The golden calf! How dense and how sinful can Israel be? From Numbers, last evening, Westte reminded us that we are so much like Israel in constantly turning away from God and disobeying and that God is both holy and so, so gracious.
“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, ‘Up, make us gods who shall go before us’” (32:1). With the fashioning of the calf, the people declared, “"These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" (Exod. 32:4). Are you kidding me, gods to go before them?!?! The gods who brought them out of Egypt?!?!
“And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play” (32:6). Just think, they brought offerings, supposedly to the Lord (verse 5). They went through the motions of following God. But they were engaged in out and out idolatry. It was all an idolatrous sham. Paul uses this episode to warn the Corinthian church that worldly religion and simply being named among God’s people is not enough (1 Corinthians 10:7). We must be very careful and examine ourselves to be sure that we are not merely “doing religion,” but loving and following after God. With Moses’ plea to God for mercy, God relented from the great disaster he had spoken of (32:5). There were great and terrible consequences for Israel’s sin but, also, there was great mercy, God even declaring, “I will send an angel before you . . . Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey” (33:2,3).
And, so, the people left Sinai and headed to Canaan. Westte was right! Great sin and great mercy!