Sunday, October 28, 2007

Exodus 32:1-14 - Backsliding 101: The Golden Calf

Contextual Notes:
After the giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) at Mount Sinai, the children of Israel affirm their Covenant with God (Exodus 24), and Moses heads up the Mountain to meet with God to get the details of the Tabernacle and other instructions which we find in Exodus 25-31. At the end of 31, we see that God also gives Moses an original of the Ten Commandments in stone for Israel.

While these sacred events happened in the cloud on the mount between Moses and God, a far different thing was going on down in the camp of Israel.

Before they could get out of the gate, the children of Israel violated the first, second, and possibly the seventh commandment.

Pray and Read: Exodus 31:18-32:14

Key Truth: Moses wrote this passage to show how backsliding is selfish, spineless (no convictions), rebellious (idolatry), and hurts our relationship with the Lord – but intercession can overcome it.

Key Application: Today I want to show you from our passage how backsliding hurts our relationship with God – but intercession can overcome it.

Sermon Points:
1. Backsliding is selfish (Exodus 31:18-32:1)
2. Backsliding is spineless (Exodus 32:2-4)
3. Backsliding is rebellious (Exodus 32:5-6)
4. Backsliding is destructive (Exodus 32:7-10)
5. can be overcome (Exodus 32:11-14).

Exposition: Note well,
1. Backsliding is selfish (Exodus 31:18-32:1).
a. It was a national rebellion. Not six weeks after they had the blood flung on them, they flung off their obedience to the Lord. Where were the elders? They had just seen the Lord. Where were the memories of the sight of Egyptian bodies washing ashore of the Red Sea? Where was Miriam? Had she forgotten her song? Why couldn’t they look up to the Mountain and see the smoke and fire?
APPLICATION: Short memories are dangerous. Don’t forget what the Lord has done for you.

b. No Patience. The argument makes perfect sense. Moses had been gone a long time – over a month, and he was on the top of the mountain which was covered in what the Israelites thought looked like a consuming fire (Exodus 24:17). The Golden Calf happened just days before Moses was to come down from the mountain.
APPLICATION: Have patience. God is at work when we cannot see Him. Trust Him. Trust His heart. Trust His character for what you are waiting for. He will be faithful. That’s who He is.

c. Expediency. They wanted a something they could see, something they could trust that was concrete. Moses had been that one. Now he was not present, and they needed something visible. Their demand flew in the face of the first and second commandments, and said in effect, “we no longer submit to the Lord.” We need to make our own way with something we can understand. We don’t understand that guy Moses. Let’s get something else now.
APPLICATION: Watch out for expediency. Doing things the quickest way, the slickest way, the cheapest way, the easiest way is sometimes not the best. Sometimes it seems expedient to cut the corner and make the sale, go ahead and take those pills and alcohol, to tweak the presentation to make your product look better than it really is, to kill that extra deer above the limit because it just walked out in front of you. Sometimes expediency is a code word for rationalizing sin.

d. Manipulative. The rebels could have ignored Aaron and made gods for themselves, but to assuage their conscience, they needed to get an ‘official endorsement’ of their rebellion. So they pressured him as Moses’ second in command (Exodus 24:14) to make it look good, to give it weight.

APPLICATION: Are you a manipulator? Do you pressure people to get things done for you? Do you feel better about yourself if you can get somebody you respect to go along with you on your dirty dealing? Manipulation is akin to witchcraft. Don’t do it. Don’t fall for it.

e. Twisting Words. It wasn’t God who brought them up from Egypt, but this “fellow Moses.” In a blanket denial of YHWH and His work in their lives, they twist the truth for their own ends to get what they want.

APPLICATION: Truth takes a hit when backsliding is in gear. Words get twisted. Some of you have an incredible knack for taking an innocent comment or event and twisting it for your own purposes. You have a dangerous tendency for rebellion, and your words come out as twisted truth. Brothers and sisters, if you run into that kind of person, throw up your hands and walk away. They will draw you toward sin.

f. APPLICATION: Alexander Maclaren: “Learn the lesson that God’s lovers have to set themselves sometimes dead against the rush of popular feeling, and that there are times when silence or compliance is sin.”

2. Backsliding is spineless (Exodus 32:2-5).
a. Where was Aaron’s conviction? He stood for nothing. He caved to pressure. He did what pleased the most people. Why? FEAR.

b. Aaron caves –
. He was pressured: “gathered around” better translated “against”
ii. Aaron is a foil for Moses -- The wrong kind of priest, intercessor
iii. He took what they handed him. In Aaron’s humiliating confession, we see how weak he really is: Exodus 32:19-21
iv. “These are your gods”: Aaron seems to hang back in the rear, letting the people do what they will do. Like all cowards, he thought he was lessening his guilt by keeping himself in the background, but he couldn’t get the responsibility for sin off his shoulders.
v. Feast of Rebellion and Idolatry: “festival to YWHH” – Once Aaron “saw” what was happening, he tried to call it a festival to the Lord! A pitiful attempt to save appearances and lessen sin by putting God’s name on it! Aaron mixed worship and violated the second commandment. He did not want to offend, so he included both. But it didn’t matter to the Lord. It was still idolatry (see how the Lord saw it in 32:8)
c. Psalm 106:19-21; Acts 7:39

d. Bull – sign of power and fertility (1 Kings 12:26-32; Hosea 8:5; 10:5; Nehemiah 9:18), Probably the Egyptian Apis Bull which represented the powers of nature. Its principal seat was the area lower Nile delta of Egypt where for centuries Israel had settled. Perhaps there they had in perversion combined the worship of God and this demonic spirit.
i. Personal property had been contributed for the Tabernacle – now the counterfeit (cf. Judges 8:24-27)

e. APPLICATION: Lack of conviction will eventually lead you toward sin and over time you’ll find yourself backsliding. As a leader, your spinelessness in your leadership may help you keep your position, but it will make you a backslider.

3. Backsliding is rebellious (Exodus 32:6)
a. Public rebellion: ‘in your face’; Open idolatry
b. “indulge in revelry” – may have a sexual connotation. Same word used in Genesis 26:8 of Isaac “caressing” Rebekah.

c. APPLICATION: The basis of backsliding is rebellion. If you are a backslider, you are a rebel. You cannot hide it. People know about your backsliding. It is public information.

4. Backsliding is destructive (Exodus 32:7-10)
a. Key sarcasm in verse 7: to Moses: “your people whom you brought up from Egypt”
b. Hurts our relationship with the Lord: to Moses: “your people”
c. Lord’s anger: calls them corrupt
d. Hurts Him (v. 8)
i. Turned aside quickly
ii. Just about a month ago they made their promises (19:8; 24:3, 7)
iii. In the NT, the Galatians did similarly (Galatians 1:6)
e. God gives Moses the chance to be a second Abraham. But Moses’ character comes through. Moses passed the test (John 6:6).

5. Backsliding can be overcome (Exodus 32:11-14)
a. Moses sought favor literally “caressed the Face” of God (cf. 1 Kings 13:6; Zechariah 7:2). After God calls them Moses’ people now Moses calls them God’s people.
b. Moses’ intercession. These three prayers may serve as a model for intercession for forgiveness and restoration after weakness and falls.

i. God’s character (v. 11). Israel was God’s property, and His past faithfulness to Israel proved it.
ii. God’s reputation (v. 12). God’s own glory was involved in the deliverance of Israel from her enemies.
iii. God’s promises (v. 13). God had sworn (Gen 22:16ff) gracious promises for their salvation.

c. Lord relented (v. 14). Such pleas the Lord never refuses to accept.
i. His nature and character never changes, but his responses do, usually based on prayer or repentance throughout the Bible. He is not fixed but dynamic in circumstances.

If you have a loved one who is backslidden, here is a model for how to pray for them. As you plead with the Lord to lead them back again to an obedient walk with the Lord, remind God of His own character. That person is God’s own property. Claim that person and ask the Lord to rush in and take what is His. Remind the Lord that your loved one’s backsliding harms the Lord’s reputation, ask the Lord for His own sake to draw that person back to a faithful walk with Christ. Remind the Lord of His promises to that person, to you, and from the Word of God for that person. Claim them and ask the Lord to fulfill them in the life of your backslidden loved one.

All of us know someone who has backslided. That person may be yourself. The good news is that Jesus Christ has paid the price on the cross to allow us to recover from backsliding and regain the intimacy of our relationship with Him. You can have that closeness back again that you had several years ago before you drifted. I want to invite you to take that step of faith today to start back in the direction toward Christlikeness and intimacy with Him your Lord.

You can’t be backslidden if you’ve never gone forward into the faith of the Lord Jesus. If you have never made a commitment to Jesus Christ, you’re not backslidden. You’ve never been close to Christ Jesus. Perhaps it is time today to make that commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. I urge you to do it today. Confess your sin to Him. Ask Him to save you from your sins. Receive His free gift of eternal life. Commit yourself to following Him for the rest of your life.