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Sermon: Butler Pennsylvania October 12, 2008

Text: Exodus 32:1-14

Lightning and thunder are roaring at the top of the mountain. Smoke is billowing all around as if the whole mountain side were on fire! Moses was meeting with God there. The people dare not go to where Moses was for fear that God himself would break out against them! It was an amazing sight to see! Moses has just heard God give what later came to be known as the Commandments.

Exodus 20:2-17

2           “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

3           “You shall have no other gods before‌a‌ me.

4           “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7           “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

8           “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12          “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

13          “You shall not murder.

14          “You shall not commit adultery.

15          “You shall not steal.

16          “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17          “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” [1]

18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”

21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.

 

The people remained at a distance, interesting isn’t? God himself was in their midst and his Holy, awesome presence was so overwhelming the Israelites say “Do not have God speak to us or we will die! They believe this is God! They are sure of it in fact they have seen signs of HIM all along this journey… Blood, Frogs, Gnats, Flies, Livestock, Boils, Hail, Locust, Darkness, and the plague of the first born…the parting of the Red Sea, The manna, the quail….Yes these people believed that Moses indeed was working with God to raise up a Holy people. They were the people God had chosen! How did they feel about this? What was their reaction? We read the words clearly here in Exodus 20:21 The people remained at a distance. Yyyyyyooooouuuu go ahead Moses… We’ll be right here when you get back and we will learn from you but keep God! WWWWWOOOO Keep him there with you. Don’t you bring him down that mountain! If you bring him down that mountain things will not be as they are now things will change!

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” I can imagine the conversation. OK Moses we believe you! But like we said IF you bring him down that mountain things will not be as they are now things will change!

The Israelites Required God to be…

Painless …and God is Piercing.

The Israelites were given the opportunity of a lifetime here.  “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” This is not only an opportunity to submit to 10 rules by this YAHWEH God… This is an opportunity to live life to its fullest. This is an invitation to peace. All their lives they have lived in turmoil, all their lives they were being held back from true freedom and YAHWEH was offering them lasting peace. You see these 10 “Rules” would order their lives around God’s purposes, these 10 rules led them to begin to feel the weight of sin removed from their lives, these 10 “rules” SET THESE PEOPLE apart from all others because they LOVED GOD AND EACH OTHER MORE THAN THEY LOVED THEMSELVES! The Israelites required God to be painless so up on the mountain he stayed. His presence remained away from were they lived their lives. Instead the Israelites settled for Moses as a go between. These standards God had laid out were new, they were tough, yes even painful. All change is painful. God pierced their hearts. Stay up on that mountain God!

Exodus 24:3 says “Everything the LORD has said we will do”

Here we begin with the text for this week…

32     When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods‌a‌ who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods,‌b‌ O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings.‌c‌ Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ 9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

 

11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “O Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ ” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

So much for “Everything the LORD has said we will do”

The Israelites Required God to be…

Painless …God was Piercing

The Israelites Required God to be…

Prompt …God was unhurried

Exodus 24:18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

“Forty days and forty nights,” is the standard phrase for a long period of time. Many scholars think Moses could have been gone much much longer! So long infact that…we read chapter 32 verse 1 “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods‌a‌ who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

 It is a verse of frightened impatience. Any absence of their leader, the one person who has been their representative to Yahweh from the moment of his return to them in Egypt, would have been unsettling. His absence in such a place, with so much yet to be done by way of provision and guidance, would have been problematic if even only a few days were involved. With the passage of a long period of time, the people are represented as nearly in a frenzy, some perhaps assuming Moses had deserted them, others more charitably fearing some tragedy had befallen their leader.

The Israelites may be asking for “gods” because their neighbors had gods, and because their one God seemed gone with the absence of Moses.

This isn’t what the Isrealites were brought out into the desert fro was it? To be brought out of the grip of Pharaoh and seen how awesome God was on the mountain when they were closer to Moses maybe God simply needed a bit of help. Yeah we don’t want to wait so lets do this then God will show up! The apparent acceptance of the golden calf by Israel as their gods “who brought them up from the land of Egypt,” the people hoped to have God “identify with” the calf and “make his glory dwell among them.”

It is within some such framework, however, that the response of Aaron to the people’s acceptance of the calf is best to be understood. He built an altar, a standard OT reaction to the manifestation of GOD, and then announced a חג “sacred feast” the same word used for the Passover for the next day. What is more striking about this sacred feast is that Aaron designates it a חג ליהוה “sacred feast for Yahweh”

It is precisely the attempt to worship Yahweh God by means he has already declared totally unacceptable that makes the sin of the golden calf so destructive, far more so than a simple shift of allegiance to “other” or “foreign” gods. The people receive the calf with the confession “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt,” an act they give Moses the credit for. Certainly he was Yahweh’s representative.

These verses do not show an abandonment of Yahweh for other gods; it is an account of the transfer of the center of authority of faith in Yahweh from Moses and the laws and symbols he has announced to a golden calf without laws and without any symbols beyond itself.

Moses is the representative of a God invisible in mystery.

The calf is to be the representative of that same God, whose invisibility and mystery is compromised by an image he has forbidden.

God wasn’t Prompt. If they prayed maybe they didn’t get an answer right away. They were at the bottom of the mountain waiting, and waiting and waiting some more and they got sick of it. God should be PROMPT. Some were probably saying they had better things to do than wait around for something to happen. Others may have said maybe this Moses guys is dead and this God we have been trying to worship has given up on us? Maybe he never existed at all? NO surely he does exist lets prove it… Here we go…The God we have been worshipping needs to be portrayed for all to see!

The Israelites Required God to be…

Portrayed …God is unportrayable

In demanding such an image, the people have violated, first of all, the second (and seventh) commandment. This is made clear in the composite by the identification of the calf with the rescue from Egypt, by Aaron’s construction of an altar for sacrifices, by his declaration of a חג “sacred feast” for Yahweh, and by the people’s worship the next morning by the very offerings Yahweh has specified for himself.

They rise from their communion meal to frivolity. In Hebrew this word means “to laugh, make fun” has a connotation also of sexual play (Gen 26:6–11; 39:6c–20). The contrast with the ritual and the communion meal of chap. 24 is devastating. The celebration of an obligating relationship in covenant with God in Exod 24 becomes in Exod 32 an orgy of the desertion of responsibility.

God has portrayed how these celebrations should be celebrated. It is one of honor and respect for all parties. In Exodus 24 we read “9 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up 10 and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire,‌b‌ clear as the sky itself. 11 But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.” There was respect for everyone involved. Life was celebrated!

There is a sacredness even in ones eating together. God shows the way to truly live with God’s presence among them; can you imagine what it would have been like? Now imagine the raunchiest club in all the world where life and sexuality is completely disregarded, where selfishness reigns. Just imagine! It is almost incomprehensible isn’t it, that the Israelites would invite God by building portraying him in a graven image in the middle of a party that completely disregards the things we know now as the ten commandments. But that is just what they did. So much for “Everything the LORD has said we will do.” You hear the Israelites…”Yeah but we thought God didn’t care anymore, We wanted our comfort back, we needed to touch, see, feel, and smell, God among us! Everything God had taught them would have provided for these needs…their frenzy, their fear led them astray. It led them to forget that

God is not portray able. He is mysterious!

Rob Bell a writer and great preacher writes

“The moment God is figured out with nice, neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”

God is seen today in how we interact with our world, with each other. Holding to 10 rules with a legalistic mindset will not produce what God intends, but holding to the intention behind why they were given will change all of our lives. They were given to show there is a better way, a way away from brokenness, selfishness, and insecurity, and a way that leads to true rest, true peace, true happiness.

The Israelites Required God to be…

Painless …and God is Piercing.

The Israelites Required God to be…

Prompt …God was unhurried

The Israelites Required God to be…

Portrayed …God is unportrayable

How about you today? In our relationship with God we have something absolutely amazing, we have the ability to go up that mountain and be with Christ every single hour of every single day. How often do you take advantage of that opportunity? I wonder how many of us though put these requirements on Christ? Jesus you can come in my life and stay with me as long as you want…Wait Jesus no that part of my life is off limits. I mean can you imagine what my friends would think of me if I actually did the things your asking?

Jesus this journey with you seems pretty hard I was under the impression you would come into my life deal with my sin and then you know just sort of hang around until I needed you. I was thinking it would be prompt. So Jesus when I pray you know it is important cause I won’t share small things with you only the BIG PROBLEMS that need Prompt ATTENTION.

Jesus this whole believing in you trusting you is really hard sometimes. It is hard to put my faith in something I can’t even see. It is hard to trust someone I can’t even talk to. It is so much easier to trust this person with my thoughts, needs and desires, they talk back to me God they give me reassurance that everything is ok. This habit I have gives me a feeling of piece, I can hold it, touch it, see it, and smell it.

There are so many ways we are like the Israelites in this story. So how can we be different how can we begin to embrace God’s desires and make them our own?

For those hear who have yet to really know Christ you should begin to see something here that screams out to you. It is an alternative lifestyle like none other. It is a lifestyle of selflessness, a lifestyle of respect, a lifestyle of hospitality and most of all a lifestyle of LOVE. Whether you see people here at home, at work, or at play you se the stamp of Christ on their lives that is constantly pouring out love into everything they are apart of.

For those of you here who are Christ Followers this morning all you need to do as you reflect on your struggles in your journey with Christ is REMEMBER.

It would be easy to throw stones of judgment against the Jews for their sin of idolatry, in the face of God’s glory and grace. But we are as guilty as they are. Many of us have professed Christ as Lord and Savior, believing that He is the only Son of God who died for us, and rose from the grave on the third day. We have seen His wonder working power in the lives of others, and He has pulled us out of more catastrophes and problems then we can remember. What have we done in the face of that glory and grace? We have forgotten, just like the people in this message. We forget, until we need to call on Him again.

This morning see the need! See the need to go up that mountain and be with God.  He is piercing, he is unhurried, and he is unportrayable. This morning I close with the words of Moses “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” This is not only an opportunity to submit to 10 rules by this YAHWEH God… This is an opportunity to live life to its fullest. This is an invitation to peace. All their lives the Israelites lived in turmoil, all their lives they were being held back from true freedom and YAHWEH was offering them lasting peace.

As we prepare for prayer this morning I want to share with you an exert from Michael Walzer

In his book Exodus and Revolution, He shares three lessons we can all learn from the Exodus event of the Old Testament:

What the Exodus … taught: first, that wherever you live, it is probably Egypt. Second, that there is a better place, a world more attractive, a promised land. And third, that "the way to the land is through the wilderness."

There are altars here that you can pray at, all of us have many things we can bring to God this morning, if you would like a quiet place to pray the altar is a great place for that to happen.

Father God we pray this prayer from your word…

Psalm 119:169

Let my cry come right into your presence, God;

provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word.

Give my request your personal attention,

rescue me on the terms of your promise.

Let praise cascade off my lips;

after all, you’ve taught me the truth about life!

And let your promises ring from my tongue;

every order you’ve given is right.

Put your hand out and steady me

since I’ve chosen to live by your counsel.

I’m homesick, God, for your salvation;

I love it when you show yourself!

Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well,

use your decrees to put iron in my soul.

And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me!

I’ll recognize the sound of your voice.

God we desire to recognize the sound of YOUR voice over all others we are hearing in our world today. Help

us God to allow your Spirit to pierce our lives show us how we can truly follow your ways.  Help us to daily

seek your face, to daily pray to you and communicate with you about what is happening in our lives that you

care so much about. Most of all God help us to resist the temptation to allow other things, other people, to

take the place of you in our lives. You will never fail us oh God we ask for a faith that can withstand the

greatest waves of life that seek to unanchor us from you! Be with us now as we all go our separate ways in

Jesus name we pray, AMEN

Benediction:

May the LORD bless you and keep you!


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