Moses the Advocate
Tim Temple

Introduction

Our text today is Exodus, chapter 32, beginning with verse 1:

Exodus 32:

1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
3 And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.
6 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 rose up to play.
7 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:
8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
9 And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?

The verses which we have read together set the stage for Moses the advocate. We will think about the other verses in the chapter as we see Moses standing before God pleading for his people. Another aspect of the life of this man of God, this man whom God was able to so greatly use, was the fact that he was willing to pray for others. He was Moses the advocate.

In order to set this chapter in its proper context, we want to think very briefly about a review of Israel's history. It is important for us to understand, particularly since we are not going chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse in our study. Before Israel had been delivered from Egypt, the world was almost totally given over to rebellion and idolatry. The Israelites, tucked away in their slavery in Egypt, were the only people who even claimed to be God's people. Generally speaking, mankind had forgotten about God. The cyclical process of degradation described in Romans, chapter 1, verses 21-32, had started in the human race again. That process is going on continually, but this was one of those times in history of mankind when the details described in that chapter were in the forefront, when the majority were living in open rebellion against God.

When you have the time, study Romans, chapter 1, for yourself and you will see that those verses reveal over and over again that the nature of man is to forget about God. The nature of man is to rebel against the authority of God.

One of the reasons men feel guilty toward God is that they are consumed with sin; they are guided by a sin nature. They know that their thoughts are not God's thoughts and the details described in Romans, chapter 1, are the kinds of things that that kind of thinking leads to. The steps away from God are very important for us to understand, and our purpose in mentioning those verses is to say that the whole world seems to have been consumed with rebellion against God at the time Moses came upon the scene.

This had taken place before, and I refer to it as a cylical process because it happens again and again. When the cup of iniquity comes to the full, the Scripture tells us, when man's rebellion against God comes to the point that His holiness can no longer tolerate it even among fallen men, then God acts in judgment. The Scripture is full of the fact that God has acted in judgment on a number of occasions.

Before the time of Moses, men had rebelled against God again and again against God and the world had become so full of sin that God judged it with a worldwide flood and wiped out all but one family—eight people, the family of Noah. God had to judge the earth because of man's continual falling away from God.

As we come to this particular part of the life of Moses, we see that that process is in full swing again. As we skip forward from the life of Moses and look at our own day, it is easy to see that that process has come to the full again and that the majority of the people in the world today are rebellious against God and are somewhere along the line in that series of steps described there in Romans, chapter 1. We need not fool ourselves. We need to recognize that the Scripture is very clear that God is going to judge the world again and that that judgment is going to come upon all the world. The Scripture also tells us the wonderful fact that before that final act of judgment takes place, God is going to remove from the earth those who have accepted Him as Savior and we will go to meet Him in the air. But there is yet one final judgment which is going to come upon the earth and is going to exalt Jesus Christ as King of kings and Lord of lords.

As we go back to the life of Moses, we find that Moses was living in that time when worldwide rebellion against God was the order of the day. Here is a situation when even God's own people were rebelling against Him. In this chapter and the verses that we have read together, we find that even God's children are falling into sin, the sin of rebellion and idolatry.

How God Intervened

As we read in these verses and as we want to think about them more specifically, this rebellion against God would have resulted in another judgment had God not intervened. We want to think about the way God intervened in answer to the prayer of Moses.

Israel had been developed to be God's own unique people. Remember, early in the book of Genesis, God called a man by the name of Abram and He said, “I am going to make of you a great nation.” Then step-by-step through various events, God had developed the nation of Israel. Most recently we find that God had allowed this group of people who were not yet a nation to be in captivity, to be in slavery in Egypt for four hundred years.

Even in times of testing, there are purposes. It is one of the basic lessons of Scripture that we need to learn if we don't already know it. Hopefully by now you are aware of the fact that testing and trials always have a purpose. They always accomplish something good. One of several things that was accomplished by that four hundred years of slavery, even though it was a cruel slavery and it was a difficult time, was that this group of people that God had called to be His nation had the opportunity to flourish and grow numerically during that four hundred years while someone else took care of them.

Israel never had to fight a battle. Israel never had to elect a government. Israel, during those four hundred years, never had to worry about a crop failure. All of that was taken care of by Egypt. Egypt was the one whom God used to protect His nation, even though it was in the form of slavery, while that nation was developing and coming to strength. But when the time came that God's people had reached the number that He had in mind, then He brought them out of slavery. The history of Israel is step-by-step. It was a history of rebellion on their part, but it was also a history of grace and provision on God's part. That is what we find as we come to Exodus, chapter 32. God had brought them out of their slavery. God had let them wander in the wilderness, in which time He had given them the Ten Commandments and the other laws and commandments that make up the law of God. God had demonstrated Himself to them in a wonderful way.

As part of this chapter, we find Moses on the mountain getting the commandments from God. The people had been wandering in the wilderness these years. They were ready to go into the promised land. As it turns out, they are going to have to wander a lot longer because they refused to trust God and believe Him; but as this chapter opens, we find Moses on the mountain getting the Ten Commandments and the other commandments from God. It was while Moses was away from the people that this incident of rebellion against Him on the part of His own people whom He had miraculously delivered took place.

Israel's behavior at this point in their history is impossible to understand, isn't it? These people had miraculously been delivered by God and had seen Pharaoh's armies dead on the seashore. They had gone across the Red Sea on dry land—a miraculous delivery, no way could they explain it but the work of God. They had sung a beautiful hymn of praise to God, praising Him for all of His greatness. They were a people who worshiped God. How could they have possibly rebelled against God not long after that? It is hard to understand, unless we think about our own hearts and minds. Isn't it true of your life? It is, whether you admit it or not. It is true of my life. It is true of all of us that these hearts of ours can think thoughts of sublime and sincere praise to God. We can be almost overcome with emotion from time-to-time and come to grips with what God has really done for us. Yet these same hearts and these same lips can speak words of cursing and discouragement to those around us if we are provoked properly.

That is because we are still fallen human beings. We are only sinners saved by grace. When we accept the fact that Jesus Christ died in our place, we don't immediately become perfect. We don't immediately lose all of our problems. We don't immediately lose all of our tendency to sin. We are still only sinners saved by grace, and Israel is a perfect picture of that. If you are not aware of that fact, you need to be aware of it. If you have been saved for more than twenty-four hours, I am sure you are aware of it. You may be rationalizing it away and not willing to accept it, but it is true. We are sinners. We are only sinners saved by grace. That is the only difference between the time that you are living in now and the time before you accepted Christ—the fact that Christ has paid for your sins.

As we walk with the Lord and as we feed on His Word, we become more like Jesus Christ. God takes care of more and more of those tendencies, but the faults and the tendencies are there with us, and it is only by God's power that those things can be removed. Don't expect to automatically become a fine, upstanding person just because you have accepted Jesus Christ. That only comes through knowing the Lord more and more and walking in obedience to His Word, making His Word not just some kind of book that we read and think about from time to time, but making it a book to which our lives conform.

The Rebellious Idolatry of Israel

Israel was like you and me. They were a rebellious people, and this is the history of Israel. We have thought about the history of Israel, but now we want to think more specifically in these verses that are before us about this rebellious idolatry of Israel that is recorded in verses 1-6. The first thing that we want to think about here is the setting of this situation. Moses had been up on Mt. Sinai with God getting the law for some six weeks, but with Moses gone only six weeks, the people grew restless and turned away from God, even though they had the pillar of fire to guide them by night and the cloud to guide them by day, obvious personal manifestations of God present with them. Daily God was putting manna out on the ground for them. These were people who had the presence and manifestation of God all around them, and yet they rebelled and went into idolatry.

Notice then that the setting was that the people (verse 1) saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain. They had their eyes, you see, on a man. They had the miraculous provision of God all around them, but their eyes weren't on God; their eyes were on a man.

Unless God intervenes, this is always the situation that will result if God is demonstrating Himself to us, and He is. If in the midst of God's demonstration, we put our eyes on a man, we are in danger from the beginning. Here was God, taking care of these people every day, and they were worried about Moses. Here was God, literally providing their food on a day by day basis, and they got worried when Moses wasn't there. We need to be extremely careful that we don't get our eyes on a man, that we don't begin to think that God's man is the reason that God is blessing us.

Notice, too, beginning in verse 2 and going through verse 4, Aaron, the spokesman for Moses, participated in this. In verse 2, we read:

Exodus 32:

2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.

In verse 1, they had come to Aaron and they had explained their situation. “Moses is gone and we don't know what has happened to him.” The implication is “We don't think that he is coming back. Aaron, we want you to take over. Do something for us. Do something that we can see. We are concerned and we need something that we can put our eyes on.”

Again, here is the failure of their faith. The Scripture speaks in many places of the fact that faith, in the book of Hebrews, is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This is another characteristic of Israel. Not only did they have their eyes on a man, but if they could not have their eyes on that man, then they had to have their eyes on something. One of the characteristics of rebellion against God, and one of the things for which we need to be cautiously alert in our own lives is being able to see something, being able to put our hands on something spiritually.

There is a real tendency to demand that God give us a sign. There are many people today who are fine Christian people but who are caught up in one or the other of movements that say, “This is the obvious sign of God and unless you have had this experience, then you don't really know the Lord as you should. Unless you have spoken in tongues or unless you have had a vision or unless you have seen somebody healed, then you are not really walking with the Lord as you should.”

No. Faith is the evidence of things not seen. You do not have to have your eyes on something in order to say that you have a real experience with God. You don't have to be able to say, “I know it because I have seen it.” It is quite the opposite, and these people began to rebel against God when their demand was for something that they could see and something that they could feel and something that they could touch. I say that it is a warning sign when our own hearts begin to demand or began to desire and crave something that we can feel and touch and see. It is a warning sign in the Church of Jesus Christ when people begin to demand something that they can touch and feel and see.

If God provides an obvious visible sign, as often He does, that is fine. There is nothing wrong in being able to say, “I know God did this for me because I saw it very clearly,” but what I am talking about is the demand that Israel made. They said, “We don't know what has become of Moses. Aaron, you do something. Give us something that we can see,” and Aaron failed the test. Aaron proved his lack of leadership. Oh, Aaron was able to stand in front of the people and speak eloquently. In fact, Aaron was evidently as good a spokesman as Moses was because God had allowed him to be the spokesman for Moses. Aaron was able to stand in front of people and lead a crowd, but Aaron failed the test of leadership because he gave the people what they wanted when it was clear that what they wanted was the wrong thing.

In verse 2, Aaron said, “Give me your gold.” Some people try to defend Aaron, and they have said, “Surely Aaron must have thought that he would demand their money and it would shock them and make them realize what a mistake they were making.” There is some philosophy of that, you know. Unless we put the bite on the pocketbook, people aren't really going to be alert to things. But there are two problems with that. First, that is not in any way the way God operates, and second, there is nothing in the text that indicates that. No, this was a failure on Aaron's part. This was a sin on Aaron's part. Aaron willingly participated in the rebellion of God's people.

Image Supposed to be Representative of God

It is also important for us to notice that this image was supposed to be a representation of God Himself. Notice in verse 4:

Exodus 32:

4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

You see, Aaron was an artist. He was a craftsman, and he made a statue of a calf. Notice this: They said, “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” Then notice in verse 5, where we read:

Exodus 32:

5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.

Notice the last word in verse 5. You will see that it is spelled with all capital letters, and most of you are familiar with The King James version and you recognize that that is an indication that the Hebrew word there is the word Jehovah or Yahweh. When the English word is spelled with all capital letters, it is a translation of the summary name of God, Jehovah . So in verse 4, Aaron said, “This is your god who brought you up out of the land of Egypt,” and in verse 5, He said, “Tomorrow there shall be a feast to Jehovah.”

Another good feature of The King James version, and it is true of most of the translations, is that there are many times when there is a reference to a false god, when the word god is not capitalized. Also not every time it is referring to Jehovah is the word God capitalized, but here we are not talking about a false god. It is not the fact that these people turned to a false god, but rather it was that they tried to make a representation of Jehovah, the very God who had just gotten through telling Moses, on the mountain, “Thou shalt not make any kind of graven image or any kind of representation because, even though the Scripture does not say so at this point, faith is the evidence of things not seen.” God doesn't want to deal in terms of representations that can be seen and felt, etc. But here they had made an image and they had claimed that that image was a figure of God, a representation of the God who had done all of this for them, and God was extremely displeased.

Let's pause here for a moment and think. What was so wrong with making an image to the true God? At least they were still worshiping Jehovah, weren't they? In verse 5, they used the name of Jehovah: “This is the representation of the gods who have brought you out of Egypt.” They were still thinking about God. They were still thinking about the works of God and they were still going to have a feast to God. “Tomorrow will be a feast to Jehovah.” They weren't instituting some totally new religion, were they?

God Interested in Intentions

Why was God so displeased with that? God was displeased with that because God is not interested in the letter of the law only. God is interested in our intentions. God is interested in the spirit of the law. It does no good, and this is one of the many illustrations of it in the Scripture, to have a feast to Jehovah if you are going to be worshiping a golden calf. It does no good to be giving lip-service to Jesus Christ if you are not living in obedience to Him. It is a waste of time to claim to be one of Christ's people if your life has nothing to show for it. Oh, there is that technical sense in which you are one of Christ's. If you have accepted the fact that He died in your place, then you are His child, but it is a silly thing to try to claim, and it is a disappointment to the heart of God to try to claim, that we are Christ's people if our lives give no indication of that.

Righteous Indignation of God

God was displeased with the Israelites, just as surely He must be so displeased with you and me and we talk about the feasts of the Lord and yet our lives are completely different from that; and so, in verses 7-10, we find the righteous indignation of God. Notice in verse 8 that God was aware of the actions at the base of the mountain even though He was busy with Moses at the top of the mountain. In verse 8, God said:

Exodus 32:

8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

You see, God was busy concentrating on getting the commandments written but at the same time He was completely aware of every detail that was going on at the bottom of the mountain. He quotes every detail to Moses. He fills him in exactly, and it is no surprise to anyone here, if you know the least bit about God, that the Scripture teaches that God is aware of all things at all times. He is omniscient. One of His characteristics is that He is omniscient. He is all knowing. He knows everything, and yet when we put that on a practical level, do we really understand that? Don't we sometimes have the idea that God is not going to be aware if we rebel against Him? Surely God is not going to pay that much attention if we skirt the issue a little over here and we take a shortcut, or if our life doesn't quite measure up? Surely God has too much to do to keep track of my life's every detail?

We would feel that these thoughts were too silly to even verbalize because we know, technically speaking, that God knows every detail. Yet, in your own heart, aren't you guilty from time to time of thinking that? I have to admit that I am. Our philosophy many times doesn't measure up to our theology. The two things should be the same. Our theology, our understanding of God, should be our philosophy of life, but here is an indication that God was totally aware of what was going on at the bottom of the mountain. He tells it in explicit detail, even though at that point He was completely tied up with and involved with doing something completely different. He was giving Moses the law, but He was perfectly aware of the rebellion against Himself.

Then in verse 10, the text makes perfectly clear that God was through with Israel. Notice:

Exodus 32:

10 Now therefore let me alone, [stand back Moses. Get out of my way] that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.

Do you see that? “I will make of thee, Moses, a great nation.” It is an interesting thing to notice, and it is a very obvious thing to notice that here we have in the Hebrew and the English the very wording and the very form of the wording that God had originally said to Abraham when his name was Abram: “I will make of thee a great nation.”

God says, “Stand back. Moses, I am going to do away with this nation, this continually rebellious people, and I am going to make of thee a great nation. I am not going to abandon My plan. I am going to redeem the human race. I am going to bring the Redeemer through a holy line, but Moses, I am through with Abraham's seed. I am going to make of thee a great nation.”

Here was Moses' greatest test because Moses had the opportunity now to become the center of human history. You recognize, don't you, that Abraham in a real sense is the center of human history? Two of the major religions of today hold Abraham as the central figure in their religion, and we as believers in Jesus Christ, although we recognize the place Abraham had in God's plan, revere him as a very real part of God's plan. Here Moses has the opportunity to take that place in God's plan.

The Test of Success

One of the greatest tests a man can face is the test of success. One of the greatest tests that a believer can face is the test of being useful to God, and there are not very many men who can stand the test. Again and again, we find men who begin to be used by God and they begin to consider that they are above the laws of God, and they begin to believe that they can tell a lie and get away with it. They begin to believe that they can take this liberty in the area of morality and get away with it, in the area of sexual things or perhaps in the area of financial things. They feel that they are so indispensable to God that surely God will overlook this sin. That is as wrong as it can be, and those of us who want to be used of God—and I hope that all of us do—need to understand as clearly as we can that when God begins to use us, the greatest tests lie ahead. The greatest tests in the Christian life are the tests that come with usefulness to God.

Here God said, “Moses, I am going to make you the most useful man I have ever had. I am going to make you the center of human history. I am going to make you the center of My plan, the indispensable cog in this plan.”

How did Moses react to that? No ordinary man could withstand that kind of test, and as I have just been saying, there are lesser ones of us who can't stand even a much smaller test than that, so how does Moses react to that? Here we have a reference to the relentless intercession of Moses. What did Moses do? Did he smile to himself and say, “Well, I have always felt that these descendants of Abraham were not what they ought to be, and I have always wondered maybe privately if God couldn't do a little better by making a nation out of me.” Is that what he did?

Moses Inquiry

Notice his reaction to that, beginning in verse 11:

Exodus 32:

11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?

What did he do? He turned to God, and we have in the remainder of this chapter relentless intercession. Moses goes to God and he goes to the people and he doesn't give up on this thing. First, in verses 11-14, we have Moses' inquiry. He reminds God of His testimony before the Egyptians. Notice verse 12:

Exodus 32:

12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth [What will the Egyptians say if you do this thing?]? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.

You know, this would have been an easy thing to forget about. This would have been an easy thing for Moses to hope that the LORD wouldn't think about, but Moses, the man of God, said, “LORD, you can't do this. Remember Your promises to these men in the past. You promised to be true to Your name. God, you can't go through with this plan.” Then notice what happened in verse 14:

Exodus 32:

14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.

“The LORD repented.” This is a very important verse. We need to think very carefully about what is being said here because the way that we have the verse translated, it could be very easily misunderstood, particularly if we take it out of its context.

First, we need to understand what the word repent means. The word repent is a translation of a Hebrew word, in this case, but there is a Greek word in the New Testament that is translated by our English word repent also. Both of those words mean simply “to turn around.” Even though it is beyond the scope of our lesson, here is an illustration of what it means to repent. To repent does not mean moaning and crying and beating yourself on the chest and saying, “Oh, God, please if you can find it within your heart, forgive me,” and tarrying before God for hours and all of those kinds of things that we sometimes associate with the idea of repentance. You see, it simply means to change your mind. It simply means to turn around, and this verse tells us that God turned around. God changed His mind.

Then the second word that is very important for us to notice in verse 14 is the word evil . Here we would seem to have a contradiction because the Scripture tells us in the book of Habakkuk and many other places that God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity and cannot look upon sin. Here in verse 14 the word that is translated by our English word evil is a Hebrew word that has no connotation of sin and wrong-doing. Rather, it is a word that has the idea of terrible destruction or of complete judgment, but it carries no connotation of wrong-doing. This verse is saying that God had intended to destroy a certain group of people and God turned from that purpose.

Here we have another difficulty because doesn't the Scripture tell us that God is never changing and that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever? Of course, it does. Theologians have argued for years about the meaning of verse 14. Does this really mean that God changed His mind? We have to admit that it apparently means that He did. He turned around. However, as we think about that, we need to recognize that God's purpose was not to do a different thing in humanity. God, remember, was not saying to Moses, “Moses, I have decided not to redeem the human race. Moses, I have decided not to bring a Redeemer in who will pay the sin question. Moses, I am going to do something different and I am going to do it through you.” No, you see what God was planning to do was purge out the leaven. What God was planning to do was get rid of the sin. God wasn't changing His purpose. God was changing His approach. God wasn't really even changing His method because His purpose was to redeem the human race and His method was to do it through sacrificing His own Son. God would have done that through the descendents of Moses as easily and as well as He would have done it through Abraham, God wasn't changing His essence. God wasn't changing His purpose. God was simply changing the details of His approach to things.

It is possible, you see, that God may choose from your request or mine to do something in the details that He would not have done had we not asked Him. The Scripture tells us: “You have not because you ask not.” (James 4:2). God's purpose is going to be accomplished. God's will is going to be done, but God may choose to allow you to have some part in it that He wouldn't choose to let you have if you had not asked Him. God's purpose is going to be accomplished, but He, in His grace, may choose to do it in some way that would be enjoyable or satisfying to you if you ask Him. God's will doesn't change, but sometimes those day-to-day activities that are used in the accomplishing of His will are changed at the request of His people, not a change in His nature, not a change in His essence, but here is the God of the universe willing to us men who are dependent upon Him. Moses, the man of God, stood before God and said, “God, don't do it.”

It is possible—and there is no way to know for sure that all of this was just a test of Moses' character—that God never intended to wipe out His people, that He was saying this to see what Moses would do. There is no way to know what God's intention was. We will have to wait till we get to Heaven and find out, perhaps, but whatever God's intentions were, Moses passed the test. Moses was one of the most mature men of God who ever lived and here is the proof of it. He was willing to say, “No, God. Don't use me. Use this people that You have already begun to use. Follow the plan that You have laid out. God, don't destroy this people.” There was relentless intercession.

Moses' Encounter with the People

Then in verse 15-30, we have after the inquiry with God the encounter that Moses made with the people. Notice in verse 15:

Exodus 32:

15 And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
16 And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.
17 And when Joshua [The Scripture tells us that Joshua had accompanied Moses.] heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.
18 And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.

It was a strange noise. It was a noise that Joshua wasn't that familiar with. Notice verse 19:

Exodus 32:

19 And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto 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 brake them beneath the mount.
20 And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, [notice this interesting series of events]and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

You parents who are looking for a novel and effective way to punish your children might take a few lessons from Moses. He knew how to get folks' attention. He went down there and he broke that thing up and ground it up and mixed it in water and made them drink the stuff. They had plenty of minerals in their diet after that.

The reason that we are mentioning this is that it is obvious that even though Moses had been praying for the people, had been confronting God on their behalf, that didn't keep him from being severe in his discipline and in his confrontation with them.

We sometimes have the idea in our own dealings with people that if we are going to pray for people, then we have got to be willing to put up with anything from them, and if someone falls into sin, then the thing for us to do is to pray for them and put up with the sin—just let it go on because, after all, we are praying for them. Let God deal with it.

That is not the approach that Moses took. There should be no question in our minds by this time that Moses loved these people. Moses would do anything for them, but he wasn't going to tolerate their sin. Moses went down from that mountain and he confronted that sin and he dealt with it. He said, “We will not have this.”

We don't know if Moses ever told the people how close they came to being completely wiped out, how close they came to facing God's judgment instead of Moses' judgment. Even though Moses loved the people that much, he was not willing to countenance their sin. There is a lesson in that for us. We must be careful, even though we are willing to pray for our brother and hold him up before God and plead before God for him, that we must not tolerate the sin in his life.

In our study of I Corinthians, we have talked about the matter of discipline within the church and the matter of confronting sin on the part of other people. We studied the steps that Jesus gave in dealing with sin and the final step after giving a man opportunity to repent. The final step, you remember, is if he fails to respond to all of these repeated attempts to deal with his sin, then treat him as a heathen man and a publican.

After that study, somebody reminded me of some teaching they had heard my dad do on this very subject, and they pointed out that Dad taught in this pulpit that we treat even a heathen man and a publican as one for whom Christ died and one with whom we plead to God that that man will get right with God. We may have to cut him off in terms of fellowship. We may have to put him aside in terms of putting up with his sin, but we never stop praying for him. The opposite is true, too. Even though we are praying for him, it gives us no excuse to tolerate his sin. Moses held these people up before God to the exclusion of a great opportunity for himself, but he did not tolerate the sin. We need to keep that biblical balance. This was the encounter that Moses had with the people after interceding for them with God.

Moses Deals with Aaron

Notice one other thing. In verse 21, Moses begins to deal with Aaron, and that would have been an interesting thing to see. Notice verse 21:

Exodus 32:

21 And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?

“Aaron, what possessed you? How could they have convinced you to do such a thing as this?” Notice Aaron's answer in verse 22:

Exodus 32:

22 And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.
23 For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him [Is that true? Yes, that is true. That is what they said, isn't it? That is exactly what they said to him].
24 And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire [this is almost too ridiculous to read], and there came out this calf.

Can you imagine that? Do you really think that Aaron thought that Moses would believe that? “I threw that gold in the fire, and bingo, here came this calf. Wonderful miracle.”

They lived in a day of miracles. Maybe he thought that Moses would think that God was busy down at the bottom while He was busy up at the top, but the thing that is important for us to recognize here is another very important principle of Scripture and that is that the man of God is the man who will not rationalize with the facts and he will not twist the truth. You see, Aaron was dealing with truth here. There was a lot of truth in what Aaron said, wasn't there? “The people came to me and they said, ‘We don't know what has happened to Moses. Do something for us'.” That was the truth. Then Aaron said, “I asked them for gold and I put it in the fire,” and that was true. But do you see the purpose in telling this truth? It was to rationalize.

The Mark of a Lack of Repentance

Here is the other extremely important principle in our personal lives that we need to understand—the mark of a lack of repentance. The man who rationalizes his sin, the man who continually explains away his sin (He is always willing to admit he sinned, but he always has a reason for it. He is willing to say that he did the action but he is not quite willing to call it sin. ) is the man whom God cannot use.

Think about the situation of David. David, the man after God's own heart, the man whom everybody recognizes even to this day as the man of God, and yet we know that David was a great sinner. David had people murdered. David committed adultery. David did all kinds of things that were inexcusably wrong, and yet God said that he was a man after His own heart.

Saul, the king who preceded David, was quite a contrast. Saul did very little in terms of wickedness that we know about. Saul, as far as we know, never murdered anybody. He killed people in battle, but that was at the command of God and that is part of God's protection of the human race. Saul wasn't a murderer. As far as we know, Saul wasn't an adulterer. Saul didn't do many of the things that David was guilty of, but why would God say that David was a man after His own heart and put Saul aside and replace him with David?

Turn with me to I Samuel, chapter 15, because in a couple of little instances we find the difference between Saul and David. In that difference, we can see the difference between the man whom God can use and the man whom God has to put aside—the difference between Moses and Aaron, the difference between you and someone else that God might use. I Samuel, chapter 15, contains the story of how God had given word to Saul to go out and conquer a city and to utterly destroy it. Saul went out to the city and he began to follow God's orders, but he didn't do exactly what God had said. He saved some of the cattle and he saved the life of the king. In verse 12, we read:

I Samuel 15:

12 And when Samuel rose early to meet Saul in the morning, it was told Samuel, saying, Saul came to Carmel, and, behold, he set him up a place, and is gone about, and passed on, and gone down to Gilgal.
13 And Samuel came to Saul: and Saul said unto him, Blessed be thou of the LORD: I have performed the commandment of the LORD.

Then we see what I think must have been the most terrible words that Saul ever heard. Notice verse 14:

I Samuel 15:

14 And Samuel said, What meaneth then this bleating of the sheep in mine ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?

Samuel had a sense of humor, you know. He had to confront Saul with his disobedience, but he came about it in a funny round about way. “God said to kill everybody. Have you done it?” Saul said, “I have obeyed the commandment of the LORD.” “Well, that's funny. I hear the bleating of some sheep over there in the background and sheep aren't usually on a battlefield. What is that noise that I hear?” Notice what Saul said in verse 15:

I Samuel 15:

15 And Saul said, They have brought them from the Amalekites: for the people spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God; and the rest we have utterly destroyed.

Do you see what happened? Saul disobeyed God. There is no other way to look at it. It was a blatant disobedience of God. Oh, it was a minor thing, and he had a good reason for it. He saved these things alive for sacrifices, but do you see how he handled the whole thing? He rationalized it. He explained it. “The people did this, and we had a good purpose so I let it go on.”

Notice what God said through Samuel in verse 16:

I Samuel 15:

16 Then Samuel said unto Saul, Stay, and I will tell thee what the LORD hath said to me this night. And he said unto him, Say on.

In verse 17, Samuel begins to tell him: “God chose you. God wanted to use you, but God has set you aside because you are a man whom He cannot use.”

God had to set Saul aside because he was a man who was not obedient to God fully. Look at verse 22, where Samuel concludes his speech by saying:

I Samuel 15:

22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

God wants people whom He can use and upon whom He can depend, who will obey Him regardless. With that in mind, turn to II Samuel and notice the contrast with the life of David. David sinned a great sin of murder and adultery. He murdered Uriah so that he could marry Uriah's wife, and he got caught as sin always gets found out. Nathan, a man of God, came to David and he told him a little story that illustrated the sin. David was so caught up in his sin that after Nathan told his story, Nathan had to say, “David, thou art the man. Don't you understand this is a story about you?” but David was so far away from the Lord that it took some doing to get the point across to him. But when he understood the point, notice what he said in II Samuel, chapter 12, verse 13:

II Samuel 12:

13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD…

That's it. Not, “Nathan, she was the prettiest woman I have ever seen, and I just couldn't stand it. Nathan, her husband was a bum. He was just a military nut and I just didn't want him in the army any more.”

No, he said, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Then notice the rest of the verse:

II Samuel 12:

13 …And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.

Isn't that beautiful? That is all that God wanted to hear. God did not excuse the sin. David went through some terrible discipline after this. David suffered greatly, the natural result of his sin. God didn't forget about the sin, but God was able to use this man again and again and He was able to say, “This is a man after My heart.” Because David was able to come to grips with his sin, God was able to use him. God was able to use Moses because Moses was a man who was willing to be true to God's purpose, even at the risk of personal loss to himself, and he was a man who was not willing to rationalize and not willing to explain it away.

Why is it that we only hear of Aaron as Moses' brother? Have you ever thought of that? Aaron's main claim to fame is that he was Moses' brother and spokesman. Why is that? Here is the answer. Moses was a man who was truly right with God. Oh, Moses had his sins and his faults and his failings, but Moses was willing to be obedient to God and Aaron wasn't. Moses was a man who was willing to be the advocate for his people.

Conclusion

The lesson for our hearts today is, as we face the possibility of usefulness to God, are we willing to be true to God in the small things, in the minor things, in the pressures of life, and are we willing to be open and honest with the Lord and useful to Him?


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