The hope of these post is that we, the follower of Jesus, will focus on how we live out the Gospel instead of focusing our frustration on the world. The world is acting just as it is supposed to. The better question is, “Are you, the Christian, acting as you are supposed to?”
Our scripture passage for this series is found in 1 Corinthians chapter 10. Here, Paul writes...
"For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. But God was not pleased with most of them, for they were cut down in the wilderness. These things happened as examples for us, so that we will not crave evil things as they did. So do not be idolaters, as some of them were. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” And let us not be immoral, as some of them were, and twenty-three thousand died in a single day. And let us not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by snakes. And do not complain, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come. So let the one who thinks he is standing be careful that he does not fall. No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (NET)
Paul provides four “things that happened” as examples for Christians to learn from. With each example Paul offers a quick summary and then the Biblical reference. I am going to give this four examples in list form.
- Don’t be idolaters - Exodus 32:1-29
- Don’t be immoral - Numbers 25:1-9
- Don’t complain about God’s provision - Numbers 21:1-9
- Don’t question God’s judgement - Numbers 16:20-50
Today I will be focusing on Paul’s first example - Don’t be idolaters - Exodus 32:1-29
The passage is a little long but it is worth the read. Here’s the context. God has used Moses to lead his children, the Israelites, out of Egypt. They are now at Mt. Sinai. Moses has been up on the top of Mt. Sinai for some time and the people down below are getting restless.
"When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Get up, make us gods that will go before us. As for this fellow Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him!”
2 So Aaron said to them, “Break off the gold earrings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people broke off the gold earrings that were on their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 He accepted the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molten calf. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it, and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow will be a feast to the Lord.” 6 So they got up early on the next day and offered up burnt offerings and brought peace offerings, and the people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.
7 The Lord spoke to Moses: “Go quickly, descend, because your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have acted corruptly. 8 They have quickly turned aside from the way that I commanded them—they have made for themselves a molten calf and have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt.’”
9 Then the Lord said to Moses: “I have seen this people. Look what a stiff-necked people they are! 10 So now, leave me alone so that my anger can burn against them and I can destroy them, and I will make from you a great nation.”
11 But Moses sought the favor of 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 say, ‘For evil he led them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger, and relent of this evil against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel your servants, to whom you swore by yourself and told them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken about I will give to your descendants, and they will inherit it forever.’” 14 Then the Lordrelented over the evil that he had said he would do to his people.
15 Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hands. The tablets were written on both sides—they were written on the front and on the back. 16 Now the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “It is the sound of war in the camp!” 18 Moses said, “It is not the sound of those who shout for victory, nor is it the sound of those who cry because they are overcome, but the sound of singing I hear.”
19 When he approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses became extremely angry. He threw the tablets from his hands and broke them to pieces at the bottom of the mountain. 20 He took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire, ground it to powder, poured it out on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.
21 Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought on them so great a sin?” 22 Aaron said, “Do not let your anger burn hot, my lord; you know these people, that they tend to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods that will go before us, for as for this fellow Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out.”
25 Moses saw that the people were running wild, for Aaron had let them get completely out of control, causing derision from their enemies. 26 So Moses stood at the entrance of the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” All the Levites gathered around him, 27 and he said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Each man fasten his sword on his side, and go back and forth from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and each one kill his brother, his friend, and his neighbor.’”
28 The Levites did what Moses ordered, and that day about three thousand men of the people died. 29 Moses said, “You have been consecrated today for the Lord, for each of you was against his son or against his brother, so he has given a blessing to you today.” Exodus 32:1-29 (NET)
Paul sums this story up as “don’t be idolaters…” It is my hope that you notice what the people were worshiping. To discover this, let me ask you a few questions.
- What did the people want this idol to do?
- Where did Aaron get the gold to create the idol?
- What did the people say about these newly crafted idols?
- What did Aaron do when he saw how the people were responding?
- How did the people respond to what Aaron did?
- After reading this account, do you think God takes this type of thing lightly?
Let’s look into the story and see what we might discover about our own situation. Here is my thoughts concerning the questions above.
1 - "make us gods that will go before us."
The people wanted to be led and Moses had been gone too long. Moses had proved to be quite an exciting leader. Think about the amazing experiences these people had. They saw God’s power by the plagues on the Egyptians. They were paraded out of Egypt as the Egyptian people showered them with gifts. They walked through the Red Sea. And you thought last Sunday’s worship was good. These people experienced some of the most incredible moments of all time. And now, they’re bored and asking, "Where is Moses?"
Is our story not the same. Don’t we love experiences. The next spiritual rush. The next set of chills. The next spine tingling moment. And if not careful. If we don’t develop a mature spiritual life, we too will create false God’s that will lead us to the next great experience.
2 - "So Aaron said to them, 'Break off the gold earrings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people broke off the gold earrings that were on their ears and brought them to Aaron. He accepted the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molten calf."
False gods will always cost you. Look at this scripture. The people literally took the gold off of their bodies to create this idol. Think of the money we spend on the things that keep us excited/engaged/fired-up. It’s almost comical. Am I saying that those books, those tickets, that game, that team, or that event are bad? No, they’re only bad if you put them before God.
Let me poke at you…Be careful that you don’t make exciting things a top priority because your spiritual life is sooooooo boring. If you’re church is boring…If your faith is a drag…Here’s an idea, go serve someone in need. Want to do something even crazier? Sell everything you own and use that money to change some lives…that should create some excitement for you. Here’s the deal, if your church is boring then change churches. It’s not difficult folks. If enough people will stop going to boring churches we might see boring churches change to life giving - kingdom focused churches. Okay, rant over.
3 - "Then they said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'”
This got God’s attention. How do I come to this conclusion? Because God repeats what He heard them say to Moses, "Go quickly, descend, because your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have acted corruptly. 8 They have quickly turned aside from the way that I commanded them—they have made for themselves a molten calf and have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt.’”
Notice what the people are actually worshiping. They are worshiping their wealth. It was their gold that created this golden idol. Now they are giving this golden idol, their golden idol, their worship. I can’t state this strong enough. Do not worship your wealth. Don’t worship your possessions. Don’t give your $$ the credit God deserves. God notices this idolatry and He does not look the other way. Repent and change your actions and attitudes about your wealth. Tell your $$ what to do. Make you $$ worship God!
4 - "When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it, and Aaron made a proclamation and said, 'Tomorrow will be a feast to the Lord.'”
Don’t try to put a spiritual spin on your idolatry. That’s what Aaron tried to do. He tried to take sin and make it spiritual by giving it spiritual language and throwing a party. This is an easy thing to do. Aaron knew things were going wrong. But, instead of repenting he tried correcting. When in this predicament, the correct thing to do is say, “I’m wrong. Forgive me Lord. I will no longer act in this way.” Why? Because, there is no such things as partial obedience.
5 - "So they got up early on the next day and offered up burnt offerings and brought peace offerings, and the people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play."
They're having a good time in their sin. It’s working for them. It’s fun. Some people associate the phrase “rose up to play.” to mean they people were engaging in sexual acts. This is speculation. The words used simply mean to play or have fun. Any other meaning is assumption. However, just because it’s not sexual doesn’t mean it’s less sinful. The people had created a more enjoyable god. I pray that if you have things in your life that you enjoy more than the one true God that you will refocus your life on the life, cross, and resurrection of Jesus. Develop habits that reflect that you trust in and live like Jesus.
6 - “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Each man fasten his sword on his side, and go back and forth from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and each one kill his brother, his friend, and his neighbor.’ The Levites did what Moses ordered, and that day about three thousand men of the people died."
Jesus once said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” God doesn’t just want first place in your life, He demands it. Don’t neglect the commandment, "You shall not bow down to them or serve them (idols), for I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me…"
Don’t reject God.
Put him first.
Just understand that everything has a proper place.
God goes first.
You’ve heard my thoughts. But I must remind you, what God wants to say to you is much more important. Continue your time with God today. What is he saying to you? What is He asking you to do about it?