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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Smith :: Portraits of Christ

Don Smith :: Exo 32; The Golden Calf

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Portraits of Christ in Exodus 32
God’s passion for His Glory—“The Golden Calf”

  1. God’s Passion for His Sovereign Purposes
    • “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” (Psalm 115:3)
  2. God’s passion for His fame
    • “The LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14)
    • “I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images.” (Isaiah 42:8)
    • “For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:11)
  3. God’s passion for His glory in creation
    • “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.” (Psalm 19:1)
    • “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3)
    • “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all.” (1 Chronicles 29:11)
  4. God’s pleasure when men are most passionate for His glory
    • “Give to the LORD the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts. Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.” (Psalm 96:8-9)
    • “Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29:2)
    • “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight, says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
    • “Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!” (1 Chronicles 16:8-10)
    • “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
    • You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:9-11)
    • “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
  5. God’s wrath is against misplaced passion—spiritual harlotry, idolatry, adultery and glory robbers.
    • “But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods. You shall make no molded gods for yourselves.” (Exodus 34:13-17)
    • “The people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel.” (Numbers 25:1-3)
    • “For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry.” (Psalm 73:27)
    • “Therefore I will uncover your skirts over your face, that your shame may appear.
    • I have seen your adulteries and your lustful neighings, the lewdness of your harlotry, your abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! Will you still not be made clean?” (Jeremiah 13:26-27)

Quotes about our misplaced passion for God:

  • “Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it rests in Thee.” —Augustine
  • “The heart is an idol factory.” —John Calvin
  • “Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an arrogant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what it meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” —C.S. Lewis

Christ’s passion for God’s glory in the temple: (John 2:13-17)

  1. Christ’s great passion for the Father’s glory
    • “When He had (deliberately and unhurriedly) made a whip of cords, He drove them [the money changers doing business] all out of the Temple…and said…‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise.’ Then the disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.’” (John 2:15; Psalm 69:9)
    • “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a den of thieves.’” (Mark 11:17)
  2. Israel’s “Great Exchange”
    • The temple priests were getting kick-backs and obscene profit from the moneychangers by providing services to religious consumers.
    • Jesus’ response was premeditated anger out of zeal for God’s glory in the Temple.
    • His response was that of the “great prophet” foretold by Moses. (Deuteronomy 18:15-19)
    • He was charging the Pharisees with “harlotry,” like the prophets of old had done before Him.
    • The prophets accused God’s people of national prostitution by selling themselves to other gods, even though they were pledged to God as His wife.
    • The Temple priests were profiting by merchandising religious services not for the glory of God.
    • The Temple was in need of a cleansing.
    • “There is an uncanny similarity between our day and that of ancient Israel. God’s ancient people worshipped Baalim; we worship a materialistic golden cow. At heart many of us have a greed for things. We have made the world’s agenda of status the world’s techniques of gaining influence and security. And it has worked. We are flushed with success. Is our success because of our godliness and our love for our neighbors, or is it because we have grown large enough to have a political influence? Have we attracted society’s attention by reflecting the beauty of our Lord, or have we prostituted ourselves, being successful peddling to the public, by public relations experts? Another Temple cleansing is needed.” —John White, The Golden Cow.
  3. The outcry against harlotry in this generation is “Together for the Gospel” by Albert Mohler.
    • “The Gospel of Jesus Christ has been misrepresented, misunderstood, and marginalized in many churches and among many who claim the name of Christ. Compromise of the Gospel has led to the preaching of false gospels, the seduction of many minds and movements, and the weakening of the Church’s Gospel witness.”
    • “As in previous moments of theological and spiritual crisis in the Church, we believe that the answer to this confusion and compromise lies in a comprehensive recovery and reaffirmation of the Gospel, and in Christians banding together in Gospel churches that display God’s glory in this fallen world.”
    • “This concern is specifically addressed to certain trends within the Church today. We are concerned about the tendency of so many churches to substitute technique for truth, therapy for theology, and management for ministry.”
    • “We are also concerned that God’s glorious purpose for Christ’s Church is often eclipsed in concern by so many other issues, programs, technologies, and misplaced priorities.”

God’s passion for His glory in the wilderness: (Exodus 32:1-6)

  1. Examples of spiritual idolatry and harlotry for the Church to take note of:
    • “Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:6-11, 14)
  2. God previously revealed His glory to Israel in delivering them from Egypt.
    • Moses and Israel sang to the Lord for His acts of deliverance. “I will sing to the LORD, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.” (Exodus 15:1-2)
    • At Mount Sinai God revealed Himself to Israel in mysterious and magnificent glory. (Exodus 19:1-20)
    • God called Moses up to the Mount and spoke the words of the Law. (Exodus 20)
    • Moses then declared to Israel the things spoken to him by the Lord. (Exodus 20:19-23)
    • The Lord called Moses up to the Mount for forty days and gave Him the written law. (Exodus 24-31)
    • Israel made a “Great Exchange” of worshipping God in His glory for other gods. (Romans 1:25)
    • God’s people are notoriously impatient and don’t like to wait for God or His appointed leaders.
    • People are prone to create their own schemes or invent novel worship to express their frustration.
    • “Truly, this only I have found:That God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29)
    • The people gathered before Aaron in public protest. They wanted a religion that required less faith in the invisible and less fear of the Holy God.
    • Instead, they wanted “gods that shall go [visibly] before us.”
    • They wanted gods less demanding, more casual worship, and a more compliable, consenting gods.
    • The problem was with a faithless people. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.” “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:1-2, 6)
    • The attitude of the vocal leadership wanted not only new leadership (probably themselves) but a new deity.
    • They had forgotten that it was “Elohim” who delivered Israel—not Moses.
  3. Aaron buckled under public pressure and consented to the peoples’ outrageous demands.
    • Aaron is a type of contemporary pastor or leader who is a “man-pleaser” rather than a “God-pleaser.”
    • He compromised his ministry to fit the expectations and demands of the people.
    • This the Lord will pronounce through the prophets as “harlotry.”
    • This was worse than “spiritual prostitution” because a prostitute receives pay for her services.
    • Here, like the harlotry of Israel in the future, they actually are like cheap sick whores who pay or give to others to serve them.
    • The people gave of their gold, which the Lord had given them when leaving Egypt. (Exodus 12:35-36)
    • They had exchanged God’s blessings to craft a god to fit their stubborn, lustful desires while having no plans of repentance.
    • “They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped the molded image. Thus they changed their glory into the image of an ox that eats grass.” (Psalm 106:19-20)
    • “Even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:21-23)
    • Aaron crafted this “god” or “gods” in the image and likeness of a “calf” or “bull” that was fashionable to the culture they knew in Egypt (probably like the Apis bull they worshipped in Egypt).
    • This seems to be verified in Joshua 24:14, “Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD!”
  4. Aaron announced with great religious fanfare the completion of the molded calf.
    • It is my pleasure to unveil for you today, “This is your [new 2016 model] god, O Israel that brought you out of the land of Egypt.”
    • In an attempt to please the people and appease Yahweh, Aaron decided to declare the “calf” to be the visible glorification of the invisible God who delivered them from Israel.
    • He even built an altar before the calf, so sacrifices to God could be made and he further announced a feast to the Lord for the next day.
    • This he did knowing the Commandments clearly prohibited “having other gods, making for themselves carved images and taking the Lord’s name in vain [calling an Egyptian god the God of Israel].” (Exodus 20:1-2)
    • But how clever to disregard God’s requirements for worship and create gods, altars and feasts to put a little religious pizzazz, excitement and fun back into the lives of these pagan religious consumers.
    • In this way they could claim to be worshippers of Yahweh, while still nurturing an idolatrous rebellious heart.
    • “And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, “Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him. And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.” (Acts 7:39-41)
    • “And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” (Exodus 32:6)
    • The people played at their worship and worshiped at their play, thinking this sure beat the old way they had to worship Yahweh in reverence and in repentance of sin.
    • So they worshipped the right God in the wrong way.
    • Their worship was filled with catchy, inspiring, triumphant songs and novel, expressive, creative dancing before the golden calf.
    • What’s more, this was not unlike the early church in Corinth worshipping and fellowshipping together around the Lord’s Table. They forgot God as they danced before the calf and thought more of themselves. (1 Corinthians 10:16-22)
    • Their idolatrous self-centered worship turned to “corrupting themselves” with sexual play.
    • Their enthusiasm for this new form of worship was infectious.
    • Unbridled zeal, the promise of prosperity, the excitement of worship music and corrupted arts created a frenzy of religious fervor, as well as the wrath of God.
    • The rest of the story, however, is yet to be told about Israel, as well as the Church.

Protecting our passion for God’s glory today: The Law of Perfect Freedom —Michael Horton

  • “The human heart not only wants to worship false gods, it consistently seeks to invent new ways of worship even when worshipping the triune God of Biblical revelation. People are convinced that God will be pleased with the patterns, forms, rules, and guidelines they have set up for His service. Or, worse, they invent new patterns of worship to accommodate themselves, with little thought to pleasing God.”
  • “False worship, therefore, can exist even in the presence of apparent success. We often associate unfaithfulness with secularism, outright idolatry, and naked immorality, but the prophets and our Lord Himself argue again and again that false worship is often part and parcel of a church that thinks it is healthy when in reality it is ill. The Israelites, after all were bringing their offerings and sacrifices just as they were commanded. Their songs were loud and joyful. But there was no connection of theology and life, no realization that honoring and worshipping God included what one did at work, every bit as much as what one did in public worship.”
  • “Biblical, God-centered, Christ-focused worship looks to the Word and the sacraments, not to entertainment, to inspire worship. This does not exclude contemporary worship styles. In fact, when worship was reformed in Geneva at the time of the Reformation (joyful congregational singing, instead of leaving it to the professionals; centrality of Word and sacrament, with no unscriptural ceremonies; sermons, prayers, and liturgy in the common language of the people) was at once considered radically contemporary. So lively were the psalms set to music that they earned the scornful nickname “Geneva jigs.”
  • “Idolatry always has good intentions. We want to help the people of God worship more effectively. We are certain that our clever means and methods will achieve success. But all worship that God has not expressly commanded is vain and is, in fact, counter-productive.”
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CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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