23 August, 2020 – Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 that many events of Exodus are example s and warnings for those today who are in Christ. One of them is the idolatry of Israel in Exodus 32-33. While Moses spends forty days in the presence of God on the mountaintop, receiving instructions on how Israel should become the people amongst whom God can dwell, God’s people commit a great sin. Aaron along with seventy elders confirmed Gods’ covenant in Exodus 24, saying “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey,” but instead they were quick to sin and break the covenant.
They broke the first two commandments, and while this was the most common sin among all nations, Moses calls it a ‘great sin’ (Ex 32:21, 30-31), because Israel was God’s precious possession, the chosen people of God called the serve him and declare his glory to the world. Just a few weeks ago, this nation, unlike any other in history, heard the voice of God, saw his glory and received his word. They were people who experienced the power of God’s mercy, saw the works of God in Egypt, the power of God’s deliverance at the Red Sea, the provision of food and water in the wilderness and saw God’s presence with in them in the pillar of cloud and fire. They were people who experienced underserved goodness and love of God, but they rebelled against him willfully.
They were impatient, unwilling to trust God and wait on his servant to return. Faith means to trust God that he will fulfil his promise, but just like Abraham and Sarah grew impatient and took it in their own hands to seek God’s promise, we might feel like God’s promise is delayed, but unlike Israel, we must be people who are quick to pray instead of being quick to sin. We all have our weaknesses and temptations but those who trust the Lord until the end will see his promise fulfilled. Aaron, the first priest, was to lead his people to the Lord, to lead them in faithfulness and holiness and give them what God has prepared for them, instead gave them what their sinful hearts desired. So many churches make the same mistake today, trying to gratify people’s desires and enabling idolatry, worshiping created things instead of the creator.
God, speaking to Moses, calls Israel “your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt” (Ex 32:7), for how could people who willfully rebel against God be still called his people? God’s people must “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” for he can raise up his children even out of stones (Mt 3:8-9). So Moses, seeing God’s wrath, he knows this sin is great, there is no excuse for it and God would be right to destroy them. But at the same time, Moses sees God’s mercy, for it is God who first loved this stiff-necked people (Ex 32:9), they were not good people and he didn’t love them because of who they were, but because of who God was. God forbid that such great love and mercy of God given to them should be laughed at by the world (vs 11-12). Here we see the greatness of Moses, who saw that our sin is great, but the love of God is greater, and its power is able to transform even the worst sinners and fulfil his will through them. Moses knew God’s character doesn’t change, his love and promises don’t waver and when we repent and call on him, he will show mercy.
However, God’s forgiveness doesn’t mean to be free from the consequences of our sin. God doesn’t destroy Israel, but he disciplines them because those who are stiffed-necked wouldn’t obey his word. God’s righteous judgement is revealed against those who sin against him. As C. Spurgeon said, “God never permits His people to sin successfully,” all sin is costly. God’s forgiveness is not a free ticket to continue to sin, rather it is our chance to turn away from the wicked path and walk in righteousness so that we may receive God’s blessings and his promises. God brought a plague against his people (vs 35); instead of God being in their midst, dwelling with his people, they had to go out of the camp to meet him (Ex 33:1-11); and the generation of Moses was unable to enter the Promised Land. Let us remember that sin always comes with a cost, so let us be people who are humble before God and obey his good Word and be blessed.