OUT CAME THIS CALF!
Father of peace, God of truth and love, I praise you because you are faithful to all of your promises.
Read EXODUS 32:1–24
The Golden Calf
32 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 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, “These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.
7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’
9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.
17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”
18 Moses replied:
“It is not the sound of victory,
it is not the sound of defeat;
it is the sound of singing that I hear.”
19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.
21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”
22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
What things are cluttering your heart right now? Pray, ‘Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.’1
What was Aaron thinking? He and his brother had been appointed by God to help the chosen people experience a series of unforgettable signs and wonders – the plagues, the Exodus, parting the Red Sea, manna, quail, water from a rock, the pillar of cloud and fire. Could there be any question who was the one and only God? Yet when he finally gets a chance to lead on his own, Aaron forgets all that and caves in to the demands of the people. ‘… they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!’ (v 24). Seriously?
It’s tempting to dismiss Aaron as a weak leader, but that’s not completely fair. Consider this: if you were in Aaron’s shoes, would you have handled this situation differently? Before you answer, consider some follow-up questions. Have you ever done something you knew was wrong just to please others (v 1)? Have you ever made an important decision without seeking God’s guidance (vs 2,4)? Have you ever tried to make up for a sin in one area of your life by doing something good in another: note how Aaron describes this as ‘a festival to the Lord’ (v 5)? The fact is, Aaron isn’t the only one vulnerable to the deceptiveness of sin.2
When Moses finally reappears, he addresses the problem with two bold moves. First, he intercedes with God for the people (vs 11–14). Without God’s mercy there is no hope. Second, he completely removes the source of temptation (v 20). Unless we decisively turn away from sin there is no healing. The truth is that most of us are more like Aaron than Moses; we know what’s right, but we just can’t seem to do it.3 That’s why the gospel is such good news.4
Over the past few weeks, have you felt pressured to compromise on what you know is right? Spend some time confessing your sins to God.
Gracious Lord, I know your strength is made perfect in my weakness. Release your empowering strength in my life so that I will stand strong and faithful for you.
1 Ps 51:10, KJV 2 Ps 14:3; Rom 3:23 3 Rom 7:14–25 4 1 John 1:9