-This important chapter of Scripture involves the saga of the golden calf and the obstinate children of Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai. The people grew impatient with the return of Moses, who was up on the mount for 40 days and nights with the LORD (Exodus 24:18). They assembled around Aaron and wanted him to make them an object of worship since they had no idea what had happened to Moses. They gathered gold, and Aaron fashioned a molten calf with a graving tool and called it the god who lead them out of Egypt proclaiming a feast to the LORD for the next day. This was understandable when we consider the nature of man and the culture that these individuals lived in. In Egypt, ultra popular gods were Hapi (Apis) and Hathor, which were thought of as a bull and a heifer. This would appeal to the Israelites because of their work with livestock in Goshen. In Canaan, where they were headed, the primary form of worship revolved around Baal, who was also thought of as a bull. Baal was a sacred symbol of power and fertility and was closely related to immoral sexual practices. It would have been natural for the people to turn away from a God that they could not see to a form of god they worshipped in ignorance made of gold, which was tangible and understandable. They quickly forgot the God without a face and His command just given them about not making an idol, or “any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth (Exodus 20:4).” *Application* Our conceptions of God can easily be swayed in the same direction if we are not careful. We must stay on the straight line of Scripture (the cannon) to gain our understanding of the LORD. We can easily venture off the straight and narrow into man-made constructions of who and what God is. Anything that deviates off of what the Bible gives as the truth of who God is will lead into idolatry. If we are not careful we can be persuaded to follow the gods of this age and culture. These are misrepresentations of who God really is. Trust in His Word; it is the truth as to who the actual God is. Don’t make a form of god in your own image. The problem is that the Israelites, like ourselves, wanted to figure God out and comprehend Him. This is impossible other than His Divine revelation. In many ways we will never figure God out and comprehend Him on this side of heaven. This is a good thing because He is above us, His creation, in every way.
-God knew they had corrupted themselves in turning away from His recent commands that they said they would follow (Exodus 24:3). God called them obstinate and His anger burned against them to the point He was going to destroy them and rebuild His nation through Moses. I believe this was simply a test to see Moses’ response. The prophecies of the LORD would have to remain intact. He had promised the Messiah through Judah’s line of which Moses was not (Genesis 49:10). Moses’ response was correct and cooled the anger of God, yet when he saw the apostasy for himself his anger burned equally as strong. The important point here is that God relented from His anger. Here is a translation issue that I believe many well intentioned translators misrepresent. The term, which is primarily translated “relented, repented, or changed his mind” has the meaning actually of “compassion, feeling sorry for, and taking pity” in the Hebrew (check any Hebrew lexicon, Exodus 32:12, 14). This gives us a better description of what was happening in the mind of the LORD as He dealt with the disobedience of His people. They deserved harm. They had transgressed His commands and were under His just wrath. They were worshipping falsely and were engaging in pagan forms of celebratory feasting that could be termed almost as being an orgy. This is what the term often translated “rose up to play,” or “revelry” is all about (Exodus 32:6). *Application* God has every right to destroy us when we rebel against His authority and transgress His ways. Thankfully for us, He is a God who is gracious and compassionate taking pity on us when we sin (Exodus 34:6, 2 Chronicles 30:9, Nehemiah 9:31, Psalm 103:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2 to name just a few instances of this phrase). This is the heart of God. His mercy endures forever! Thank You Jesus!
Verse to Memorize: Exodus 32:14