Exodus: Rebellion and Forgiveness

Exodus: Rebellion and Forgiveness

I love the bible!  Because if I were writing it, I would leave out some stuff.  If it was going to make me look bad or if it would lead you to question my people, I would probably have left it out.  But the bible leaves it in there. And actually when we read about the failures of God’s people back then, much of the time, without really trying hard, we can see ourselves.  When we read about the experiences of God’s people back then, we experience similar emotions similar passions today.

Take Moses in our passage today.  He and God have been on Mt Sinai for over a month.  God has been giving Moses directions for the people of Israel to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation because he had made a covenant with them to be their God.  Moses is, I’m sure, looking forward to getting to work. He’s excited for his people. It’s why we call it a mountain top experience. You ever have one of those? When everything it good…just as it should be for Moses.

It’s in this moment that the bible teaches us.  Sometimes the bible gives us Principals to live by:

God is King of the universe and Creator of the universe and is sovereign over it

That since God, as sovereign ruler, has ultimate authority, he alone is the final arbiter of justice.

Lessons to practice

True Worship

Agape – sacrificial love

Commands to obey

Love the Lord your God with all your Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength; love your neighbor as yourself.

Go and make disciples, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.

Examples to Learn From

Real people what to do…and what not to do.

Today we have both of those.

It starts with Moses and God finishing business on the mountain…then tells Noah

Exodus 32:7 NIV84

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.

What happened? It seemed every thing was going so well.

Exodus 32:1-6

Couldn’t last a month.

As the Israelites saw it; Moses was gone and now since the fire and smoke were no longer there, God seemed to be gone.

We have heard the plans God had for the Israelites…but they haven’t heard yet.

In their minds, they are lost in the desert and the one who brought them out is gone.

They are getting anxious and impatient.

Have you ever been there?  I know for me, when I get impatient and anxious we tend to “go backwards”  to revert to old habits, old relationships. We see that in the Israelites too.  They go back to what is familiar…”in Egypt, we had images to follow”.

But, things were different now.  Now they were the people of God. God had given them clear direction how to live as his people and His way was very different from the way in Egypt.

In direct opposition to the first two commandments that Moses had passed along to them from God, at the people’s request, Aaron made and the people worshipped before a golden calf to represent God.  

Why not have something that would remind us of God?  Isn’t it just like any other sign or symbol? No an idol is different.  God wants all our attention, he deserves all our attention and idols do to.

He had delivered them, fed them, protected them, watered them.  He should be due their attention, but since they didn’t think they had his, they thought God had left them….after he promised not to.  They couldn’t wait any longer, so they were ready to just sought move on.

How did God feel about this?

God wanted going to wipe them out.  He told Moses in vs 9-10 Leave me so my anger can burn against them and I can wipe them out and start over.

That seems harsh doesn’t it?  I mean the people are worried, they are afraid, and now God’s going to wipe them out.  His anger didn’t burn against the Canaanites or the and all the other “ites”…his anger burned against the Israelites who were rejecting him, who were breaking his covenant.

They weren’t just breaking his covenant.  They were having an affair on the wedding night.

God wanted to kill them all and start over, but Moses wouldn’t let God do that.

Moses interceded, reminding God of his promises to Abraham.  He reminded him about His signs to Pharaoh. He reminded God of his promises.  and verse 14 tells us:

Exodus 32:14 NIV84

Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Then when Moses and Joshua went down the mountain:  

Exodus 32:19 NIV84

When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.

What could lead him to break the tablets that God have given him…real righteous anger.  Moses knew the truth. Every thing was going to be great…but you messed it up. Why would yall do such a crazy thing.  If you could have waited just a little longer. IF you were afraid, why didn’t you just call out to God? He hears you…he heard you in Egypt, he heard you now…only this time he heard your worship of another god.

Moses calls out Aaron, all he got was a silly excuse.  One thing was for sure, regardless of how it happened, there were consequences to sinning against God.  Moses called out to the people.

Exodus 32:26 NIV84

So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.

The Levites were instructed to go through the camp and kill all the idol worshippers.  They had made their allegiances known and God’s people were different. This sounds harsh to us, but what do we know?  God is just and sovereign.

But it’s not over yet.  

Exodus 32:30 NIV84

The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

Even though the consequences were being addressed, there had to be an atonement for the sin of the people.   

But there are aftershocks.  God relented and vowed not to kill them, but because of their sin, God would not lead the people any longer.  Instead he sent an angel to lead them we read in the beginning of Exodus 33 but before that we see that the entire nation would be struck with disease.  We aren’t sure what this was…maybe an illness, maybe the deaths of the 3000, we aren’t sure from the text. But what I want us to see is that sin doesn’t just affect the individual.  It affects everyone around us. In this case, only a few were engaged in the idol worship, but everyone carries the guilt. Perhaps because they didn’t do something to stop it, perhaps because they sinned in their hearts while not with their bodies.  Either way, there was plenty of guilt to go around.

I said earlier that this was a lesson to learn from .  What can we learn from what Moses is learning about God?

Here’s what you need to remember today.  If you forget everything else about the text today…I’m not sure how you could, but if you did, I want you to remember this.  You might want to write it down somewhere…

Choose first the God who chose you first.

I’ve told you before that I am was adopted as a child.  I’ve always known that I was adopted and that from my earliest memories, I can remember my dad telling me that I was chosen.
That they picked me to love me, nothing else.

I had a friend who was also adopted.
She also knew from her earliest memories that she was adopted. I’m sure her parents loved her and probably told her something similar, but I don’t know for sure.  But what I do know is that she grew up always fighting back against the love of the ones who chose her. She consistently gave other relationships and possessions the attention of her heart more than the ones who had chosen to love her first.

And there were consequences to that.  They were always fighting and arguing.  It affected everyone in the family.


In the same way, there are consequences to failing to chose first the God who first loved us.  That’s what idolatry is, you see, allowing anything to take the place that only God deserves.

It’s why the Commandments started out with the most important thing we can do in our lives, what all the other commands were built on, putting God first.

Here today, it’s what we are doing.  But how will you respond when you get impatient or anxious?  When you get tired or afraid? Do you turn to God or someone else?  or something else? What do you choose?

If it’s not God, it’s an idol.   Not sure? I’ve got some questions that might help you discern if you have anything in your life that may be an idol for you.

What are you most afraid of?

What are you most afraid of? “I don’t want to get sick?” “I don’t want to be alone?” “I don’t want my spouse to die?” “I don’t want to be at the funeral of my child?” “I don’t want to lose my job?” “I don’t want to lose my last friend?” What are you most afraid of? Behind that may be your idol.

What do you long for most passionately?

What motivates you? Why do you go to work? Why do you pray? Why do you care? Why do you strive? Why do you try?

Where do you run for comfort?

Things go bad, you’re stressed, where do you seek to hide and hope it all just goes away?…do you run to alcohol? Do you run to food? Do you run to pornography? Do you run to a drug of choice?

What do you complain about most?

Probably indicates something that you’re very frustrated with, and if you’re frustrated with it, it’s because you value it so much, and it’s not being or doing what you want or need it to be or do.

What angers you the most?

What just makes you furious? Is it because they do something you don’t like?  Is it about you or is it about Jesus being dishonored? Is it about those being harmed or is it about Jesus?  The difference determines the idol.

What makes you happiest?

What are the best memories in your life?   Disney? Emmaus? Your grandkids?

How do you explain yourself to other people?

How we explain ourselves can tell us where we get our identity and who we are or want to be is a sure sign of our idol…

What has caused you to be angry at God?

What you might be saying is, “God, how dare you take my idol.”

What do I want to have more than anything else?

This is a great one to ask yourself.  If I came up and said, “One wish: anything you want.” Would you say, “To love Jesus”? “Well, I would say that at first.”   Well that’s the wrong answer…

What do you make the biggest sacrifices for?

Time, energy, money, effort, long hours, lots of money, devotion. What do you stay up late for? What occupies your mind? Is it Jesus?

Whose approval are you seeking?

Your spouse?  Your boss? Your parents?  Your grandmother? Is it Jesus?

And finally:

And what do you treasure the most?

What is the one person or thing that if taken from you—that would ruin everything? Is it Jesus?

*Mark Driscoll @Jubilee Church London

Often times we think Idolatry is about voodoo dolls or witchcraft…it is, but Idols don’t have to be bad things…very often in fact they are just things that are used for wrong reasons.  Like the calf…only used for the wrong purpose.

Paul warned the church in Rome about this side of it.

Romans 1:21–25 NIV84

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

and there are consequences to Idolatry.  Even choosing good things over the best thing.

So I tell you:

choose first the one who chose you first…Jesus.

Idolatry would be an on going problem for the Israelites.  God knew that our thinking was not his thinking.. God knew that we are stiff necked people, that because of our sinful nature, we would be tempted to make idols to point us to him.  God knew this about us. He wanted to show us that that was true about us, so when he gave us his solution we would run to it.

God’s solution:  He gave us Jesus.

We have Jesus to point us to God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV84

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Whether we stress, or worry, whether we are broke, or rich;  Happy or sad; impatient or anxious….stay focused on Jesus. Rest in him, be patient in him, find your stength in him, be renewed in him, get Joy in him.

Jesus points us to God…He’s not an idol…he is God.

We can experience Jesus.  Have a living relationship with Jesus.

Talk to Jesus

Listen to Jesus

Sing to Jesus

Serve Jesus

Pray for people to surrender to Jesus….to find everything they have been seeking in him.

Jesus isn’t an idol…Jesus is God.

But Idolatry affects the whole church…when one person is caught up in it, it spreads.  That’s what happened in the camp of the Israelites, that’s why the whole nation had to suffer the consequences.

Galatians 6:1 NIV84

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

That’s why you need to be in a small group.  You need to invest yourself in a relationship with people who are striving to build their lives around the values you value, because left to yourself, you will tend to created idols.  But if you are in a loving community of people who share your values, they will say to you…Hey Gary, I think you need to choose the God who chose you first. If you don’t have someone in your life who is telling you that from time to time….you need to get in one.  Maybe God is calling you to start one. I’ll help you. Just contact me.

I want to pray for us to build relationships here to keep one another from building idols in our lives.

Surround us with people who will ask us hard questions.  Fill us with your Spirit that all the idols in our life might be revealed.  Shine your light brightly in me that I might reflect your light to others.

Use us as we choose Jesus who chose us first.





Have a group member read Exodus 32 aloud.


What is your most valuable physical possession?


What are some startling elements of this chapter? What struck you most personally concerning the actions, emotions and words of Aaron, the people, God and Moses?

In verses 1-6, what belief drives the people of Israel to make an idol? Who gives the motivating instruction and does the main work of making the idol? Where did the people get the materials to construct the idol?

Look at verses 7-10. What is God’s response to the actions of Israel? What specifically about Israel’s actions angers God?

How do Moses’ prayers in verses 11-13 and 31 remind you of the ministry of Jesus Christ?


Who is someone for whom you regularly pray regarding their rejection of God? What can we learn from Moses’ posture and attitude when it comes to how we pray for the disobedient around us?

Have a group member read 1 Corinthians 10:1-14. What forms of idolatry make their way into the modern church? In practical terms, how can we flee from them?


What attribute of God did you see in this week’s passage that particularly struck you? How should it change the way you pray, think, speak or act this week?



Set aside a time this week for your family to read Exodus 32. After reading the chapter, discuss these questions with one another.

// What is “idolatry”? Is there anything in your life that is so important it rivals or outpaces God?

// Read verse 24 again. Have you ever lied to try to cover up something wrong? How did it go?

// Why is it so hard to follow God’s laws? Should we just give up trying?

// What do you think it means to follow God’s laws through “grace-driven effort”? Why do we want God to be first in our life?


Leverage opportunities in the course of everyday life to remind each other that God is what is best.

God is worthy—only God deserves all glory.




  1. Donna Hubbard Edwards : July 9, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    Wonderful sermon!

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