The Golden Calf

Scripture Passage: 
Exodus 32:1-35

INTRODUCTION: Moses had been in the mount for nearly forty days and nights, and the people began to get anxious. They had refused a one-on-one fellowship with the Lord, but are now longing for a god to worship. Aaron, Moses’ brother and right hand man, is recruited to aid in the construction and worship of a golden calf. The end result significantly matches the worship of modern churches, and attention should be given to the righteous Moses, the man of God, and the Lord Himself.

  1. ISRAEL RETURNS TO IDOLATRY (Exodus 32:1-6)
    1. The Impatience of the People (Exodus 32:1)
      1. Moses is gone.
      2. The people gathered together (see Genesis 11).
      3. The people gathered together unto Aaron.
        1. This is a common practice among cults.
        2. This is a common practice among carnal churches and believers (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
      4. Make us gods.
        1. They had previously served false gods (Joshua 24:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10).
        2. They exalted the human instrument above the God who used the instrument (Exodus 32:1; Judges 8:22).
        3. They sought a god they could see (Acts 19:23-27).
        4. Notice how the people desired a god with whom they were comfortable, rather than the God who caused them to fear. This is common in our day when people want a god who does not cause them to fear, but rather gives them prosperity, health, good social standing and so on. Some things never change!
    2. The Making of the Calf (Exodus 32:2-4a)
      1. Aaron collects the golden earrings (Exodus 32:2-3); this act symbolized their refusal to be the servants of the Lord (Exodus 21:5-6).
      2. Aaron engraves the golden calf (Exodus 32:4a; Psalm 106:19-21); thus breaking the first two commandments (Exodus 20:3-4).
    3. The Making of a New Religion (Exodus 32:4b-6)
      1. Its gods (Exodus 32:4b)
        1. These gods were simply the old gods of Egypt revived (Exodus 12:12).
        2. Apis was the sacred bull of the Egyptians who was a symbol of Osiris, the god of the Nile and husband of Isis.
      2. Its altar (Exodus 32:5a)
      3. Its feast (Exodus 32:5b)
        1. Aaron tries to mix true worship with the false.
        2. This has often been the practice of Israel (Zephaniah 1:5; Hosea 3:4), but it does not satisfy the demands of God.
      4. Its sacrifices (Exodus 32:6a); the most needed offering for this time, the sin offering, is lacking.
      5. Its “worship” (Exodus 32:6b; 1 Corinthians 10:7, 19-21)
        1. They indulge their senses – eating and drinking.
        2. They practice licentiousness – rose up to play (see Romans 13:13; 1 Peter 4:3-4).
  2. MOSES INTERCEDES FOR ISRAEL (Exodus 32:7-14)
    1. The Lord’s Anger with Israel (Exodus 32:7-10)
      1. His charges against Israel (Exodus 32:7-9)
        1. They have corrupted themselves (Exodus 32:7).
        2. They have turned aside out of the way (Exodus 32:8).
        3. They are a stiffnecked people (Exodus 32:9).
          1. This is the first occurrence of the word stiffnecked.
          2. It is found 9 times in scripture, and always refers to the people of Israel.
          3. It is defined in 2 Chronicles 30:8 where they are told to not be stiffnecked but to “yield yourselves unto the LORD.”  To be stiffnecked is to refuse to yield to God.
      2. His desire to consume Israel (Exodus 32:10)
    2. Moses’ Intercession for Israel (Exodus 32:11-14)
      1. His defense of Israel (Exodus 32:11-13); notice how Moses answers the three charges of God against Israel (Exodus 32:7-9) with three matching defenses (Exodus 32:11-13).
        1. The Israelites corrupted themselves (Exodus 32:7), but it is God that delivered them (Exodus 32:11).
        2. They have ruined their testimony by turning aside (Exodus 32:8), but God’s testimony must be maintained (Exodus 32:12).
        3. They are indeed a stubborn, stiffnecked people (Exodus 32:9), but God must remain steadfast in His promises (Exodus 32:13).
      2. God repents of His evil plans against Israel (Exodus 32:14).
        1. Repentance is a change of mind.
        2. Evil can refer to generally bad things and not necessarily to morally wicked things (see Isaiah 45:7).
  3. MOSES BREAKS THE TABLES OF STONE (Exodus 32:15-19)
    1. The Tables of Stone (Exodus 32:15-16)
      1. The two tables of testimony (Exodus 32:15a)
      2. Written on both their sides (Exodus 32:15b)
      3. The writing was the writing of God (Exodus 32:16; Exodus 31:18).
    2. The Noise in the Camp (Exodus 32:17-18)
      1. The noise of war (Exodus 32:17)
      2. The noise of singing (Exodus 32:18)
    3. Moses Enters the Camp (Exodus 32:19).
      1. He sees the calf and the dancing.
        1. Note: There are two different kinds of dancing mentioned in the Bible.
          1. Godly dancing
            1. It is done unto the Lord (Exodus 15:20-21; 2 Samuel 6:14); it is not done so that others may see.
            2. Men never dance with women (Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6).
            3. It is done as an act of rejoicing and thanksgiving to God (Psalm 149:3; Ecclesiastes 3:4).
          2. Wicked dancing
            1. It is accompanied with the loosening of moral restraints (Exodus 32:6, 19; 1 Samuel 30:16).
            2. It is connected with immorality and nakedness (Exodus 32:19, 25; Matthew 14:6).
            3. It is done before others to cause them to look and to make offers of love (Matthew 14:6; Mark 6:22).
        2. The first kind of dancing was an Old Testament practice and was never incorporated into New Testament worship. It is not a part of our worship to God for today. The second kind of dancing is the only kind that is popular today and it is always condemned in scripture.
      2. In his anger, he breaks the tables of stone.
        1. Note: This is a good place to show the corruptions within the Koran.
        2. Compare the biblical record of Exodus, chapter 32, with this translation of the Koran by Ahmed Ali (7:148): “In the absence of Moses his people prepared the image of a calf from their ornaments, which gave out the mooing of a cow.” Later, when Moses descended from Mount Sinai, “he cast aside the tablets” (7:150) and then, when “his anger subsided Moses picked up the tablets. Inscribed on them was guidance and grace for those who fear their Lord” (7:154). [bold emphasis added]
  4. MOSES PUNISHES THE PEOPLE (Exodus 32:20-29)
    1. He Destroys the Calf (Exodus 32:20).
      1. Grinds it into powder
      2. Makes the Israelites drink it
    2. He Questions Aaron (Exodus 32:21-24).
      1. Moses expresses his amazement (Exodus 32:21).
      2. Aaron tells his version (Exodus 32:22-24).
        1. He blames the people (Exodus 32:22).
        2. He blames Moses (Exodus 32:23).
        3. He blames chance; i.e., the Lord (Exodus 32:24).
    3. He Deals with the People (Exodus 32:25-29).
      1. He sees their sinful condition (Exodus 32:25).
      2. He calls for faithful men (Exodus 32:26).
      3. He sends them to slay the wicked (Exodus 32:27-29); this is not the age of grace. The law begins with 3,000 being killed; grace begins with 3,000 receiving eternal life (Acts 2:41).
  5. MOSES INTERCEDES A SECOND TIME (Exodus 32:30-35)
    1. He Goes to Make an Atonement (Exodus 32:30).
    2. He Intercedes with God (Exodus 32:31-32).
      1. He confesses their sin (Exodus 32:31).
      2. He offers himself in their place (Exodus 32:32).
    3. God Responds to Moses’ Prayer (Exodus 32:33-35).
      1. The sinner pays for his own sin (Exodus 32:33; Ezekiel 18:4).
      2. Moses must return to lead the people (Exodus 32:34a).
      3. God’s Angel will go before him (Exodus 32:34b; Exodus 23:20).
      4. God will still deal with His people (Exodus 32:34c-35).

CONCLUSION: The people grew weary of waiting upon Moses and heaped to themselves a false god. Many today have grown weary of waiting for the return of Christ. Perhaps God’s people ought to examine their methods of worship today to see if they line up with Exodus 32. If so, it is time to go back to God’s ways.

David Reagan and Andrew Ray

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 1:31

Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.