When it all fell apart for the Israelites...
by Shelley Hitz
I finished Exodus today and have been blessed by it. But, the chapter that disturbed me the most was chapter 32. It seems like this is the turning point where everything fell apart! This was the first instance of the Israelites as a group making for themselves another god. And they continued to struggle with this for generations.
The setting...Mount Siani
Exodus 19:1 says that three months after leaving Egypt the Israelites camped before Mount Siani. And Mount Siani would be where God would meet with Moses and reveal to Him the Ten Commandments, instructions for the Israelites and the blueprint for the tabernacle.
I find it interesting that in three different places, the Israelites said they would obey God.
Exodus 19:8, "The people all responded together, "We will do everything the LORD has said." So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD."
Exodus 24:3b, "When Moses went and told the people all the LORD's words and laws, they responded with one voice, 'Everything the LORD has said we will do.'"
Exodus 24:7b "Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, 'We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.'"
Have you every adamantly said you would do something and then later not keep your promise? Unfortunately this happened to the Israelites.
God specifically states they are not to make any gods of silver or gold in Exodus 20:23, "Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold." This was one of the many instructions given to the Israelites by God through Moses. And their response?
We will do everything the Lord has said...we will obey.
But, in the end, I think their lack of patience, fear and unbelief got the best of them. Moses goes up on Mount Siani and leaves Aaron in charge. He doesn't say exactly how long he'll be gone and ends up being gone for 40 days.
And the people get restless.
I encourage you to read Exodus 32 for yourself to see how the Israelites responded. They come to Aaron asking him to make a god to go before them because they didn't know what happened to Moses.
And what was Aaron's response? Did he resist as all? Did he say, "How could we disobey God after all He's done for us?" Did he stand up to conviction or did he compromise?
Aaron and the Israelites quickly gave in to compromise.
Aaron immediately did what the Israelites wanted him to do and made a golden calf for them to worship. I wonder why he did it and gave in so quickly and so easily.
He may have been like me and susceptible to people pleasing. Or maybe he liked the feeling of being in control as Moses was gone and the power got to him. Or was he afraid of what the people would do to him if he stood up for his convictions?
It seems like the Israelites wanted something they could depend on. Where was Moses anyway? They couldn't really depend on him because they had no idea of when he would be back. Is says, "When the people saw he was delayed to come down from the mountain..." Was it impatience? Lack of faith? Fear of the unknown?
Application Point: How often do I act the same way?
More often than I wish to admit. I see God powerfully work in my life and then when something else comes up or I don't see Him move and do things on my time line, I try to figure it out myself.
The Israelites were stuck. Fear and unbelief seems to get the best of them again.
They began believing lies....in regards to the golden calf they said in vs. 4, "These are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up out of the land of Egypt." And God said in vs. 7 "they turned aside quickly out of the way I commended them."
That must have been the last straw for God. They no longer even remembered that it was God who brought them out of Egypt! No wonder God was so angry and wanted to destroy the people. However, we see a powerful example of Moses interceding for the people to God. And God listens. "Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened." Exodus 32:14 This is a great reminder to me of how powerful intercession for others can be. Am I willing to intercede for others as Moses did?
Thankfully, this isn't the end of the story.
In the next chapter, after all this drama and chaos in the Israelite camp, God tells Moses its time to move on to the Promised Land.
Good thing, because I needed a break from all the drama! It's time to move on...S