What if You Falter?
Explore the Bible Series
May 2, 2010
Background Passage: Exodus 32:1-34:35
Lesson Passage: Exodus 32:1-4, 30-34; 34:6b-9
The modern liberal establishment, with its naÔve assessment of human nature, has no way of understanding the events recorded in Exodus Thirty-Two.† For these intellectuals, human moral failures often result from social injustice and poverty, external forces that coerce immoral actions aimed at alleviating suffering and privation.† I share their concern about social justice, but even a cursory reading of history undercuts their understanding of human nature and ethics.†
The Israelites, enriched by the donations of their former
oppressors, nonetheless submerged themselves in thankless idolatry, as Moses
Two aspects of this idolatry seem noteworthy.
The text makes no mention of Godís mercy until Exodus
34:6-9.† Instead, the narrative of the
golden calf records Godís swift, austere judgment.† Jehovah told Moses he intended to consume the
people, and Moses frantically pleaded for the Lord to stay his hand of
justice.† Moses forced the people to
drink the powdered remains of calf and ordered the execution of many of the
revelers.† Furthermore, God sent a plague
to settle accounts for the sins of
I. The Golden Calf (32:1-35)
intercession (vv. 7-14): God informed Moses of the intent to destroy all of
Israel and to raise up a new people from Mosesí posterity.† The term ďstiff-neckedĒ is an agrarian image
that denotes an ox, donkey, or horse that would not yield to the will of its
1. The Hebrews were Godís people: He had redeemed them from Egyptian tyranny.
2. Godís glory was at stake: If the Lord destroyed Israel, the Egyptians would take delight in the failure of the Exodus.
3. Godís promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: The constraints of the Abrahamic Covenant moved God to defer judgment. Mosesí intercession proved effectual, and God relented from his pronouncement of judgment.
anger of Moses (vv. 15-29): Moses descended the
D. Mosesí second intercession (vv. 30-35): Moses offered to have his name blotted from Godís book (the imagery of Godís book appears elsewhere in the Bible: Malachi:3:16; Psalm 69:28; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; and several texts in Revelation). The Lord refused Mosesí offer, and God promised that he would send a plague on Israel because of her idolatry.
II. Godís Command to Leave Sinai (33:1-23)
A. Godís presence withdrawn (vv. 1-6): As a result of Israelís idolatry, God refused to manifest his presence with his people; rather, they would move toward Canaan under the leadership of an angel.† This prospect troubled the Hebrews; so, the people mourned and removed their festive ornaments.† Some scholars believe these adornments reflected the idolatry the Hebrews inherited from the Egyptians.
B. The tent of meeting (vv. 7-11): Some Old Testament scholars identify the tent of meeting with the tabernacle.† Others believe this was a temporary meeting place that sufficed for worship until the completion of the tabernacle.† Whatever the case, Moses pitched the tent outside the camp as a symbol of Godís displeasure with Israel. Exodus claims that God met Moses in the tent of meeting.†
C. Mosesí bold request (vv. 12-23): Moses longed for a deeper understanding of the character and will of God; so, the Hebrew leader asked God to reveal the divine glory.† The Lord, according to the text, refused Mosesí request, but he did allow his servant to see the hinder part of his glory. It appears that there are limitations to the amount of divine revelation a person can receive.† The limitation does not rest with Godís ability to communicate; rather, man has limited capacity to absorb the glorious things of God.
III. The Renewal of the Covenant (34:1-35)
A. The Lordís conversation with Moses (vv. 1-9): Our entire lesson passage reveals God in anthropomorphic terms; that is, the author wrote as if God possessed human qualities.† In this paragraph the writer described a conversation between Jehovah and Moses, just as if two friends sat down for a visit (See 33:11).† Of course, we must interpret this claim carefully.† Another portion of the lesson reveals that Moses could not look on the face of God.† As I see it, this reference to a face to face conversation denotes the intimacy of Godís relationship with Moses.
B. A restatement of Godís covenant with Israel (vv. 10-28): The stipulations of the covenant remained constant; thus, this section largely recounts materials from previous lessons.†
C. The changing of Mosesí countenance (vv. 29-35): When Moses returned from the mountain, his face shown with the glory of the Lord.† The people recoiled from Mosesí appearance; so, the Lordsí servant wore a veil over his face to conceal the Lordís glory.