Digging Ourselves Into a Hole
Midweek 6 LSB #570
Text – Exodus 32:4-6
[Aaron] received the gold from their hand & fashioned it with a graving tool & made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation & said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day & offered burnt offerings & brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat & drink & rose up to play.
DIGGING OURSELVES INTO A HOLE
It was the annual Lessing family vacation – version 2006. It was late December & they were in Florida. They couldn’t wait to hit the beach. Then it happened! Just north of Daytona they saw the ocean. Everyone said, “Dad, take a left turn & let’s hit the beach!” So he did what any good dad would do. He took a left turn so they could hit the beach!
They hit the beach, all right, & they hit sand – some really deep sand. Bam! Everyone lurched forward. Four sets of eyes glared at him. Now, a lesser man might have told everyone to get out & push. Not him. No siree! He would get them out the manly way. He hit the accelerator, full throttle. The van did not budge, & neither did he.
He hit the accelerator again, confident that they’d get out this time. The result? They ended up going even deeper into the sand. Lisa blurted out, “Reed, what are you thinking?” That was the problem. He was not thinking! They were stuck with no way out. Aaron, the older brother of Moses, he also knew what it feels like to be stuck in the sand.
In this series on the book of Exodus we’ve come to chapter 32. First, Aaron takes a wrong turn. Second, Aaron gets stuck. Third, Aaron hits the accelerator & ends up digging himself & the Israelites into a huge hole. Can you feel his pain?
Here’s the context. The golden calf episode is sandwiched between God’s instructions to Moses about the tabernacle & the tabernacle’s construction in Exodus 35–40.
The crisis arises, “When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back
down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “‘Come on,’ they said, ‘make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt’” (Exodus 32:1). Moses had been on the top of Mt. Sinai for 40 days & 40 nights. People were getting impatient: “How much longer?”
You know that feeling. So do I. We see how long it takes to get through school. We see how long it takes to build a marriage. We see how long it takes to raise children. We see how long it takes to save money. We don’t like a God who makes us wait. We want a god who can satisfy right now! That’s what Aaron offers:
“‘Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives & sons & daughters, & bring them to me.’ All the people took the gold rings from their ears & brought them to Aaron. Then, he took the gold, melted it down & molded it into the shape of a calf” (Exodus 32:2–4). Aaron offers a god who can satisfy right now! With that, Aaron takes a wrong turn. And next – Aaron gets stuck.
His claim! “Aaron saw how excited the people were, so he built an altar in front of the calf. Then he announced, ‘Tomorrow will be a festival to the LORD!’” (Exodus 32:5). Did you notice his stunning claim? Aaron calls the calf “the LORD.” Aaron is digging deep now!
So, how often do we exchange the real God for a fake one & then claim that the fake god is the real God? Answer. We do this way too often. We do this far too often! What are the top fake gods in America? Money, sports & jobs. Money, sports & jobs promise everything. In the end money, sports & jobs deliver nothing.
Aaron takes a wrong turn. Aaron gets stuck. Aaron then hits the accelerator & ends up digging himself & the Israelites into a huge hole! And what would that be? “The people celebrated with feasting & drinking, & indulged in pagan revelry” (Exodus 32:6). Pagan revelry means “sexual immorality.” When Paul reflects on Exodus 32 in 1 Corinthians 10:8 that’s what
he calls it – sexual immorality. Spiritually speaking, Aaron had just dug a giant hole!
The come-on. It starts out just like it did with Aaron. We get impatient: “How much longer!” We take a wrong turn. We get stuck. Then we’re tempted to hit the accelerator by disregarding the 6th commandment: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).
Someone slides a room key in our direction. Someone shows up on Facebook & just wants to talk. Someone offers a listening ear, a gentle touch, or more. Justifications & rationalizations pop up like weeds after a summer rain. “No one will know. I won’t get caught. What’s the big deal? I’m only human.”
We don’t like the God who makes us wait. We want a god who can satisfy right now! Let me say this as clearly as possible. Do not hit the accelerator! If you are stuck in an emotional, financial, or relational hole, don’t make matters worse by doing something you will regret for the rest of your life.
Here’s a suggestion. Make a list of all the people you would hurt by doing something immoral. The author has his list – his wife, three children, a son-in-law & granddaughter; every person who has read his books, colleagues in ministry & the dear people of his congregation. One bad decision is a poor exchange for a lifetime of lost legacy.
Dads, would you intentionally break the arm of your child? Of course not! That would violate every fiber of your being. But if you engage in sexual activity outside of marriage, you will bring more pain into your children’s lives than a hundred broken arms.
Moms, would you force your children to sleep outside on a cold winter night? Certainly not! But if you have an affair, you will bring more darkness & chill into the lives of your children than a hundred polar vortex winters. If you are unmarried, would you desecrate a Bible or make a mockery of the cross? No way! Yet, when you are immoral, you break God’s heart. In Exodus 32:21, 30, 31 Moses calls Israel’s sexual immorality a great sin. It’s a great sin because of who committed it – Aaron, the high priest, & the Israelites, the chosen people of God. It’s a great sin because of where they committed it – at Mount Sinai, God’s holy mountain. It is a great sin because of when they committed it – right after God delivered them from Egypt.
If I were Moses I’d wash my hands of the whole mess. But Moses does not. Moses doesn’t do that at all! What He does is pray, because the covenant is the answer.
Moses prays to Yahweh, “Turn away from Your fierce anger. Change Your mind about this terrible disaster You have threatened against Your people! Remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac & Israel” (Exodus 32:12–13). When you are in a hole, claim the covenant! What covenant? God’s covenant with the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac & Israel.
What happens then? “The LORD changed His mind about the terrible disaster He had threatened to bring on His people” (Exodus 32:14). The covenant with Abraham, Isaac & Israel is an everlasting covenant sealed in blood – that’s what Genesis 15:10 tells us.
Sin cannot break this covenant. Idolatry cannot nullify it. Death cannot defeat it. And a huge hole cannot swallow it up. The covenant that God made with Abraham, Isaac & Israel is fulfilled in the death of Jesus. God’s covenant promises are sealed forever in Jesus’s blood, shed on the cross, for you; & that blood announces that God is always loving.
He is always kind. He is always forgiving. God is always abounding in grace & mercy. We’ve all taken wrong turns. All of us have built golden calves. We have worshiped other gods. We have known the hell of the hole, but it doesn’t matter how deep our hole is, we are not stuck. We are not stuck in a hellhole forever!
What can we do? We can do what Moses did. Claim the covenant. Claim Christ’s new covenant promises delivered to us in His cleansing, powerful & renewing blood. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet