Passage: Exodus 32
Speaker: Mitch Kim
Series: Coming Home – A Journey Through Exodus
Failing To Represent His Name
When we don’t feel in control, we become anxious or seek to deny it or try to master the situation. Yet clearly this novel coronavirus has exposed any illusion of control. We cannot control when we will go to get a haircut, sit down for a meal in a restaurant, or watch a movie in a theater. On Mother’s Day I couldn’t even take my wife to buy a running shoes from the store! How do you navigate the lack of control? In Exodus 32 the people of God cannot control their situation and make bad decisions. This chapter shows the disastrous consequences of those decisions. We see here that when we take control of what God should control, we break God’s covenant, and atonement is needed.
First, problems emerge when we take control of what God should control (Exod 32:1–6). While Moses had daily mediated the presence of God for the people, he now has ascended the mountain and not been seen for weeks. The people don’t know what to do; waiting is never fun! So they take the situation into their own hands and tellAaron to make gods who will go before them (32:1). Aaron takes control of this situation, receives their rings of gold, fashions it with a graving tool, and makes a golden calf (32:3–4). Aaron’s initiative and clear control of an uncertain situation seems to demonstrate bold leadership! In reality he is only making an idol, trying to control what God should control. And to this idol, they offer up worship of God that is a cheap imitation of the real thing (32:5–6). Similarly we often try to take control of the situation when we find ourselves in an uncertain situation; we make God in our own image. Yet this has tragic consequences.
When we take control of what God should control, we break God’s covenant (Exod 32:15–20). God wants to destroy this people completely for their sin (32:10); when Moses descends from the mountain with God’s covenant inscribed on the tablets of stone, he throws these tablets and smashes them to pieces in anger (32:19–20).This dramatic picture demonstrates that God’s covenant has been broken by the people through their radical disobedience. And this disobedience leads to the death of 3000 men of the people of God that day (32:28). Similarly when we take control of what God should control and seek to act like God, we break His covenant with us. This brings down God’s wrath, so that we are deserving of death.
Nevertheless hope is found even when atonement is needed (Exod 32:30–35). Moses plays a remarkable role in this chapter. When God desires to destroy his people, Moses implores God on their behalf, holding to the promise of God (32:11–14). Moses wants to make atonement for the people (32:30). While the altar has been set up in the tabernacle, the instructions for the sacrifices have not been given yet; these will not come until Leviticus. As a result we have no idea how atonement for sin can happen yet. Nevertheless Moses steps in and pleads for the forgiveness of their sin, offering even that he might be blotted out from the book instead (32:32).
Don’t you wish that you had a leader like Moses in the face of your sin? This stark reminder of how easily our hearts wander from God remind us of how greatly we need a mediator. And we do have a mediator, an even better mediator than Moses: Jesus Christ. He was given as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. For like the people of God in Exodus, when we make God in our image (1–6), we break his covenant (15–20), and atonement is needed (30–35).