idol they had made; it was a demonstration of complete impotence so far as the idol was concerned. The breaking up of idols is something that was also required in the law (23:24).

  4. Verses 21-24. Up to this moment, God has not dealt harshly with the Israelites, they are now about to see just how serious God is. God had proven himself by setting them free and delivering them from the hands of the Egyptians, but they have rejected his love that he visibly demonstrated to them. These people saw the miracles for themselves. These people were just looking for an opportunity to sin. As soon as they were settled, they began to go back to their old ways. Their behavior was like a cancer that had to be removed. Moses confronts Aaron about what was going on, and Aaron replied that the people coerced him into making the idol because they were evil. Aaron followed their orders and built an idol from the jewelry that the people gave him. Aaron failed to admit that he did nothing to stop the people and tried to make it seem like the idol wasn’t really created by him “out came this calf.” Aaron was not a very strong leader.

  5. Verses 25-29. The people were out of control. We are supposed to see that the camp is in total chaos. The original words give us the idea that the people were acting in contempt of God. It was bad. God did not deliver the people to become evildoers. The people were out of control. Moses uses the Word “laughingstock” to portray the people as actually harming each other with their behavior to the point where other nations would laugh at them and laugh at their God. Moses looked at the people who were engaged in the orgy and idol worship and commanded some of the Levites, who did not participate, to get swords and kill those who were participating in the idol worship. Three thousand were killed by the Levites. Those Levites who stood with Moses were now set apart to God on that day because they did not spare even their own relatives.

  6. Verses 30-35. The next day Moses speaks to the entire assembly of Israelites and tells them that they are all in jeopardy of being punished for what happened. Most likely the people would not have believed they were in jeopardy of punishment if not for the deaths the day before. Moses tells the people that he will have to go before the Lord and beg for forgiveness. Moses goes to God and expresses how bad the people had sinned, and that he would die in their place. The Lord replied by telling Moses to move forward and that He would punish the people for the sin. God sent a plague on the people because of the idol.

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