Exodus 32:1-14 God does not look at the appearance of the altar in the church, but what is behind it
Exodus 32:1-14 God does not look at the appearance of the altar in the church, but what is behind it
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 5 Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” 6 So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
7 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8 They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘ This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” 9 The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. 10 Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”
11 Then Moses entreated the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.
Moses went up the mountain to commune with God and received the Law of the covenant. When Moses seemed to delay in returning, the people took occasion to revert to their former lifestyle. They refused to conform to the lifestyle of love and righteousness. They coerced Aaron into conjuring an idol, a god to lead them back to Egypt. Aaron placed an altar before the idol with a pretext for worshiping the Lord. God saw what was happening and threatened to destroy Israel to create a new nation under Moses. Moses interceded for Israel with three arguments. God changed His mind about destroying Israel because He saw Moses’s love and commitment to shepherd the people. Today’s devotion teaches us: God does not look at the appearance of the altar in the church, but what is behind it.
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us
While Moses was up on the mountain communing with God, the people took occasion to express their displeasure and go their way. They came against Aaron and demanded to return to Egypt. Their specific demand: to make a god that would help them return to Egypt, to their old lifestyle. While they did not explicitly seek for the Lord’s replacement, they conjured up a god who will accede to their requests.
Aaron did not appear to have put up a resistance but ordered them to strip the gold earrings from their wives and children to create an idol. The people upon seeing the idol in a form of a calf responded, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Aaron immediately built an altar in front of the calf and declared, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” Apparently, he had intended to incorporate the idol in the Lord’s festival. Except what ensued on the next day was nothing like a feast to the Lord but a religious orgy.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves.
The scene abruptly shifts from the people’s merry-making before the calf to the Lord’s reaction. What was to Aaron a small issue that concerned the mode of worship was to God an act of apostasy and betrayal. And Israel’s election and very existence were at stake because God was about to destroy them. Surely, God does not look at appearance or the “mode of worship” but rather their hearts. For the people in desiring the life of sin in Egypt have decided to abandon the commandments and the vision of the promised land. In so doing, they have not only rescinded the covenant, but they have also prostituted themselves to the gods of the world. Here, God vowed the harshest punishment but leaves the door open for intercession.
Then Moses entreated the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
Moses interceded for Israel using three arguments. First, he appealed to God’s miraculous deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Second, how the Egyptians would interpret Israel’s destruction bringing shame on God Himself. And finally, he appealed to the promise God made to the fathers. Ultimately, what changed God’s intention to destroy Israel were not the arguments, for God needed no reminders. It is in fact Moses’s love for the people and commitment to shepherd them. Indeed, God is merciful and gracious for He desires none to perish but for all to repent of their sins. That said, had Moses not interceded by taking responsibility for the people, Israel would not have survived.
God does not look at the appearance of the altar in the church, but what is behind it.
Aaron, being a priest supposed his role is merely to maintain a form of worship. He built an altar unto the Lord thinking that would obliviate the presence of the calf. Indeed, God is not concerned with the form of worship but rather the heart. God’s intention to completely annihilate the people speaks of the seriousness of their actions.
Many in the churches today raise their hands in worship while secretly seeking the pleasures of the world. They will not submit their rights, possessions and future plans to do God’s will. Weekly, their ministers stand in place of Aaron proclaiming a feast to the Lord. But they are unable to move the golden calf from the hearts of the people.
Today, God is burning with anger at the waywardness of many in the church. But He will not destroy us because of the commitment of countless mediators who have pledged their lives to shepherd the people. God is calling believers to rise up and take up the role of mediators; to turn the people from an appearance of piety towards faith in God.
Why did God listen to Moses and change His mind?
Firstly, Moses encountered God and knew Him intimately. An effective mediator and intercessor must know God’s heart and commune with Him face to face. Moses’s encounter with God at the burning bush produced in him a divine conviction pertaining to God’s love and holiness. Whereas Aaron had no such encounter. For Aaron was merely following orders pertaining to a form of worship. Perhaps, many of us, like Aaron are pursuing religion, even supernatural experiences as opposed to encountering God daily. As a result, we lack true conviction to function as effective mediators and intercessors.
Secondly, Moses took full responsibility to shepherd the people. So much so, he was willing to give his life in exchange for the people’s salvation. When God sees our love and commitment to shepherd the people, He exercises mercy and work with us to save them. God forgave the sins of humanity because Jesus committed His life by His blood as a covenant to shepherd and reconcile us with God. Many misunderstood intercession as equivalent to the ministry of prayer. Words alone cannot change the mind of God, but committed shepherding and disciple making. Only when we are willing to go into the midst of the people, to shepherd and disciple them, can the world be saved. Many today interceded for the world in the comfort of their bedrooms and prayer rooms with little effect. We have to take full responsibility by going into the people’s lives to walk with them.
Commune with God daily by emptying ourselves of our natural identity, desires and plans. Practice sitting down for 20 minutes daily and do the following:
- Lay down your identity and roles (e.g. as husband, father, manager etc) and ask God who He has called you to be. God spoke to Jesus from heaven saying, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11).
- Lay down your ambitions, desires and concerns (e.g. career, providing for the family etc). Allow God to fill your heart with what is eternally glorious and important.
- Lay down your plans and allow God to populate your schedules and list of tasks.
- Lay down your perceptions concerning people and current affairs. Allow God to enlighten you with His perceptions.
- Lay down your theological convictions and allow God to sow a higher understanding concerning Himself and the kingdom.
Ask God for the names of the people He wants you to shepherd. Begin by understanding them and empathising with their lives (career, family and predicaments etc.) Use their needs as windows of opportunity to encounter God and to experience life in the Spirit.
Dear Lord, help me recognise the golden calf in my heart. I lay down my natural identity, desires and fleshly convictions. Enlighten my mind to receive the higher things of the kingdom. Use me to shepherd the people in my family, workplace and social circle. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.