TEXT:         Exodus 32:1-35


INTRO:       We often think how primitive it was for people in the Old Testament to worship idols made of wood and stone.  Those idols were nothing more than empty images made in man’s own imagination and mind.  In this sense it was the reversal of Biblical truth that God made man in His image; but sinful man makes a god in his own image! 


      It is hard to believe people actually believed that these man made images were powerful gods!  However, today we are not that different, except with the images.  It is still possible to worship a “false image” even if it is one just in your own imagination or head!  Any image of God that we worship that doesn’t fit the Biblical view is a “false image.


      Most idols sprang into being out of desperate needs, and so man created an image to fit that particular need.  Whenever we don’t get what we want, or when we desperately want something we are driven to finding the “god” we need to meet our desperate needs.  This is how we often create “new gods.”  Then, we spend our energy and resources to sacrifice to that “god” in the hopes we will get what we really want.  Tragically, Christians sometimes “reinvent” the true God into an image that will satisfy what THEY WANT too, always with disastrous results.


      We need to worship of the GOD OF THE BIBLE, not the one in our heads!”


      When Moses was up in the mountain receiving God’s commandments for Israel he was gone so long that the people of Israel began to feel desperate and alone.  In their fear and desperation they decided they couldn’t wait any longer for a clear picture of God and they pressed Aaron into making a god for them from an image they already had of a god, a golden calf. 


PROP. SENT:      The Bible teaches us that desperate emotions can cause us to create or reinvent God into our own image, an image usually very different from the image in the Bible.  Then we end up serving the image rather than the true God.  We must fight the temptation to serve other gods!


I.      COMPROMISE!   32:1-6


    A.      Impatience!   32:1

1.   Moses had been up in the mountain talking with God for almost 40 days.

a.   The people of Israel were getting jumpy!

b.   They were getting impatient with Moses and God, “how long do we have to wait to hear from God?”

c.   Their impatience moved them to desperation and fear.

(1. Remember Abraham and Sarah’s impatience?  They got impatient with God’s promise of a son and took matters in their own hands.

(2. They first tried to adopt their servant Eliezer to fulfill God’s promise, they try to do God’s work!

(3. Abraham tries again by taking Hagar … but this wasn’t the answer either!  Again this created long term problems, the price tag for impatience.

(4. It may be that Judas became impatient with Jesus bringing in the kingdom, perhaps he thought he could pressure Jesus into setting up a kingdom and it backfired.

(5. Job’s test was all about trusting a God that didn’t fit expectations, but he won the test by being patient with God.

2.  Every time Israel became desperate they turned away from God to idols.  The idols offered the “magical” possibilities of quick answers.

a.   People do this today, even Christians.  They find themselves desperate for something, i.e. money, and then they start buying into a prosperity doctrine in the hopes that it will solve their problems.  In reality it may have been their own poor stewardship that was the problem.

b.   God is the God of the Bible, not our imaginations or wants.

3.  Israel’s impatience and desperation now moved them to have Aaron make them a golden calf, a “new god” who will give them what they want, NOW!

a.   Impatience is quite the motivator, but it often motivates us to compromise, driving us to do things we might not otherwise do.

b.   Losing patience with God puts us on dangerous ground!


ILLUS:            A New England preacher by the name of Phillips Brooks was known for his calmness and poise.  His intimate friends however knew that he too suffered moments of frustration and irritability.  One day a friend saw him pacing the floor like a caged lion.  “What is the trouble Dr. Brooks?” asked the friend.  “The trouble is, that I’m in a hurry, but God isn’t!” replied Brooks.  It is these moments that we find a way around God, or make a new god that will do what we want him to do. -- Source Unknown


4.    All the other nations had gods that met all their needs and wants!  Why should Israel be different?  So, they chose an image common to other nations … a calf!

5.    Desperation and impatience became the breeding ground for making gods in their own image and imagination.

a.  And then they could allow lust to flow freely, because this golden calf       god was ok with that.

b.  It is easy to serve the gods we produce, they “just so happen” to allow all the things we think they should allow!!!


B. Idols!   32:2-6

1.   The people didn’t care what god they served, as long as it did what they wanted.  Aaron attempts to make an image of a golden calf but tries calling it “THE LORD” in hopes that he can at least make it seem like the real God of Israel!

a.   Aaron compromised, he sees desperate people and what they want and tries to give them what they want but still use God’s name for it.

b.   This process sadly continues to this day … and many Christians have sometimes embraced theology that suits them rather than what the Bible teaches, but always they make the poor theology look and sound biblical.

c.   In the last days the Bible says that this process will be active, notice 2 Tim 4:3-4  “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

2.  Aaron calls the people to worship “The Lord,” … and even calls them to a festival probably hoping that they will see this calf as the true Lord of heaven and not an idol, but it doesn’t work.  False images can only produce false worship!

3.  The people were anxious to worship this new image, it offered greater “freedom!”  So anxious were they and impatient that you will note the text says, “So the next day the people rose early … Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” (Emphasis mine)

a.  When the gods you serve allow you to do whatever you want to do it is easy to be anxious to serve them!

b.   Quickly things got out of hand.

c.   They couldn’t wait for God’s Word, for His commandments and timing … so they take over.         

4.  Aaron should have held them steady, but he gave in to what they wanted.  Godly leadership doesn’t just follow what the crowd wants; they instead preach what God wants.


ILLUS:             An Englishman who was traveling in Palestine got to Nazareth in the evening when the shepherds were bringing their sheep to water at the well.  When the sheep had their water each shepherd made his own call and the sheep each followed their own shepherd’s voice.  The Englishman was intrigued with this and asked one of the shepherds if the sheep always followed their own shepherd when they are called or would they ever follow a different one.  The shepherd answered this way, “Sheep will always follow their own shepherd except under one condition, and that is when they are sick!  If a sheep is healthy is will always follow the right shepherd, but when they are sick they might follow anyone who calls them.  How true this still is!  -- Source Unknown


II.    CHALLENGE!   32:7-24


    A.      Intolerable!   32:7-10

1.   God now tests Moses by saying, “because YOUR people, whom you brought up out of Egypt have become corrupt …” (emphasis mine)

a.   God calls these people “Moses’ people!”

b.   Will this make Moses desperate like the people?

2.  God calls Israel a “stiff-necked” people.

a.   This comes from the image of a mule or horse or any other animal that is being pulled one way when it doesn’t want to go that way and so they stiffen their neck to prevent being moved.

b.   It was the image of someone who rebelled against its owner … an image frequently used through the Bible for those who refused to yield to God’s ways.

3.  God would not accept this kind of living from His people!  It was intolerable!

4.  One of the 10 commandments God had just written on the tablets of stone was for Israel “NOT to make any graven image” of god, nothing!

      a.         This can be done in stone, wood, metal, OR IN THE MIND TOO!

b.   Moses was facing a challenge, to try and move Israel back to the right God, the only God.

5.  As a shepherd Moses had to deal with their recreation of God, somehow he must communicate to them that what they are doing is completely unacceptable and intolerable!


    B.      Inexcusable   32:15-24

1.   Moses and Joshua now come down the mountain, they know something is up below because of all the commotion rising up, the sounds of sin in the camp!

a.   Joshua at first thinks it is the sounds of war because of the volume.

b.   But Moses recognizes the sounds, not of war, but of sin!

2.  Sure enough, when they arrive at the base of the mountain they find the Jews dancing around their idol and engaged in all kinds of sexual perversion.  (The Hebrew connects the activities with the idol to sexually explicit activity as well as other harsh behaviors)

3.  Unlike Moses who turns right to God’s character Aaron had given the people what they wanted, and now he also had to face an angry Moses.

a.   Moses gives a visual demonstration of his displeasure and that of God’s by breaking the tablets with God’s commandments on them.  Israel had already broken them, so Moses shows them this!

b.   Moses now approaches Aaron as to why he had let this happen in his absence.

4.  Notice how Aaron tries to excuse his poor leadership:

a.   Aaron says to Moses, “you know how prone these people are to doing evil.”  32:22

b.   Like Adam and Eve … he seeks to blame someone else for his own sin!

c.   Aaron conveniently does not mention his own sin in creating the golden calf.

d.   Aaron couldn’t blame Joshua, he was gone … and so with no one else to blame he tries at first blaming the people and when that doesn’t work, he will even resort to blaming “magic!”

5.  When confronted with his own sin Aaron resorts to blaming magic!!!

a.   “they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

b.   There wasn’t any truth to this!!!  It was Aaron that had collected the gold and had the calf fashioned out of it, there was no magic involved, just sin!

6.  It is inexcusable for a leader of God’s people to distort the image of God in order to satisfy his audience, or to be popular with the people.  We must present the God of the Bible … and only this image!

a.   There is always a temptation when people are hurting to try and promise them more from God than might be true to God’s image and true character.

b.   We must be honest about God, He can defend Himself quite well.  Even when we don’t understand we cannot compromise who He is.

7.  Like Aaron’s statement about the “calf just falling out of the fire miraculously,” sometimes desperate people who embrace a false image of God will claim miracles or magic.

a.   The only true test of God and His principles are found in the Bible!

b.   We cannot judge just from testimonies or claims or miracles, it must be in the book!  (Miracles are possible because the Bible says so, but when a miracle is claimed and the actions contradict the Scriptures it is a false miracle)


III.     COMMITMENT!   32:25-35


    A.      Instruction!   32:25-29

1.   Moses sees the people with their new god, they are out of control and wild, they were a laughing stock to their enemies!

a.   They had made such boasts about how God had delivered them out of slavery and idolatry, and now they make a god that looked like the nations around them!  And, now they were acting WORSE than the pagans in the way they were so out of control and vile sexually.

b.   Something needed to be done and quickly!

2.  Moses makes a simple call, “all those on the Lord’s side come over here by me.”

a.   The only ones to join Moses were the Levites!  (Who by the way was not yet the priestly line at this time.)

b.   The Levites were the tribe that Moses belonged to, so they were showing their support for Moses when they sided with him.

c.   They also showed true support for the real God of Israel in this act.

3.  Now the Levites were asked to do a hard thing, to destroy at random those who were wildly out of control!

      a.         It is one thing to say you are on the Lord’s side; it is another to do the             hard thing and obey the Lord such as they were being asked to do!

b.  They would have to go against their own brethren, to go against the crowd!

c.   They don’t back down, they do act as God had asked, the consequences of this wild behavior was that some died!  (The actual number was small however, about 3,000 out of 3,500,000 approximately – enough to make the point of the horrible consequences of sin and rebellion, but yet without destroy their hope.  Those killed were likely closest to the idol and most out of control)

4.  Because the Levites did as the Lord commanded and would not permit this idolatry any longer God sets the entire tribe apart as a tribe of priests.

a.   Their actions speak well of God’s priests, to stand up for the Lord no matter the price.

b.   Even when it put them at odds with everyone else around them they stood firm to God’s Word and did what the Lord asked.

5.  Fortunately there were some who were committed to the true God, to stand against the idols of this world and the gods made after man’s own imagination. 

a.  They were thus “set apart to the Lord.” … the Hebrew literally meaning, “you have ordained yourselves.” – The concept of ordaining still in use today for pastors and priests.

b.  It was important to restore God’s image to the true picture, this took solid commitment.


    B.      Implications!   32:30-35

1.   Moses called what they did exactly what it was, “you have committed a great sin!”

a.   Moses does not water it down!  Today some would have said, “Well, they made a mistake.”

b.   He doesn’t try to smooth it over!  Today some would have said, “Well, everyone blows it once in a while.”

2.  Sin must be atoned for, so Moses says he will go back up the mountain to make atonement for Israel … he will be gone again for a while!!!  Will they repeat the mistake or learn from it? 

3.  Moses begins by confessing to God that the people have made a god out of gold – some things never change!!  How many people still worship gold?

a.   Moses asks God to forgive the people.

b.   He is even willing to be damned forever if God refuses to forgive them … the type of a sacrifice!  Ex. 32:32 “But now, please forgive their sin--but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”

c.   Note however that God responds that it is the wrong person confessing the sins … and that each man is responsible for his own sins:  Ex. 32:33  “The LORD replied to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.’”

d.   Someone other than Moses would be required to make atonement for all man’s sins … only the sinless Christ can accomplish that.

4.  When the time came God punished those who had sinned.  But, the mission would continue in answer to Moses’ prayers.  The promise land was still ahead, and there still was grace and hope.

a.   The people cannot think that sin goes unpunished, so God sends them a plague to teach them the seriousness of sin.

b.   God would not ignore sin; they needed to deal with sin.

5.  Anytime we make God into an image of our own design we are in trouble.

a.   These Israelites would give up their gold to serve a false image of God, how many people today will give large sums of money to false shepherds that make promises that are not what God teaches?  History is replete with these charlatans and cult leaders.

b.   It is always more exciting to worship a god that we design or invent because that false god will demand exactly what we want it to demand and give us the freedoms that we already want, after all, it is a god in our own image!

6.  God help us to not fall into the trap to worship a false god, to be tempted to serve other gods!

7.  The trouble with sin is that though we might find forgiveness the scars of what we do often stay with us through life.  Israel would be plagued throughout her history with turning to false gods of their own making who of course met their own desires and agendas … and though they often repented of these each generation paid a price for it.


ILLUS:             A man shared how during his early childhood he had a fiery temper that cause him to do and say mean things he later regretted.  One day after hurting a friend and being repentant his father told him that for each time he did something mean or thoughtless he would have to drive a nail into the gatepost to the house, then each time he did a kind thing or a good deed he would pull a nail out.  Months passed, each time this boy entered the gate he saw how many mean deeds he had done by the number of nails present.  At first the nails grew in abundance, and this finally challenged him to change.  As he changed each nail came out, pulled by his father as a sign of it being canceled.  He said to his dad rather pleased with himself one day as the last nail was pulled, “See daddy, the nails are now all gone!”  His father gazed at the gate for a moment and then said to him, “Yes son, the nails are all gone but the scars remain!”  This is why it is important that we take sin seriously and not just assume we can undo everything by just asking for forgiveness, there are often scars that remain.  -- Source Unknown


CONCLUSION:   Every time God didn’t move fast enough by man’s standards the stage was set for the temptation to invent a new god that would.  Idolatry is merely man’s desire to fashion God after our OWN image and desires, creating a god that will be pleased with whatever we want to do rather than what we should do.  We need to trust in the God who has been revealed to us in His Word, and do things HIS way, not ours.  We need to embrace the God who has revealed Himself, not our own revelation or image!