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Saturday, September 23rd, 2023
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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Bible Commentaries
Exodus 32

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-35

Chapter 32

Now when the people saw that Moses had delayed coming down from the mountain, they gathered to Aaron, and they said unto him, Get up, and make us gods, that shall go before us; for as for Moses, we don't know what's happened to him, he brought us out of the land of Egypt, but what's become of him, we don't know. ["He's been gone now for almost forty days."] And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received them at their hands, and fashioned with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf ( Exodus 32:1-4 ):

So he melted down the gold, and then he fashioned it with a graving tool, a little golden calf. Notice that carefully, because you're gonna find that Aaron's a classic liar. He took this graving tool and carved out this little golden calf. Remember he's the high priest, which might be a warning unto you, that not all who are in the ministry of the gospel are totally honest in all of their dealings. You might get some computerized letters that are filled with hypocrisy, deceit and lies. Ooh, I could get going again.

So the people broke off their golden earrings, he took a graving tool; he carved out this little molten calf.

and he said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt ( Exodus 32:4 ).

Oh, how quickly these people forget. You know to me the constant, constant burden in my heart is the fact that there are some people that just migrate towards every stupid doctrine. Every wind of doctrine, every concept that's going on, people just "ooh", trailing on after it. I wish that the true doctrine, sound doctrine could spread as rapidly as false doctrines. But man, these false doctrines seem to have wings and they spread so rapidly.

The latest one being this prosperity cult. "God wants all of His children to be prosperous and healthy. If you're not prosperous and healthy, there's something wrong with your relationship with God." God help us; what a cruel, corrupt doctrine. But oh, how it is spread. Sad. The people, so quickly-Paul wrote to the Galatians and he said, "Oh, foolish Galatians. Who has bewitched you that you should so soon turn away from the truth? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now gonna be made perfect in the flesh? Foolish Galatians. You turned from the truth so quickly"( Galatians 3:1 , Galatians 3:3 ).

"Foolish Israelites, you turned from the truth so quickly. God is drawing you to Himself to worship the holy living true God, and now here you are with a little golden idol before you." "This is your god that brought you out of Egypt", and the people demanding "Make us a god that we might worship it." This is the result.

And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and they rose up to play. And the Lord said to Moses, Get down; for thy people, which you brought out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves ( Exodus 32:5-7 ):

Notice the Lord isn't even claiming them at this point. "Thy people, which you brought out of the land of Egypt corrupted themselves."

And they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: and they have made them a molten calf, and are worshiping it, and have sacrificed unto it, and they have said, These are the gods, O Israel, which have brought you out of the land of Egypt. The Lord said unto Moses, I have seen the people, behold, they are stiffnecked: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, that I may consume them: and I will make thee a great nation. ["I'll wipe them out and I'll make a great nation out of you, Moses. We'll start over again."] And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why does your wrath wax hot against thy people, ["Not mine Lord, don't put them on me."] which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and a mighty hand? [Nobody wants to claim them at this point.] Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swearest by thine own self, and said unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of I will give to your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people ( Exodus 32:8-14 ).

Now, faced with a problem. For in Num 23:19 we read that, "God is not a man that He should repent", or "God is not a man that He should lie, nor the Son of man that He should repent has He not spoken, shall He not do it?" What does it mean, "the Lord repented"? The obvious reading of the scripture looks like God is angry, ready to destroy the children of Israel, and Moses uses some good logic and reasons with God to spare them. "Look if you wipe them out, the Egyptians are gonna say, Look you just brought them out of the land to destroy them here. They're gonna speak evil against You. Why should they speak evil against You, God? Lord, now turn from Your fierce anger, don't do this." God is just angry, ready to wipe them out. Moses was the cool head, and he's pulling God off.

Now remember Moses wrote this. But our problem, our problem is that we have to describe God's actions in human terms. Therein lies the problem. The actions of an infinite God cannot adequately be described in human language. But we have to describe in human terms, the activities of God. So we use the word "God repented", but in reality God does not and can-has no need to change or to repent, which it means "to change" or "to turn from". But from the human standpoint, how can I describe the fact that the judgment of God is due these people, but the judgment of God doesn't come upon these people. "So, God changed." No, He didn't change.

Again we see Moses standing there interceding, holding God off. But who put it in the heart of Moses to intercede? Who put it in the heart of Moses to pray? Who put a love for these people in the heart of Moses? It was God's work in the life of Moses to begin with. The inspiration of Moses' prayer came from God Himself. All true prayer begins with God. Thus, God was the inspiration behind the prayer.

Now God knows all things from the beginning. He knew that the children of Israel were gonna mess things up. He knew they were gonna be worshiping this calf. In fact, He knew it before they ever did it. God is speaking to Moses about their sin in need of judgment. Moses is now inspired of God to plead for their salvation. But it's difficult to describe the activity; it's impossible to describe the activities of God in human terms, but we have nothing else to describe them. Thus, we have to have human terms to describe what are apparent activities of God, but yet the human terms fall short and cannot adequately describe God's actions here.

Let it be said if God had determined to destroy them, He would have destroyed them, and nothing Moses could've said could have changed Him. The fact that they weren't destroyed only indicates that God had no intention to destroy them in the beginning. But Moses is having to describe the anger of God against these people and the deserving justice that was coming to them in the human terms, and yet the justice of God doesn't fall upon them. Thus, I have to describe that also in human terms, and give some sort of an explanation why these people were able to survive this great sacrilege against God. I only have human terms to do it, but I'm dealing in those mysterious, divine inner councils of God of which I have no clear understanding at all. God said, "My ways are not your ways, My ways are beyond your finding out" ( Isaiah 55:8 ). But yet I only have human terms to describe the activities of God, and thus I have to use terms that do not adequately describe what God has done, but only describes the effect of the actions in human terms.

"God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent." But yet we read over and over in the New Testament-or the Old Testament where, "God repented". But that's only describing the activity of God with a human term, which is a poor term, to say the best, but yet we have nothing else. So there is the limitation always of seeking to describe the things of God with human language. It always falls short.

Paul the apostle, when he was in heaven, when he came back, he said, "It would be against the law", it would be a crime, "if I tried to describe to you in human terms the things that I heard." You just can't do it; he didn't even try. There's no language that man understands or knows, no words have yet been formed or created, or devised that could adequately describe the glory, the beauty, the majesty of that heavenly realm. It's just so far beyond anything we've ever experienced or known or seen, or whatever. That it's just ridiculous to try to use human language, because anything you would say would be less than it really is. So far less, that it would be a crime to use human language to try to describe it.

Yet we must describe the activities of God, and we only have human vocabulary to do it; and thus, we have to use terms that we understand as human beings to describe the supposed actions of God. But in reality what God has purposed, He will fulfill. Had God purposed their extermination and wiping them out, He would've done it. God did use Moses' intercession as the excuse not to do it, because God delights in mercy.

So Moses turned, and he went down from the mount, and with the two tables of testimony in his hands: the tables were written on both of their sides; And the tables were the work of God, the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables ( Exodus 32:15-16 ).

Oh, wouldn't it be exciting to see those two tables that God actually inscribed with His finger, the commandments upon? Ooh, wouldn't it be priceless to just look at those two tables of stone?

Now when Joshua [who was the servant of Moses, who was with Moses] heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, There must be a war in the camp. And Moses said, it's not the voice of those that shout for mastery, neither the voice of those that are crying because they're overcome: but I hear the noise of singing. And it came to pass, as soon as they came close to the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and broke them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, he burned it in the fire, he ground it into powder, and he put the powder in water, and he made them drink the water. ["There, drink your god."] And Moses said to Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: you know the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us out of the land of Egypt, we don't know what's become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever has any gold, let him break it off. So they gave it to me: and I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf ( Exodus 32:17-24 ).

"Hocus, pocus, dominocus." Aaron, shame on you.

And when Moses saw that they were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked to their shame among their enemies:) Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and he said, Who is on the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from the gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour. [That is those who were leading in this blasphemous sacrilege.] And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow a blessing this day. And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said to the people, You have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make a covering for your sin. And Moses returned to the Lord, and he said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold ( Exodus 32:25-31 ).

Now we see Moses in the position of an intercessor, offering intercessory prayer before God.

Intercessory prayer is that form of prayer that reaches out beyond me and my own needs, to bring a guilty world before God, that God might work in it. Prayer has three forms, basic forms, variations within each. The first is worship, praise, adoration, acknowledging God for who He is. It's something that goes on constantly in my heart day by day; my awareness of God, my consciousness of God, my worship of God for His goodness, for His blessings, for His mercies, for His love. For all that He is to me, and all that He means to me, for the beauties of the world, for the beauties of His presence and grace in my life. That continual thanksgiving within my heart because God loves me.

But then prayer has a second form of petition, where I bring before God my needs, my requests. I need strength, I need guidance, I need help, I need wisdom, I need so many things, and I come before God that He might supply my needs. But then prayer moves into the realm of intercession, where I bring before God your needs. I bring before God the needs of the community. I bring before God the needs of this nation, the needs of the world; intercessory prayer. No prayer is really complete except it enter into the area of intercession. We really need real intercessors. If you want a book to really understand intercessory prayer, read Howell's book, "The Intercessors". Fantastic. Just a beautiful prayer-book on intercessory prayer, Reese Howell, "The Intercessors".

I believe that one of the greatest needs today really is for people to really have the ministry, and exercise the ministry of intercessory prayer. More things are wrought through prayer than the world will ever know. The real power behind the scenes. How I thank God for the hundred and thirty men in the church who are engaged in the intercessory prayer all night long, each night of the week. God bless these men. What a power they are for good in this whole community, as they intercede in their ministry of intercessory prayer. No wonder God is working so marvelously because of the intercession that is going on, day and night continually.

Moses is in intercessory prayer. The first thing is the confession of the sins of the people. Confession of sin is so important, because without confession there can be no forgiveness. Unless you confess your sins to God, there's no way God can forgive your sins. If you try to hide your sins, there's no forgiveness. You try to cover your sins there's no forgiveness. "Whoso seeks to cover his sin shall not prosper, but whoso shall confess his sin, the same shall be forgiven"( Proverbs 28:18 ).

Many times we're trying to cover our guilt, we're trying to make ourselves look not quite so guilty. We're trying to sort of gloss over the sins, the guilt in our lives that it doesn't look as bad as it really is. As long as we're seeking to do a snow job on God, we're never gonna get anywhere. It's only when you're honest and open with God, and you openly confess your sin and your guilt before God, that now you open the door for God to work. Now God can forgive, because you've been open and you've confessed your sins. If you confess your sins, He's faithful and just to forgive you your sin, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. But it's not until there's been that open confession of sin that God can work and do it. Be open with God; be honest with God, confessing.

Moses confessed the sin of the people, and then Moses said,

Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin- ( Exodus 32:32 );

Notice that line, the dash with the semicolon. That dash with the semicolon indicates a passing of time. How much time, we don't know, but an interim of time passed as Moses was waiting for God to answer. He waited and he waited, and there was no voice from heaven. There was no voice of grace or mercy. There was no voice declaring, "I will forgive, I will cleanse, I will pardon." Moses waited, and it seemed like the silence was a refusal by God. "If Thou wilt forgive their sin", no answer. Maybe God won't forgive; maybe there's a refusal.

So Moses goes on to say,

if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou has written ( Exodus 32:32 ).

Jesus speaks to the church of Sardis declaring, "He that overcomes, I will not blot his name out of the book of life"( Revelation 3:5 ). Moses is asking for his name to be blotted out of the book that God has written, the book of life, if God will not forgive the sins of the people. This certainly shows to us a depth of love that very few of us can really comprehend or understand. Where Moses, for the sake of the people, could wish himself blotted out if God won't forgive them. "Then forget me", where Moses is willing to take the place with the guilty people, and to stand with the guilty people.

But again where did this love come from? It wasn't natural with Moses. When God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush and told him to go and lead these people out of Egypt, he had-he really wanted nothing to do with it, and nothing to do with them. He was satisfied where he was. They'd already given him a bad time, and he wanted nothing to do with it.

So he began to offer to God all kinds of excuses why he could not go and lead them out of Egypt. God answered every one of his excuses. "I can't speak" "All right, Aaron can be your mouthpiece." "They won't believe me." "All right, take the rod and I'll work miracles with it." After God answered every one of his excuses, Moses said, "God please send someone else, I don't want to go." Moses really didn't have any desire to go and get involved. But God put it in his heart. And the compassion and the love that Moses had for these people was something that God had placed in his heart.

That is why it is sheer folly for us to try to generate compassion. It's got to come from God; that kind of compassion you can't generate. You can't say, "Well, I'm just gonna love everybody." You're gonna find more hatred in your heart than you've ever known was there. The moment you start out from the door with the determination in your mind, "I'm gonna love everybody today, just gonna be a picture of love today. Gonna love everybody." Man, I'll tell you, you'll not get three blocks from your house until somebody will swerve in front of you and cut you off, and you'll be, "You come back here. Where'd you get your driver's license?" Where's the love, you know. This kind of compassion can only come from God, the work of God. So don't exalt Moses, because it was God that gave him this great compassion.

Paul said much the same thing, "I could wish myself accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh"( Romans 9:3 ). Hard for me, I cannot, I cannot say that. I do not have that kind of compassion. I pray, "God, give me more compassion for the lost". I have sort of an attitude, "Hey man, if you want to be stupid and go to hell, that's your business", because I know that I can't turn you or save you, or do anything about it. I mean, if you're determined, you know, what can I do? But I desire a greater compassion.

I think that that's one of the needs of the church today is a greater compassion for the lost. We just couldn't sit by complacently and see the terrible condition of the lost around us without being more moved, without being touched, without being burdened, without being driven to a greater witness unto them. "Oh God, give me a heart like Thine, a compassion for those that are lost." The compassion of John Knox. Oh God, give me-stop when they're all dying. Oh God, give me the United States, or I'll die. A real burden for a lost soul.

We don't have it; we don't possess it. May God give it to us, a great burden for lost souls, that we too might become intercessors, because that is the secret behind all intercession is that great love and burden for the lost. That's always the underlying factor of a great intercessor. It begins with a compassion, begins with a love; it's expressed in intercession.

Now Moses' request was a foolish request. "Blot my name out of your book of remembrance". Moses, that's foolish. That's off the wall.

The Lord said unto Moses, ["Moses, that's off the wall."] Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book ( Exodus 32:33 ).

"Don't ask me to blot your name out, that's ridiculous. I'll blot out the names of those who have sinned against me."

There was a time when the Lord spoke to me somewhat the same way as He spoke to Moses. When my mother was dying, I went into her bedroom, and I sat there for awhile looking at her as she was suffering, trying to understand in my heart, crying out to God. I looked at those neat hands, those beautiful hands, and I thought of all the pies, and the cookies, and the rolls, and all that those hands had baked for my pleasure. I thought of all the times that those hands had wiped my forehead when it was hot and sweaty with a fever. I thought of all of the ministry of those hands for me and my benefit, the clothes that were washed with those hands, and hung out, and brought in and folded, all of the beds that those hands had made for me. I just sat there weeping. Such a beautiful person. One of the dearest persons I've ever known. To see her suffering was more than I could take. To know that night and day she could not sleep because of the pain.

I went over to the foot of the bed, and I fell on my face before God. I said, "Lord I'm no hero, and I'm not demanding that You heal her. But she's Yours, her life is Yours, she belongs to You. But God I can't stand to see her suffer anymore. Though I'm not a hero, Oh Lord, would you please take her pain and put it on me for today, and I'll be glad to bear the pain all day for her, so that she can have relief today. I'm not asking for it forever, but Lord for today, let me bear it for her so she can have one day's relief."

Jesus came to me and He stood right by my side, and He said, "Chuck, that's off the wall." He said, "I already bore her pain for her, there's no need for you to do it." I said, "Lord, forgive me for such an off-the-wall statement. I know You bore her pain. I thank You for bearing her pain for her." In that very moment, my mother sort of sighed, and she said, "Oh, the pain is gone." She never experienced a moment's pain after that. For all of a sudden, I saw the greatness of God, and the power of Jesus Christ rather than the ugliness of the cancer. I realized what are a few malign cells against the mighty creative force and power of God in Jesus.

We are human and we are prone to sometimes make statements to God that are off the wall, as Moses. "Lord blot my name out." Lord said, "Ah, come on, Moses. Whoever sins against me, those names I'm gonna blot out." Yet the expression behind it, surely the compassion that was there, the willingness of Moses has to be admired.

We can admire the work that God is able to do in changing a man from a cold, calloused position, "The children of Israel; I could care less. Let me alone, I'm happy and content here in the wilderness." From that not wanting to get involved to such a compassion to say, "Lord, forgive their sins, and if not, then blot, I pray Thee, my name out of Your book." I'll tell you that kind of compassion is only can come from God, and a work of God. But I admire the work that God is able to do in each of our lives in transforming us, and changing us and taking us from a noncommittal kind of a "don't care, let's not get involved", to just a complete involvement in the needs of the world around us, as we intercede and pray for God's help for this sick people, and this sick nation.

Therefore now go, and lead the people into the place which I have spoken unto thee: behold, my Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them. And the Lord plagued the people, because they had made the calf, which Aaron made ( Exodus 32:34-35 ).

The Lord said, "All right, now go and lead them, and I'm gonna send my angel before you." Now Moses is gonna respond to this, and this will be our message next Sunday morning. Moses responds to God saying, "I'm gonna send My Angel before you." As he realizes and recognizes the necessity of the presence of God. So next Sunday you've already got a clue on the Sunday morning sermon as you'll find Moses' response to God saying, "I'm gonna send my angel. Go ahead, get out there and lead them now, and I'll send My Angel." Moses responds to that.

So next week, the Lord willing, we'll finish the book of Exodus. The latter part gets a little redundant, because then they go ahead and make the thing just like he said. So we're gonna be skipping a lot of that because it'll just be redundant. We've already looked at the blueprints. So now they are just gonna follow the blueprints that God has given, and we don't need to follow them through the making of it as we get into the blueprints. So next week, finish the book of Exodus.

May the Lord bless you and give you wisdom and understanding, as you realize that Christ is now our tabernacle. He is the place where we meet God. You cannot meet God apart from Jesus Christ. The place of meeting, and now this is the place where God will meet you, even Jesus Christ.

Silver, the metal that was used in the sockets, is the metal of redemption in the scriptures. Gold is the metal of heaven, deity. Brass is the metal of judgment. So as you get into these metals, you'll see the place of the silver in redemption, the place of gold, the place of God's presence, and the place of brass, the place of God's judgment against sin. It all has beautiful symbolism. The colors also have their symbolisms, which we'll get into more next week.

Shall we stand? Now may the Lord be with you and guide and bless your life, and keep you in the love of Jesus Christ. May He increase your burden for the lost. May the anointing of God rest upon your life that you might hear His voice, that you might do His work, that you might walk in His path, in Jesus' name. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Exodus 32". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/exodus-32.html. 2014.
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