Exodus 32:1-14 Sermon Notes


Pastor Joe Valenti‌

Exodus 32:1-14 can be broken this passage down into 4 sections.

‌‌1. The Fickleness of Faith (vv. 1-6)

‌Beginning at chapter 19, we find Israel encamped at Mt. Sinai. God has descended on Mt. Sinai and has been speaking with Moses. Moses has been acting as a mediator—a go-between—between the God and the Israelites. He goes up the mountain to speak with God and then brings the info back down to the people. On the last trip up the mountain, he was given the ten commandments and the book of the covenant – which detailed how the ten commandments are to be worked out in real life. (chapter 20-23).

‌In chapter 24 Moses reads ALL of this to the people and they said in response to it, “All that Yahweh has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient.” So….the covenant between God and the Israelites has been established. Then, Moses gets called back up the mountain for more conversations with God. Since the people have agreed to the covenant relationship, God plans to dwell among them. This is what we’ve covered in the last 6 chapters—the tabernacle, the priests, and the people gifted to build and craft these things.

‌Now, this is important – all of chapters 25-31 are happening on the mountain while chapter 32 is happening among the people in the wilderness surrounding the mountain. God is talking to Moses sharing with him how he is going to make it possible for his perfect holiness to dwell among them even though they are sinful. In his love, he is making a way for proximity, relationship, nearness. And at the very same time, Exodus 32 is happening down below in the wilderness surrounding Sinai.

‌Just 40 days after they said “all that Yahweh has spoken we will do”, they gather around Aaron in a bit of a mob mentality and they’re tired of waiting for Moses. They say, “we don’t know what has happened to that guy Moses, so get moving and make us a god who will lead us on form this place. We’re bored and tired of waiting.”

‌Read Exodus 32:2-5‌

‌This is weird on all sorts of levels. The language here is a little odd because “gods” is in the plural several times, but only one idol is created. When the people see the calf, they make the claim that this is the god that brought them out of Egypt and it causes Aaron to build an altar in which to make sacrifices and says – tomorrow will be a feast to Yahweh. Scholars are split on their opinions of what is happening here. Some say that this is a full-on departure from Yahweh as their God. ‌Others claim that they’re still worshipping Yahweh, but since Moses is gone, they want a visible symbol of a god. Any way you slice it, they are breaking the commandments to which they just agreed to obey.

‌If they’re making a new God, they’re breaking the first commandment. If they’re attempting to make an image of Yahweh, they’re breaking the second commandment. They’re surely misappropriating his name, so they’re breaking the 3rd commandment. AND, Pastor Josh mentioned to me this week that in his study, some scholars believe that the timing works out such that this happened on the sabbath – breaking the 4th commandment.

‌This is an unqualified disaster and Stephen, one of the first recorded people to have died for his faith in Jesus, actually tells us what is going on in the book of Acts. Thousands of years after this moment in history, Stephen is retelling this story to a bunch of his fellow Jews and he says in Acts 7 that the people’s hearts returned to Egypt.

‌What is the problem? Why have they ignored God’s instructions and broken their covenant promises? Because they’re hearts (they’re affections) were drawn to something else. They were not grateful for their deliverance and are unwilling to be a holy people who trust and obey Yahweh. WHY? Because they actually preferred slavery in Egypt and they were apparently captivated by the activities that accompanied pagan idol worship, namely what happens in the next verse.

‌‌Read ​Exodus 32:6.

How many times have you told God that this was the last time, only to find yourself right back in the same behaviors? How many times have we been impatient with God’s plan and timing and decided to take matters into our own hands? How often do we try to mix in a little bit of what God wants with a little bit of what we want and try to call it Christianity?

‌‌‌2. The Seriousness of Sin (Vv. 7-10)

See, I think we act this way because we don’t see our sin as that serious. Ah, it’s not that big of a deal. Well, at the very same time that THIS is happening at the base of the mountain, here is the conversation that God is having with Moses.

‌Read Exodus 32:7–10.

Notice how God speaks about the Israelites – now they’re “Moses’ people.” Go down there, for YOUR people whom YOU brought up out of Egypt have corrupted themselves. God is not happy and he tells Moses – I’m going to kill them all and start over with you. God would be well within his rights to do this. He could still keep the promise to Abraham and make a great nation out of his family. He could just use Moses and his family to keep all of his covenant promises. He made clear back in chapter 19 the details of the covenant…

‌Read Exodus 19:4–6.‌

They didn’t keep the covenant and, as we have learned previously and will see throughout the entirety of Bible, the just and right consequence for rebellion against God is death. Modern American Christianity has lost its backbone when it comes to speaking about the consequences of sin. We want to explain away the ramifications of opposing God because it’s not very inviting or popular. We’ve not only become disinterested in talking about hell in our community, but in our churches.

‌J.M. Wheeler wrote a mocking book called The Christian Doctrine of Hell and in it he writes: “If there is a hell, that is the most important fact in the universe. Compared with an eternity of torment, all that this little life has to offer is but as nothing. If there is no hell, then, it seems to me, the faith in Jesus is vain, for no such salvation as that offered by orthodox Christianity is necessary.”

‌This is not first-and-foremost a problem for someone else. This is an issue for you and me. Poor theology leads to poor belief which leads to poor behavior. The Bible could not be more clear that there is a real hell where real people will spend real eternity if Jesus is not the forgiver AND leader of their lives.

The evidence that Jesus is your leader and forgiver is in the way that you live.  Do you know why Christianity is in steep decline in America? It’s not because we’re too serious about following Jesus. It’s because the world looks at people who claim to be followers of Jesus and see absolutely no difference between the way that we live and the way that they do! We need to begin taking sin as seriously as God does – because the consequences of sin are pain in this life and eternal torment in the life to come.

‌3. The Power of Prayer (Vv. 11-13)

Thank goodness the people have a mediator in Moses. A person to plead with God in their behalf. A person willing to lay down his own life for them!

‌Read ​Exodus 32:11–13.

The best thing to do any time people we love have gone astray is the pray. This is what Moses does. He immediately begins to plead with God for the people. And he doesn’t make his stand on the fact that they are somehow deserving of his grace. Rather Moses is primarily concerned about God’s reputation. Remember – God himself has made clear that the aim of his saving of Israel was so that his love and message might be displayed in all of the world through them.

Moses says – Lord, don’t do this. The Egyptians will hear of what you’ve done and your reputation will be tarnished. He also asks the Lord to consider his promises to their ancestors – the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He pleads with Yahweh not to do this thing – not for the sake of the people, but for the sake of continuing to spread God’s fame, glory, love, and message into the world. The best thing you can do when someone you love has gone astray is to pray.

‌‌This is what is happening here. God doesn’t not change his mind – he is unchanging and all his ways are perfect. Remember, we’re learning that Yahweh is relational – he loves his people and he wants to be with them. What God is doing here is providing space for the relationship to actually happen. He’s leaving room for someone to stand in the gap. He’s showing us in real time how, in his perfect and sovereign rule over all things, he invites and purposes our prayers to accomplish his will in the world.

‌Years ago I was at a conference and heard Pastor and author David Platt make this statement that changed my understanding and view of prayer forever. “God, in His providence, has chosen to make prayer a powerful means by which we interact with Him and effectively shape the course of history. That is not an overstatement. That statement booms across the pages of the Bible. People pray and fire falls from Heaven, the lame walk, the hungry are fed, and the dead come to life.”

Later in the sermon he brings additional clarity – “I’ll say it again. God, in His providence, has not called us in prayer to watch history but rather to shape history for the glory of His great name. I know that some—maybe many—are still uncomfortable with that kind of language. Let’s be clear about what we’re not saying. We’re not saying God is an impotent King waiting on His throne for somebody to say something to Him so He can start working in the world. That’s not what we’re seeing in this text. We see a God Who wills to work through willing intercessors. We are saying that when we pray, God responds. When we pray, we take our God-given place and use our God-ordained privilege to participate with Him in the accomplishment of His purposes on the planet.”

Why do we pray? Because we pray to a God who is gracious and merciful, who is slow to anger and overflowing in loyal love. And he responds when we pray.

‌4. The Glory of Grace (v. 14)

‌Read E‌xodus 32:14.

Are there things more beautiful than mercy and grace to people who are guilty? Perhaps you’ve been in a moment with a spouse or friend or family member where you have caused immense pain. You have been the one to betray or cause harm—and you know it. There is nothing quite like hearing those 3 words – I forgive you.  

‌Like the Israelites in the wilderness, our desires can overshadow our devotion, causing us to chase after the fleeting comforts of this world rather than the eternal peace offered by the perfect mediator, Jesus Christ. Perhaps this morning, you find your heart echoing the truth of that old hymn, feeling the weight of its words: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.” If this resonates within you, if you feel the pull of your heart wandering into the shadows, I want to extend to you the most loving invitation you could ever receive.

It is an invitation not to a religion, not to a ritual, but to a relationship—a relationship with Jesus Christ, who has already done everything necessary to restore you. He lived the life we could never live – a perfect life. He died the death we deserved to die – taking our consequences when he died on the cross. And he rose from the grave to offer us new life both now and for eternity. If you feel that tug in your heart today, the gentle pull to come back or to start anew, I invite you to respond.

Maybe you are a follower of Jesus, but you know that you’ve been wandering – today its time to return. Maybe you’ve been taking sin lightly – living in ways that you know are contrary to God’s good plan for you and you’re feeling the conviction of the holy Spirit. Perhaps today you turn around and walk the other direction—back to Jesus. Maybe you’ve stopped praying for that person in your life or that situation and today you need to rekindle that passion. Or, perhaps you’ve never trusted Jesus and today is the day when you want to make him the leader and forgiver of your life. You don’t need to have everything figured out; all that is required is a simple step of faith. To say, “Yes, Jesus, I need you. I believe in what you’ve done for me, and I want to live my life for you.”

So, I invite you now, whether you’re here for the first time or seeking renewal in your walk with Christ, let this be the moment you choose His way over yours. Let’s pray together, and for those who wish to take this step, to place their faith in Jesus, you can echo this prayer in your heart: “Lord Jesus, I know I’m prone to wander, and I confess that I have strayed from your ways. Thank you for loving me even when I fail. I believe that you died for my sins and rose again to give me new life. I choose now to turn from my old ways and to follow you. Forgive me and lead me, Lord.  Amen.”

‌If you prayed that prayer and meant it, know that a new chapter in your life begins today, a journey filled with the love and light of Christ. Please, let us know. We want to support you, pray with you, and walk alongside you as you begin this new life in Christ.

‌To him alone who is able to save to the uttermost those who are prone to wander be blessing, and honor, and glory, and power forever and ever amen.