What If You Falter ?
Exodus 32:1-34;35 Exodus 32:1-4,30-34;34:6b-9 5/2/2010
It is a very lamentable interruption which the story of this chapter gives to the record of the establishment of the church, and of religion among the Jews. Things went on admirably well towards that happy settlement: God had shown himself very favourable, and the people also had seemed to be pretty tractable. Moses had now almost completed his forty days upon the mount, and, we may suppose, was pleasing himself with the thoughts of the very joyful welcome he should have to the camp of Israel at his return, and the speedy setting up of the tabernacle among them. But, behold, the measures are broken, the sin of Israel turns away those good things from them, and puts a stop to the current of Godâ€™s favours; the sin that did the mischief (would you think it?) was worshipping a golden calf. The marriage was ready to be solemnized between God and Israel, but Israel plays the harlot, and so the match is broken, and it will be no easy matter to piece it again. Here is, The sin of Israel, and of Aaron particularly, in making the golden calf for a god, and worshipping it. The notice which God gave of this to Moses, who was now in the mount with him , and the sentence of his wrath against them. The intercession which Moses immediately made for them in the mount, and the prevalency of that intercession. His coming down from the mount, when he became an eye-witness of their idolatry, in abhorrence of which, and as an expression of just indignation, he broke the tables, and burnt the golden calf. The examination of Aaron about it . Execution done upon the ring-leaders in the idolatry. The further intercession Moses made for them, to turn away the wrath of God from them, and a reprieve granted thereupon, reserving them for a further reckoning .
1. (Exodus 32 :1-4) The people cause Aaron to make a golden calf.
Exod. 32:1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, â€œCome, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we donâ€™t know what has happened to him.â€ 32:2 Aaron answered them, â€œTake off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.â€ 32:3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 32:4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, â€œThese are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.â€
While Moses was in the mount, receiving the law from God, the people made a tumultuous address to Aaron. This giddy multitude were weary of waiting for the return of Moses. Weariness in waiting betrays to many temptations. The Lord must be waited for till he comes, and waited for though he tarry. Let their readiness to part with their ear-rings to make an idol, shame our niggardliness in the service of the true God. They did not draw back on account of the cost of their idolatry; and shall we grudge the expenses of religion? Aaron produced the shape of an ox or calf, giving it some finish with a graving tool. They offered sacrifice to this idol. Having set up an image before them, and so changed the truth of God into a lie, their sacrifices were abomination. Had they not, only a few days before, in this very place, heard the voice of the Lord God speaking to them out of the midst of the fire, Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image? Had they not themselves solemnly entered into covenant with God, that they would do all he had said to them, and would be obedient? vs. 24:7. Yet before they stirred from the place where this covenant had been solemnly made, they brake an express command, in defiance of an express threatening. It plainly shows, that the law was no more able to make holy, than it was to justify; by it is the knowledge of sin, but not the cure of sin. Aaron was set apart by the Divine appointment to the office of the priesthood; but he, who had once shamed himself so far as to build an altar to a golden calf, must own himself unworthy of the honour of attending at the altar of God, and indebted to free grace alone for it. Thus pride and boasting were silenced.
2. (32: 30-34) Moses prays for the people.
Exod. 32:30 The next day Moses said to the people, â€œYou have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.â€ 32:31 So Moses went back to the LORD and said, â€œOh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32:32 But now, please forgive their sin â€”but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.â€ 32:33 The LORD replied to Moses, â€œWhoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 32:34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.â€
Moses calls it a great sin. The work of ministers is to show people the greatness of their sins. The great evil of sin appears in the price of pardon. Moses pleads with God for mercy; he came not to make excuses, but to make atonement. We are not to suppose that Moses means that he would be willing to perish for ever, for the peopleâ€™s sake. We are to love our neighbour as ourselves, and not more than ourselves. But having that mind which was in Christ, he was willing to lay down his life in the most painful manner, if he might thereby preserve the people. Moses could not wholly turn away the wrath of God; which shows that the law of Moses was not able to reconcile men to God, and to perfect our peace with him. In Christ alone, God so pardons sin as to remember it no more. From this history we see, that no unhumbled, carnal heart, can long endure the holy precepts, the humbling truths, and the spiritual worship of God. But a god, a priest, a worship, a doctrine, and a sacrifice, suited to the carnal mind, will ever meet with abundance of worshippers. The very gospel itself may be so perverted as to suit a worldly taste. Well is it for us, that the Prophet like unto Moses, but who is beyond compare more powerful and merciful, has made atonement for our souls, and now intercedes in our behalf. Let us rejoice in his grace.
3.(Exodus 34; 6-9) The name of the Lord proclaimed, The entreaty of Moses.
Exod. 34:6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, â€œThe LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 34:7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.â€ 34:8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. 34:9 â€œO Lord, if I have found favor in your eyes,â€ he said, â€œthen let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.â€
The Lord descended by some open token of his presence and manifestation of his glory in a cloud, and thence proclaimed his NAME; that is, the perfections and character which are denoted by the name JEHOVAH. The Lord God is merciful; ready to forgive the sinner, and to relieve the needy. Gracious; kind, and ready to bestow undeserved benefits. Long-suffering; slow to anger, giving time for repentance, only punishing when it is needful. He is abundant in goodness and truth; even sinners receive the riches of his bounty abundantly, though they abuse them. All he reveals is infallible truth, all he promises is in faithfulness. Keeping mercy for thousands; he continually shows mercy to sinners, and has treasures, which cannot be exhausted, to the end of time. Forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin; his mercy and goodness reach to the full and free forgiveness of sin. And will by no means clear the guilty; the holiness and justice of God are part of his goodness and love towards all his creatures. In Christâ€™s sufferings, the Divine holiness and justice are fully shown, and the evil of sin is made known. Godâ€™s forgiving mercy is always attended by his converting, sanctifying grace. None are pardoned but those who repent and forsake the allowed practice of every sin; nor shall any escape, who abuse, neglect, or despise this great salvation. Moses bowed down, and worshipped reverently. Every perfection in the name of God, the believer may plead with Him for the forgiveness of his sins, the making holy of his heart, and the enlargement of the Redeemerâ€™s kingdom.
God having in the foregoing chapter intimated to Moses his reconciliation to Israel, here gives proofs of it, proceeding to settle his covenant and communion with them. Four instances of the return of his favour we have in this chapter. The orders he gives to Moses to come up to the mount, the next morning, and bring two tables of stone with him. His meeting him there, and the proclamation of his name. The instructions he gave him there, and his converse with him for forty days together, without intermission . The honour he put upon him when he sent him down with his face shining In all this God dealt with Moses as a public person, and mediator between him and Israel, and a type of the great Mediator.
Exod. 32:1 SO LONG. Forty days and forty nights (see 24:18 and note). THEY. Probably the tribe and clan leaders. GODS. See NIV text note. MOSES WHO BROUGHT US UP OUT OF EGYPT. A rebellious contrast to the gracious statement of Israelâ€™s covenant Lord (see 20:2 and note; 29:46).
Exod. 32:2 GOLD EARRINGS. Probably part of the plunder brought from Egypt (see 3:21-22; 11:2-3; 12:35-36).
Exod. 32:4 CAST IN THE SHAPE OF A CALF. Either gold plating over a carved wooden calf (it was later burned, v. 20) or crudely cast in solid gold and then further shaped with a tool, later to be melted down in the fire. The calf was probably similar to representations of the Egyptian bull-god Apis (see note on Jer 46:15). Its manufacture was a flagrant violation of the second commandment (20:4-5). THEY. The leaders among the people (see note on v. 1). THESE ARE YOUR GODS. . . UP OUT OF EGYPT. A parody of 20:2 (see note on v. 1). Centuries later, King Jeroboam would quote these words when he set up two golden calves in the northern kingdom of Israel (see 1Ki 12:28-29).
Exod. 32:30 MAKE ATONEMENT FOR YOUR SIN. By making urgent intercession before God, as the mediator God had appointed between himself and Israel. No sacrifice that Israel or Moses might bring could atone for this sin. But Moses so identified himself with Israel that he made his own death the condition for Godâ€™s destruction of the nation (see v. 32). Jesus Christ, the great Mediator, offered himself on the cross to make atonement for his people.
Exod. 32:32 BOOK YOU HAVE WRITTEN. See notes on Ps 9:5; 51:1; 69:28.
Exod. 32:33 WHOEVER HAS SINNED. . . I WILL BLOT OUT. Mosesâ€™ gracious offer is refused, because the person who sins is responsible for his own sin (see Dt 24:16; Eze 18:4 and note).
Exod. 32:34 NOW GO, LEAD THE PEOPLE. Thus Moses received assurance that the Lord will continue his covenant with wayward Israel and fulfill his promise concerning the land. THE PLACE I SPOKE OF. Canaan (see 33:1).
Exod. 34:6 (34:6-7) See 33:19 and note. The Lordâ€™s proclamation of the meaning and implications of his name in these verses became a classic exposition that was frequently recalled elsewhere in the OT (see Nu 14:18; Ne 9:17; Ps 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jnh 4:2). See also notes on 3:14-15; 6:2-3.
Exod. 34:7 THOUSANDS. Or â€œa thousand generationsâ€ (see 20:6). WICKEDNESS, REBELLION AND SIN. See Isa 59:12 and note.
Exod. 34:10 MAKING A COVENANT. Renewing the covenant he had earlier made (chs. 19-24). Verses 10-26, many of which are quoted almost verbatim from previous sections of Exodus (compare especially vv. 18-26 with 23:14-19), are sometimes referred to as the Ritual Decalogue since they can be convincingly divided into ten sections (see, e.g., the NIV paragraphing of vv. 15-26).