Exodus 32

Title: We Need A Hero!

Text: Exodus 32

Introduction: We’re in the book of Exodus this morning. I’ve decided to leave Mark for a couple of weeks. I’ve planned to reach the resurrection by Easter Sunday morning taking in a couple of other texts along the way.

The book of Exodus (the 2nd book of Moses) is all about how God brings his people out of Egypt, from slavery to Mount Sinai and freedom, to give them his law and establish them as his people. They strike a covenant with God in chapter 24, agreeing to his commands listed in chapters 20-23. They celebrate this covenant by sacrificing burnt offerings and peace offerings to God (24). God then calls Moses back up onto the mountain and gives Moses the requirements in detail for making all of the items used in worship, from the Altar to the Ark. He furthermore, supplies the gifted men needed to accomplish such a huge task. Finally, he sets the Sabbath as a token or a sign of the covenant between them throughout the ages (25-31).

In our story today, God finishes giving this information to Moses and gives him also the two tablets, telling him to go down to this rebellious people, for God is about to destroy this people for their rebellion and rejection of him. The people had Aaron fashion them a golden calf and were offering burnt offerings and peace offerings to it. They have worshipped a god of gold rather than Yahweh. They’ve created a graven image and it appears they’ve been engaging in sexual immorality (2 Cor 10.7). God will now destroy them and begin again with Moses. But they have one thing going for them in our story: Moses intercedes for them and God relents from this calamity.

Now this story is so interesting to me, because there are questions that abound:

  1. Why didn’t God just kill them?
  2. Does God actually change his mind when Moses ‘reminds’ him of a couple of things: namely, the covenant with Abraham and the reputation of his name?
  3. Was Moses gone that long, that the people actually forgot about God and their covenant with him?

I hope to answer these questions as we make our way through this passage today and others, as we encounter them.

Transition: Now that we’ve read the passage and reviewed it with some context, I’d like to list a few points I believe Moses is making here.

I.     Man has a natural tendency to fill a vacancy in his soul (1-7)

exp.: That’s really what we learn from the Israelites. These people have never known freedom. Ever. Sure, their ancestors did, but these folks probably never knew the wonderful existence of an Eden type of Goshen they lived in. Chapter 1 teaches us that centuries have passed. The amount of time that has passed from the 70 who came down from Israel to Egypt to the time in our story is about the same amount of time that the 1st settlers came over from England until now. That long!

These folks have had enough time of being slaves and making bricks that they have built for Pharaoh store cities: Pithom and Raamses. Their toil has been hard and unbelievably cruel. Haugen, as copied by Blackburn in his book The God who Makes himself Known: The missionary heart of the book of Exodus.

Brick making operations are big business in several developing nations. Usually resembling a rustic fortress, most are surrounded by walls 7 or 8 feet high– to keep brick poachers out, and to keep slave laborers in. Coating everything within the walls with gray– red dust and soot…. The kilns required extra labor, because someone has to stoke the charcoal first constantly to keep them at their optimum temperature. This is one of the worst jobs in an operation defined by awful jobs–excruciatingly hot, dirty, and sticky, the workers covered with charcoal dust that mixes with the dust of clay and dirt until sweat soaked skin begins to harden and crack.

Before the bricks are ready for the kiln, they must be shaped and pre-dried in the sun. All day long, slaves performed the backbreaking labor of packing wet clay and straw into molds that formed the bricks. They slapped the clay into the molds forming row after row, then other workers, usually children, carry the bricks on their heads to set them out in the sun to dry. When they are dry enough to fire, the slaves carry them to the kiln to be baked. Hour after hour, day after day, weeks that flow into months, months that turned into years… some of these slaves have been in this dirty, tedious, painful work for decades with no relief in sight. Until now.

Even as they’ve been set free for but a couple of months (the period of time from chapter three through Leviticus and most of Numbers is about a year. In Numbers 14, the rebel for the last time, before God banishes them from the Promised Land and they wander in the desert for 40 years), so they’ve only been free for a couple of months – they don’t know what it’s like to not follow someone. Honestly, I think it is innate.

Here is a truth we learn: A Vacancy creates a Vacuum. The Israelites needed someone to go before them; So they say to Aaron: Up, make us gods; the word is Elohim. Moses was Yahweh’s representative. Moses is gone! Who knows if he’ll ever come back? We need to make us something to take his place.

  • Their desire comes from what they see; they credit Moses with their delivery; Now, they see him no more! Aaron will need to take his place and they’ll need a ‘god’ to go before them.
  • They use what God has provided and fashion for themselves a god that they can see, one that can go before them. Isn’t that so human like? Paul nails this condition in Romans 1. That is also where we see much of America today – this rejection of God’s image and a perversion of worshipping the created things.
  • They use Aaron, the priest to accomplish this task; which, again is a twisted perversion of his purpose; These are the ‘elohim’ who brought you out of Egypt;

Why a calf? It symbolizes the fertility idols often represented. It is that time of the year, they see cows calving and so they think: a golden calf. This also contributes to the idea immorality was a part of their celebration. The wording in v6 intimates immorality: rose up to play. We also find this quote in 1 Corinthians 10 where Paul calls these people idolaters and sexually immoral.

app.: Man, we sit here today and know how foolish these people are! Right? But, are we not at the core of our beings just like them. Now, we know we can’t form or fashion a God with our own hands. But we still do! We take our wants and wishes and make them into what we want them to be! They become our gods.

t.s.: the first lesson we learn from this passage is that Man has a natural tendency to fill a vacancy in his soul. 2ndly,

II.    Man needs a mediator to intercede to God on his behalf (8-24)

exp.: This is an example of intercession for us; Moses intercedes for them; I know this creates a dissonance in your soul, but hang with me. This confusion or dissonance comes from the question: How can God be Sovereign and yet, change his mind?

  1. I believe God to be sovereign. Period. In moments like this, I understand God ordaining circumstances to teach us and show us Biblical Truth; in this story, God is demonstrating for us intercession. From Genesis to this point in the Bible, we’ve not seen something like this before.

Ill.: What isn’t happening is God deciding to kill them all! But, Moses says, Lord, you can’t! Remember Abraham? Oh, yeah, God might say, I forgot about that covenant. Thanks for reminding me, Moses. No, God hasn’t forgotten. He’s teaching us something here. In theological language, what we have here is a type of Christ. A mediator. Moses is demonstrating in the flesh and imperfectly (I might say) just what Christ has come and accomplished only perfectly for us.

  1. But notice even more, the personal relationship Moses has with God. God is personal and personally involved in our lives, just as he was with Moses and the Israelites.

A word of caution: Don’t detach the personal side of God and make him like some automated teller. This is a huge danger for us as theologians. You and I have a tendency to impersonalize God when we begin to comprehend his sovereignty.

ill.: The prayers of a new believer are usually personal and intimate. But, as time shapes our theology and we gain an understanding that God is sovereign, we usually become more distant, less personal, less intimate, fewer tears, just ‘matter of fact’ lists. We see him less and less as ‘Father’ and more and more as ‘Master’. I believe God wants us to ask him, petition his throne for healing and changes of direction and intervention into our lives, our children’s lives, our parents’ lives, the lives of the lost people we know. God wants a personal relationship with you.

app.: that’s the point here: God is a personal God. This was Jesus’ point, too. He said: When you pray, Pray: Our Father

app.: if you miss everything else in my message today, that’s ok, just don’t miss this! God wants a personal relationship with you.

t.s.: But there is a problem…and it is the 3rd truth here in our story.

III.   Man is insufficiently capable of remedying his own predicament. (30-35)

exp.: in our story Moses intercedes for the people, God relents, and turns away from the destruction that should come.

Ill.: Russell Moore tells the story of a church that set up on their website a confessional so that their people could come to that webpage, confess their sins and feel forgiven. In his story he said it was a Baptist Church. Oh, if it were only that easy! Just go to a webpage and fess up! Then you’ll be absolved!

Rd v 30; How, how can he possibly make atonement? Rd v 31-32; I don’t think this is the Book of Life which has the names of those who are saved in it. It could be, mind you. But I lean toward it not being. I found multiple references to stories of books being kept of a people. When a person was born, their name was recorded in a book, a registry for that village. When a person died, their name was blotted out. I think what Moses is saying here is – I know that this people has sinned a sin worthy of death. Instead of blotting out their names from your book by putting them to death… let me die for them instead. Let me atone for their sins by dying in their place.

God said in v 33 – No, each person will pay for their own sin. Rd v 34-35. Doesn’t the plea of Moses have a ring of what Christ did for us?

app.: This is precisely what Moses is doing or better yet, what God is doing through Moses in this chapter – he is drawing for us a picture of our need for a savior to come and save us from our sin. Moses couldn’t be that for them. In the coming year, as they travel toward the promised land, God will outline for them the requirement – the just penalty for their sin and the required sacrifice. Only one person could ever pay that price for them – or for you and me.


Conclusion: That’s Jesus…



  1. The Bible teaches us that we are sinners. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.
  2. It teaches us that our sinful actions deserve a swift punishment of death. There is no avoiding this.
  3. But the Bible teaches us that God, being rich in mercy, sent his son to die for the ungodly, that is you and me. Exodus 34.6-8
  4. He was hung on a cross and died between two thieves. He was assigned a grave, but he would not stay there. Jesus proved he was and is God, by rising from the dead 3 days later.
  5. And by putting your faith in him this morning, you can be assured that your sins are forgiven – that Christ paid the penalty they bring and that you can be set free from that penalty of eternal death – that is separation from God. And spend not just eternity with God, but every day from hear on out.

If you’ve never accepted Christ before, I offer him to you this morning.


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