[Note: The Bible reading chart shows Exodus 31-33 as the chapters for today. If you have not already read this, it would be more helpful to read Exodus 32-34 as shown in the title.]
Exodus 32-34 - or - Exodus 31-33
Well, we are back to the story. Moses was up on the mountain top for a long time and the people got restless. (All of the discussion about the law, the tabernacle and the priests may have seemed long to you as well.) We have been hearing all of these warnings about the holiness of God and the sinfulness of the people, but perhaps the reader has been tempted to think: Are they really all that bad? This section answers the question with a big, bold, capitalized, and underlined, “YES.” While Moses is receiving the law on Mt. Sinai, all hell breaks loose below. I don’t mean “hell” in a flippant way. The rebellion of these people is a vivid picture of human sin and is a damnable offense. They flagrantly break the covenant and reject the living God for a god of their own imagination. (When they fashion this calf they are probably imitating the religious practices of the Egyptians that had shaped their religious conceptions through the years.) Even before Moses had come down from the mountain, they have broken the second commandment and probably many more in their decadent celebration. Notice, what they say about this worship, however. Aaron introduces the golden calf as “the gods that brought you up out of the land of Egypt” and declares that they will have "a feast to the LORD.” In other words, they are using biblical language, but filling it with a god of their own imagination.
There are steep consequences to this rebellion. First, the Levites are directed to enact the judgment of God on their neighbors. Second, God sends a plague. However, considering that they had rejected the living God who created them, redeemed them, and sustained them in the desert, there is remarkable restraint. (The question we are meant to ask is not "why did some die?", but rather "why did so many NOT die?") Moses mediates with God (clearly this was God’s intention) and he relents from his judgment. Then the covenant is renewed, Moses receives a special revelation of God and returns to Israel with a shining face. The history of God redeeming sinful people for himself will often show just how corrupt humans can be. But God’s grace triumphs in the end and he maintains his plans to redeem a people for himself - in spite of the corruption of human sin.
Reflect: We can also use religious language to cover up our rebellion. Ask God to reveal how you might be doing this.
Connect: The golden calf is the prototypical OT rebellion and can serve as a warning for Christians about the pitfalls of the Christian life. But, the experience of Moses with a shining face, also can be used as an encouraging picture of how God is transforming us by his Spirit.
Psalm 106:19-23 They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. Therefore he said he would destroy them—had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
II Corinthians 3:12-18 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
This blog is part of the ministry of City Reformed Presbyterian Church. Unless otherwise noted, the entries are written by Matt Koerber. This is part of a project that our church is doing as we read through the narrative sections of Scripture between early January and Easter 2020. New entries will be scheduled to drop automatically at 5:00 am on the scheduled day.