Exodus 32:1-10. The Israelites had just been given the law…and it doesn’t take them very long to break it.
Exodus 32:1-10. The Israelites had just been given the law…and it doesn’t take them very long to break it.
“Papa’s Bible Stories” brings the Bible to life for your kids. For each episode, I pick a Bible story to talk to my very own kids about. The stories are entirely Bible-based, scripture is quoted at every opportunity, and the kids are always pointed to the Bible as the authority. And we’re not afraid of having a little fun too! It is my hope and prayer that your kids will be excited to explore God’s Word for themselves after hearing each and every episode. #bible #stories #kids #children #adventist #sda
Last we left our story, God had given the 10 commandments to all the Israelites, then Moses headed up the mountain and received the judgements from God, and then the Israelites had made the covenant with God…a covenant that the Israelites would follow His commandments and in turn God would make the Israelites into His special people. And then Moses headed back up the mountain to hear more from God. And Moses was on the mountain with God for 40 long days, and as we found out from Mama in the last episode, God spent those 40 days telling Moses about the tabernacle…about how to build the tabernacle and about what kinds of services would take place in the tabernacle…and that the tabernacle would be a replacement for the sacrifices that each family had been doing for themselves. And not only that, but God would physically be in the tabernacle…and would be that much closer to the Israelites. It really was an amazing thing that God was doing for the Israelites.
But…not too long after Moses had headed up the mountain, the Israelites began to get…restless. You see, the Israelites were scared. They had just left Egypt…one of the richest and nicest country in the world at that time…where they’d lived for hundreds of years. And now they were in a dusty desert in the middle of nowhere, they were always at risk of being attacked by the nations around them, and to top it all off the mountain that they had camped next to seemed to constantly be in the process of exploding! And Moses, the man that had lead them there…the man that they had come to rely on to know what to do…had disappeared into that exploding mountain. And Moses wasn’t gone for just a few days…he was gone for a week…and then 2 weeks, then 3 weeks, then more than a month. And the Israelites began to wonder… was Moses ever coming back? Who was going to take care of them? Who was going to lead them? And at some point the Israelites just couldn’t take it anymore…they were too scared and they had to do something to make themselves feel better.
Now, for people today…when we feel scared and like things are out of control…what do we do? Well, some kidzos that I know have been known to cry…or at least maybe want to be by themselves for a while. Adults…well some adults maybe take part in some unhealthy coping mechanisms. But many of us…we turn to God and we pray. Even people who don’t believe in God, when they feel really really scared they’ve been known to say a prayer or two. And back then almost everybody prayed when they were scared…but they were used to praying to idols…they were used to praying to something they could see. So when they felt scared they would maybe whip out some wooden carving that was supposed to be some god and pray to that. And unfortunately, after hundreds of years in Egypt, the Israelites had gotten used to praying to idols when they were scared. And so the first thing they thought to do to make themselves feel better was to make an idol.
Now, you kidzos remember the whole 10 commandments thing a few episodes ago right…when God personally spoke the commandments to all the Israelites? Remember the cloud descended onto the mountain with the lighting and earthquakes and the sound of trumpets? It was a big deal. And do you remember what the very 1st commandment was? Yah…”you shall have no other Gods before Me”. And do you remember what the 2nd commandment was? Yah…”you shall not make for yourself any carved image (that is to say…an idol) – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.” So, even though the Israelites were scared and even though they may have felt like making an idol, they weren’t actually going to make an idol…were they? And don’t forget…even though they couldn’t see Moses anymore they certainly could still see the exploding mountain and the pillar of cloud where God’s presence was. So…with everything that God had said…and with everything going on around them…there was no way that they were actually going to make an idol…was there?
Well yah actually…they were going to make an idol. And the Bible says, “when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ ” (32:1) Now, before Moses had gone up the mountain, he had put his brother Aaron in charge. So the people naturally came to Aaron with this thing that they wanted to do. Now, Aaron…he’d heard the same 10 commandments that the rest of the Israelites heard…and he knew (probably better than most) that they weren’t supposed to worship idols. So of course Aaron was like…no way hosay…I’m not doing that! …right? I mean, if anyone other than Moses was going to put a stop to this, it was Aaron…right?
Well, unfortunately no. Aaron, as far as we can tell in the Bible, was more of a go-along-to-get-along type of guy. Ya know, the kind of person who likes to go with the flow, who always agree with you no matter what you say, and who would never stand up to you even if you were doing something wrong. So even though Aaron knew that making an idol was wrong, everyone around him wanted to do it…so…unfortunately Aaron went along with it. And Aaron replied to the people and said, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” (32:2) When leaving Egypt, the Egyptians had given the Israelites all kinds of jewelry, including (apparently) lots of golden earrings. Aaron had probably figured that the Israelites wouldn’t be too excited to part with their valuable jewelry…I mean maybe if they had to give up something they would change their minds. But to his surprise…they did give up their jewelry. And with all the gold that he needed in hand, the Bible says that Aaron, “fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.” (32:4)
When the people saw the golden calf, they said to each other, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” (32:4) Errr…what? What was that? Were the Israelites saying that this golden calf (ya know…the one that Aaron had just made) had led the Israelites out of Egypt? Really? The golden calf hadn’t even been around when the Israelites had left Egypt. How does that make any sense? Well, the idols of ancient times weren’t always gods in and of themselves…idols were often representations or images of a god that they thought existed in real life somewhere. And when you worshipped an idol, you were worshipping the god that the idol represented. So, for example the Egyptian God Osiris was the God of plentiful harvests and he looked like a wrapped mummy. So when you wanted your fields to grow well, you could whip out your idol of Osiris and pray to it…the idea being that the actual Osiris would somehow hear you. There were exceptions to this…but that was the general idea. So, the Israelites were taking this idea and applying to God. They wanted to worship and pray to God, but they felt like they needed to do it through an idol.
Now when the Israelites saw that the golden calf was completed, they seemed to cheer up and get excited. And when Aaron saw that the Israelites were excited, he got up and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” (32:5) Apparently Aaron had decided that it was time to have a party…and Aaron built an alter in front of the idol. Then the next day the made some offerings on the altar, and then the party got started. The Israelites were so happy. They had gotten what they had wanted all this time…an idol to pray to…they all felt better now…they could all relax…and finally they started to feel like everything was going to be ok.
Except that it wasn’t…yah…not at all. As you kidzos know, while all this was going at the bottom of the mountain, Moses was indeed at the top of the mountain talking to God…learning all about the tabernacle. And just as God was wrapping up, He suddenly changed topics and said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. (8) They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!' ” (32:7-8) Moses must have been shocked. What? They were doing what? Worshipping a golden calf? Hadn’t they heard the 1st and 2nd commandments specifically telling them not to do that? Were they disobeying God’s commandments just after God had given them? It didn’t seem possible. But not only was it possible, but it was happening right at that moment just down the mountain.
And Moses knew very well what the result was of the Isrealites’ disobedience. The Israelites had broken the covenant…the agreement between God and the Israelites that if they obeyed His commandments, they would be His people. The Israelites had obviously broken the commandments, and so the Israelites were no longer God’s people. This is what God was telling Moses. But if that news wasn’t bad enough…it got worse. God continued, and said, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people (meaning a stubborn people)! (10) Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.” (32:9-10)
God was angry. And understandably so. The Israelites were brazenly disobeying the very first commandments that they had been given…even after they had agreed to follow them. The Israelites had stubbornly decided that they wanted to do what they wanted to do…and it didn’t matter what the commandments were. And what God was telling Moses was that He wanted to punish the Israelites…and start all over again with Moses and his family. No more Israelites…no more complaining…no more accusations…no more being scared all the time…no more stubborn disobedience…just God and Moses’ family. It would be like Abraham’s time all over again.
Now from Moses’ perspective, this must have been a tempting offer. I mean…just think about how many times that the Israelites had complained about him – starting all the way back when he first showed up in Egypt…blaming him for everything that Pharaoh was doing to him, to complaining to him when the Egyptian army showed up, to complaining to him when there wasn’t any food, and I mean they’d just recently threatened to kill him before they made it to Mt. Sinai just because they’d run out of water. And boy…they weren’t even halfway to the Promised Land yet! Imagine how much trouble Moses could save himself if he just took God up on His offer.
But God had said “let Me alone” that God could punish the Israelites. God was giving Moses the option that he could…if he wanted to…stand up for the Israelites. He could plead their case…if he wanted to. And…Moses probably didn’t want to. But if he didn’t, he would be abandoning the Israelites to face God’s punishment on their own. And it wasn’t going to be pretty. And despite all that the Israelites had done to Moses…and even though they certainly deserved what was coming to them…Moses still wanted the best for them. He’d been through a lot with them. And even though the Israelites had caused him nothing but trouble, Moses still only wanted the best for them.
So what was Moses going to do?
Well, it was going to be a tough decision. And we will find out all about it…next time.