Sun. a.m. AGCC 10/3/99
TEXT: Ex. 32:1-8, 21-35; Num. 21:4-9
INTRO: Most of the time we focus on sin as an event and don't really look at sin as a process. While there are many sins, there are actually only a few qualities in our life that left unchecked lead to these multiple sins. We would do better as Christians in our fight against sin if we would conquer these few qualities, for this would short circuit the process that leads to sin.
One of these qualities is IMPATIENCE. There are a number of sins that can result from impatience. Instead of always dealing with the end result of impatience we could learn to develop patience and avoid many sins and their costs altogether.
ILLUS:Annual cost of running red lights (in medical bills, car repairs, etc.): $7 billion Average amount of time saved by running a red light: 50 seconds -- U.S. Department of Transportation, cited in Hope Health Letter (2/96). "To Verify," Leadership.
Impatience is the hallmark of our culture and society today. The whole idea of "shortcuts" is a mainstay of our lives and culture. We find "quick" ways to do everything from instant soup, instant credit, instant win, instant cash, etc. As a culture we talk about "quality" and then invent ways to make everything happen quickly to avoid the time it takes for quality!
ILLUS: "It's Monty Williams. He wants to know if he can audit your discipleship class on 'Total Commitment.' " -- Cartoonist Rob Suggs in Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 3.
Like Israel, so many of our sins stem from impatience. We are born into the world with our fallen nature screaming "feed me NOW!", "pick me up NOW", etc. If we don't conquer impatience as we grow older it will lead to sins that can alter our lives negatively.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that the road of impatience usually leads to a disaster spiritually. We must learn to"wait upon the Lord if we want to renew our strength … to walk and not be wearing, to run and not faint" Isa. 40:31 Just as there are great costs to impatience, there are great rewards for faithful waiting and trust in the Lord.
I. COMPROMISE Ex. 32:1-8
A. Impatience 32:1-5
1. Moses was up in the mountain receiving God's commandments for Israel, a process that took many days.
a. God's work is NOT always fast!
b. He had been gone for some time.
c. Israel was getting restless in the desert with nothing to do, they were bored!
2. Boredom spawns more sins in a culture of "I have to have something to do"!
3. Israel wanted to get going without Moses, they were tired of waiting to hear from God, and they wanted their God NOW!
a. They put pressure on Aaron to give them gods right away!
b. Unfortunately, Aaron gives in to their pressure and gives them what they wanted, this is always a sad commentary in leadership when that path is followed.
4. Tragically, impatience made them create a god that would give them what they wanted when they wanted it!
a. Notice that the god of "NOW" cost them all their gold and wealth!! (It still will today too!)
b. God had given them all that Egyptian gold, and now they are prepared to spend it all in one moment on the god of "NOW".
c. This will not only bankrupt them spiritually, it will also bankrupt them materially! (it is ground up and thrown away later!)
5. It wasn't that they didn't want God, it is just that they wanted a god of "NOW"!
a. So many Christians have fallen prey to theologies that promise them prosperity and easy living - a false Gospel!
b. They invent a god that was modeled after their own image - the god of "NOW".
6. Though their desire for worship was commendable, the shortcuts they were about to take would make their worship valueless!
ILLUS: Several years ago, the London Transit Authority had a problem. Buses were going right past passengers who were waiting at designated places to be picked up. They were at the bus stops, and the buses were sailing right past them. The London Transit Authority released a statement to explain their actions. The statement said it was impossible for them to maintain schedules if they always had to stop and pick up passengers. -- Dave Stone, "Keep the Dust Off the Highchair," Preaching Today, Tape No. 143.
7. In truth, the reason more people DON'T become Christians is because God does NOT accommodate our need to have everything NOW!
a. When Jesus fed the 5,000 they wanted to make Jesus "KING" - but when He no longer miraculously fed their immediate needs they crucified Him!
b. Paul said "Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica." 2 Tim 4:10 - Demas couldn't take the difficulties of living for God against the backdrop of all the world had to offer him NOW.
B. Idolatry Ex. 32:6-8
1. Note in 32:4 it says that Aaron shaped the image into a calf using his own tools to carve it.
a. They made God into the image they wanted - one of pleasure and fun, with few demands! Their worship turned into sexual debauchery.
b. The bull was used to represent many gods in the Ancient Near East, particularly Amon-Re in Egypt and El and Baal in Canaan - Israel was attempting to cast God as a golden calf in the desert - to represent what they wanted God to be.
2. The desire for shortcuts can be costly!
ILLUS: In The New Yorker, (5/15/95) Sara Mosle recounts that on March 18, 1937, a spark ignited a cloud of natural gas that had accumulated in the basement of the London, Texas, school. The blast killed 293 people, most of them children.
The explosion happened because the local school board wanted to cut heating costs. Natural gas, the by-product of petroleum extraction, was siphoned from a neighboring oil company's pipeline to fuel the building's furnace free of charge.
London never recovered from the blast that turned the phrase "boom town" into a bitter joke. The one positive effect of this disastrous event was government regulation requiring companies to add an odorant to natural gas. The distinctive aroma is now so familiar that we often forget natural gas is naturally odorless.
There is a tendency these days to classify all feelings of guilt as hazardous to our self-esteem. In reality, guilt can be valuable, an "odorant" that warns us of danger. -- Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 1.
3. It was Israel's impatience that drove their sinful desires. When we are in a hurry we will often do things that are sinful.
II. COSTLY Ex. 32:21-35
A. Inexcusable Ex. 32:21-25
1. Moses asks Aaron how he could have gone along with such a wicked scheme?
a. Aaron says the people pressured him because Moses had been gone so long - i.e. "it was partly your fault Moses, and their fault too"!
b. Aaron then says that they gave him the gold and he simply "threw it into the fire and out came this calf!" 32:24 - WHAT?
(1. Aaron tries to make it sound like a "miracle" - that he had little to do with the image - yet in 32:4 it clearly said he used his own tools to shape it!
(2. By making it appear supernatural Aaron wouldn't be at fault!
c. Aaron too became impatient - his fear gave in to the crowd's demand!
2. Aaron failed to heed all the warnings .. and the result was tragic.
ILLUS:The Winter 1991 issue of the University of Pacific Review offers a chilling description of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster:
There were two electrical engineers in the control room that night, and the best thing that could be said for what they were doing is they were "playing around" with the machine. They were performing what the Soviets later described as an unauthorized experiment. They were trying to see how long a turbine would "free wheel" when they took the power off it.
Now, taking the power off that kind of a nuclear reactor is a difficult, dangerous thing to do, because these reactors are very unstable in their lower ranges. In order to get the reactor down to that kind of power, where they could perform the test they were interested in performing, they had to override manually six separate computer-driven alarm systems.
One by one the computers would come up and say, "Stop! Dangerous! Go no further!" And one by one, rather than shutting off the experiment, they shut off the alarms and kept going. You know the results: nuclear fallout that was recorded all around the world, from the largest industrial accident ever to occur in the world.
The instructions and warnings in Scripture are just as clear. We ignore them at our own peril, and tragically, at the peril of innocent others. -- Tom Tripp in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.
B. Inescapable! Ex. 32:26-35
1. Consequences for impatience would now come, and a decision had to be made as to which side they would take, God's side or the side of impatience symbolized by the golden calf.
a. The entire tribe of Levi (which included Aaron and Moses - they both were from this tribe) came alongside of God.
b. Their task was to administer God's judgment - the fact that only 3,000 died at their hands however indicates that this was not a slaughter by God, but was meant to be warning … probably those near the golden calf were the ones killed, those whose allegiance to idolatry made them a real threat to the future of Israel.
2. This was meant to be a teaching tool for Israel lest they become impatient again - which they do!
ILLUS: Second only to suffering, waiting may be the greatest teacher and trainer in godliness, maturity, and genuine spirituality most of us ever encounter. -- Richard Hendrix, Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 3.
III. CALLOUS Num. 21:4-9
A. Impatience! Num. 21:4
1. As hard as it is to believe, Israel becomes impatient again!
a. Never happens to us of course!!! (Right!)
b. Later in their travels (in fact this occurs after Aaron's death on Mount Hor) they fall to the temptation of impatience again!
2. It is not enough to conquer this once in our lives, we must guard our hearts against impatience all the time.
3. They are thinking again only of their immediate needs, and each time they do this they forget about the price tag of impatience.
a. Too often impatience ignores the future!
ILLUS: Is it not foolish to be living in this world without a thought of what you will do at the end of it? A man goes into an inn, and as soon as he sits down he begins to order his wine, his dinner, his bed; there is no delicacy in season that he forgets to order. He stays at the inn for some time. By and by, the bill comes due, and it takes him by surprise. "I never thought of that--I never thought of that!"
"Why," says the landlord, "here is a man who is either a born fool or else a knave. What! Never thought of reckoning--never thought of settling with me!"
After this fashion too many live. They eat, and drink, and sin, but they forget the inevitable hereafter, when for all the deeds done in the body, the Lord will bring us into judgment. -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)
b. Impatience breeds ingratitude which leads to a whole group of other sins!
4. Again their thoughts about having needs met "NOW" got them into trouble.
5. The tragic element here is how often they slipped into this way of thinking, of being so impatient with God at various stages of their journey.
a. We too often have stages of impatience in our journey of life.
b. We must fight to trust God in each stage, and be grateful for what He has done, is doing, and will do.
B. Ingratitude! Num. 21:5-9
1. The twin theme of impatience is usually ingratitude!
a. Israel complained about the desert journey, the water, the food, their entire miserable lives!
b. Nothing was seen positive once their impatience grew to the point of ingratitude.
2. This is a good example of how one sin contributes to our committing many others.
3. The bitter spirit that expresses itself sees nothing good in all that God does - this is the way ingratitude shapes our vision of reality!
ILLUS:When our granddaughter was 4, she came to the table one day in a disgruntled mood. She complained loudly about every dish on the table. Hoping to change the mood, her mother suggested that she give the blessing. After a sullen pause, she prayed, "OK, God, I forgive you for this food." -- Arden Taylor, Goldwaite, Tex. "Lite Fare," Christian Reader.
4. God's punishment of the snakes brought them around again, but once again, not without a price tag. Many died!
a. God however heard their repentance and offered them healing.
b. He instructs Moses to put a snake on a pole and all those who looked upon it with faith in God would be healed.
c. The symbol may have been a snake impaled on a pole, showing God's victory over the serpent - truly an important message for healing prophetically as well.
5. If only Israel would have learned patience in their journey, there was the constant danger of losing patience and thus living out many sins - this is true in our journey of faith too.
6. Trust Him in all circumstances of life, and don't rush ahead of God!
CONCLUSION: Many of the great sins start off with impatience. Adam and Eve wanted quickly to be like God, Abraham and Sarah tried quickly to come up with the promised son, the Devil even tried to tempt Jesus to quickly turn stones to bread in the desert so He could satisfy immediately his hunger. We need to learn to conquer impatience too - "they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength…!" Isa. 40:31