Consequences of False Worship – Exodus 32-34

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Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

October 14, 2007

Consequences of False Worship

Exodus 32-34


Last week we discussed the instructions that God gave to Moses concerning the construction of the Tabernacle and the various items that would be included in it including the Ark of the Covenant, the Lampstand, Table of Showbread, Altar of Sacrifice and Altar of Incense as well as the details of the garments the priest would wear. All of the detail in these instructions show that God was concerned that the people approach Him in a proper manner. God was going to dwell among them and it would be dangerous for them to come before Him improperly. (See: Living in God’s Presence)

God is still concerned that people approach Him properly. While He has not given the church detail in the kinds of structures we are to make, what is to be included in them or even the design of the clothes we are to wear, God has given some very specific principles about the attitude of those who come before Him. We can come before God with confidence because of Christ, but we are to come before Him with humility (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). That humility is even to be reflected in the clothes we wear which are to be modest (1 Peter 3:3-4). We are to bring to the Lord the sacrifices of our praise (Hebrews 13:5) and offer Him our service with reverence and awe for He is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28,29). True worshipers of God approach Him according to the terms He has set with a desire to please Him. Those who approach God according to their own terms in consideration of their own comforts and desires are really only worshiping themselves and not God. They are practicing a religion and not worshiping God because of a restored relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

The sons of Israel were about to learn how serious the consequences could be when they tried to approach God according to their own whims in order to please themselves. There is a serious warning in this for us as well, for though God is patient and longsuffering, He is also righteous, holy and just. There comes a time when those attributes will bring about His justice and judgement. Turn to Exodus 32.

The Golden Calf – Exodus 32:1-6

Chapter 32 opens with the statement that the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain. He had been up there for forty days and nights and they were now wondering what had happened to him. No doubt some of them would have thought he had died because that was their own fear back in Exodus 20 after just seeing the presence of God upon the mountain and hearing his voice. Moses had actually gone up the mountain to where the glory of the Lord appeared to them as a consuming fire.

Before we get into the specifics of how they responded, it is important to remember that forty days earlier they had all said in response to Moses declaring the laws of God to them, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!” In addition, they had heard with their own ears the ten commandments upon which all the specific laws were based. They heard the Lord say, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” They heard the Lord say, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” They heard the Lord say, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”

But now it has been nearly forty days since they have seen Moses. Exodus 32:1 records that the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Right at this point they are pursuing an evil God had already warned them about. They did not have the instructions concerning the Tabernacle for Moses was still on the Mountain getting them, but they themselves knew they were not to make any idol or graven images. Aaron should have stopped them right then. Instead he said, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring [them] to me” (vs. 2).

The people do as Aaron has asked and he takes the gold rings from their hands and fashions them with a graving tool and makes them into a molten calf (vs. 3-4). When the people see it they exclaim, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” The calf immediately became an idol to them. Aaron did not help the matter for when he saw their response he built an altar before the calf and proclaimed the next day would be “a feast to the Lord.”

Clearly the molten calf was not the Lord. How then could Aaron say that this would be to the Lord? It was a common practice of that time to mount the idol that represented the god upon the back of a animal of some type, often a cow. It is possible that what Aaron had in mind was that the Lord, who is a spirit and therefore invisible, was represented by the fact that there was nothing mounted on the back of the molten calf. But even if that was his intention, he violated the commandments of the Lord in order to cater to the desires of the people. He facilitated them putting another god before the Lord. He made an idol, and in calling for a feast to be celebrated with it as a feast to the Lord, he also took the name of the Lord in vain.

Verse 6 records, “So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.” There is nothing inherently wrong with eating, drinking or even playing. Context will determine the moral character of those activities and the context here is that it was all done in false worship.

Moses’ Intercession – Exodus 32:7-14

In verses 7-10 the Lord reveals to Moses what is going on. “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted [themselves.] 8 “They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it, and have sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!'” 9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. 10 “Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”

While these statements are true, they are also a test of Moses as the mediator between God and the Israelites. It is significant that God refers to them as Moses’ people in verse 7 before detailing their corruption and obstinate nature. If there was an attempt on their part to worship the Lord, He has rejected it. God’s offer to make of Moses a great nation is conditional on Moses leaving God alone and not intervening on behalf of the people. A lesser man may have taken this as a temptation and given in to it, but Moses was true to his calling and interceded which is recorded in Exodus 32:11-13

“Then Moses entreated the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why doth Thine anger burn against Thy people whom Thou hast brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil [intent] He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Thy burning anger and change Thy mind about [doing] harm to Thy people. 13 “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants to whom Thou didst swear by Thyself, and didst say to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit [it] forever.'”

Moses’ arguments are all based on God’s glory. They are His people whom He brought out of Egypt and did so in such as way as to demonstrate His power over all the Egyptian pantheon of gods. Moses’ petitions the Lord to withhold His judgement lest the Egyptians make false accusations against Him. His final argument is that God should not destroy them because of His previous promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Verse 14 states that “the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.” This verse is cited by skeptics as a reason to deny God’s attribute of immutability. This shows their misunderstanding of immutability. The many statements that God does not change (Psalm 102:27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8) refer to Him not changing in character, not lying or changing His mind from His decree or sovereign will (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29) for He always keeps all His promises (Hebrews 6:13). The fact that God’ “changes His mind” in this verse is a comfort to us as Christians because it shows God does keep His promises to us concerning prayer. The Scriptures are full of invitations to come to the Lord in prayer and James 5:16 tells us that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” God does hear our prayers and He responds to them even “changing His mind” from stated intentions according to those prayers and in doing so accomplishes His sovereign will. If that was not true then we would be forced into fatalism and without reason to bring our requests before the Lord.

God would not destroy the people, but there would be judgement and consequences.

Moses’ Return – Exodus 32:15-29

Moses returned down the mountain with the stone tablets upon which God had written His law. He met with Joshua on the way down and as they were nearing the camp they could hear noise coming from it. Joshua thought it was the sound of war, but Moses said it was neither the sound of triumph or defeat but the sound of singing (vs. 15-18). When Moses came within sight of the camp he could see the calf and the dancing and then in anger he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. He then took the calf and burned it, then ground it to powder, then scattered it on the surface of the water and he made the people drink it (vs. 19-20).

Moses attention then focused on Aaron and his failure that allowed the people to commit such great sin. Aaron admitted that he knew the people were prone to sin, but that at their request to make a god for them he had collected their gold earrings. He then made the unbelievable claim that he threw the gold “into the fire, and out came this calf” (vs. 24) as if it was created supernaturally.

The people were still out of control so Moses stood in the gate of the camp and called out “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!” All the sons of Levi responded and Moses had them strap on their swords and go through the camp and kill those that were out of control resulting in about three thousand men being executed that day, though all the camp was guilty. That was an act of mercy. Moses then called on them to dedicate themselves to the Lord so that the Lord might bestow a blessing upon them. That ended the judgement for that day.

Moses’ Second Intercession – Exodus 32:30-35

The next day Moses rebuked the people for their great sin and told them he would again go before the Lord in an attempt to make atonement for their sin (vs. 30). Moses then met with the Lord and pleaded with Him, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. 32 “But now, if Thou wilt, forgive their sin– and if not, please blot me out from Thy book which Thou hast written!” That is an incredible statement of identification and self sacrifice because the book being referred to is the book of the living (Psalm 69:28). If God would not forgive their great sin, then Moses would prefer death with them.

33 “And the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. 34 “But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.” 35 Then the Lord smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made.”

God would not yield to Moses’ request because God still had work for Moses to do in leading the people. God would hold the guilty accountable, but the punishment would be postponed until a future day.

Moses’ Third Intercession – Exodus 33:1-17

The Lord continued His instructions to Moses telling him to lead the people to the promised land. The Lord would still send and angel before them to drive out the current inhabitants, but He added, “I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, lest I destroy you on the way.” It is a serious matter to be in the presence of the Lord for He is holy and a consuming fire. He must be approached with reverence (Deuteronomy 4:23; Hebrews 12:29). Their continued sinful stubbornness would result in their destruction if the Lord dwelt in their midst.

The people were sad when they heard this. One of the signs of their genuine sorrow and repentance was that at Lord’s instructions they stripped themselves of their ornaments from that point on as an outward sign of their sorrow.

Prior to the construction of the Tabernacle, Moses would set up a tent outside the camp that he called the tent of meeting. Moses would meet with the Lord there. The Lord would make His presence known by the pillar of cloud that would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent. When that happened the people would arise and worship, each one at the entrance of their own tent. God would then speak to Moses “face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.”

Moses went to the tent of meeting and again interceded with the Lord saying, 12 “See, Thou dost say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But Thou Thyself hast not let me know whom Thou wilt send with me. Moreover, Thou hast said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ 13 “Now therefore, I pray Thee, if I have found favor in Thy sight, let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight. Consider too, that this nation is Thy people.” 14 And He said, “My presence shall go [with you,] and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Thy presence does not go [with us,] do not lead us up from here. 16 “For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Thy sight, I and Thy people? Is it not by Thy going with us, so that we, I and Thy people, may be distinguished from all the [other] people who are upon the face of the earth?”

The major thrusts in Moses’ petitions is that he seeks assurance that the Lord has placed His favor on him. Moses has been given an enormous task in leading God’s people. For that reason he first petitions the Lord to show him His ways. Moses wants to know the Lord. Second, Moses petitions the Lord to have His presence go with them for it would be the only way that Moses would know that the Lord’s favor was upon him and that God’s people would be distinguished from all the other people on the earth.

They responded that he would grant Moses’ requests for he had found favor in the Lord’s sight.

God’s Glory – Exodus 33:18-34:8

Moses then goes a step farther and says to the Lord, “I pray Thee, show me Thy glory!” The Lord responded that He would do so but also explained how He would do it so that Moses would survive for “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (vs. 20). The Lord would have to put Moses in the cleft of a rock and cover him with His hand while the glory of the Lord passed by. The Lord would then remove His hand so that Moses could see His back, but he could not see the Lord’s face. The Lord also gave Moses directions to “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you shattered. 2 “So be ready by morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to Me on the top of the mountain. 3 “And no man is to come up with you, nor let any man be seen anywhere on the mountain; even the flocks and the herds may not graze in front of that mountain.”

Moses did as the Lord commanded and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning to meet with the Lord. Exodus 34:6-7 records the Lord proclaiming His name to Moses. 6 “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave [the guilty] unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

The name & glory of the Lord is tied to His nature, attributes and character. (See: The Nature & Attributes of God) The specific attributes proclaimed here are those that balance forgiveness and judgement. These were of special concern for what Moses was facing with the sons of Israel. They were currently in need of God’s forgiveness for their great sin that had brought them under His judgement.

Moses responded by bowing and worship. He then petitioned the Lord once again, “If now I have found favor in Thy sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate; and do Thou pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Thine own possession.” The key concern is the forgiveness of their sin for the Lord’s presence among them and His taking them as His own possession were dependent upon that. Take note again of Moses’ identification with the people as their mediator. They were the ones that had committed iniquity and sin but Moses calls it “our” iniquity and “our” sin.

Moses’ prayers in these chapters are good models for us when we are making intercession on the behalf of others. Do we condemn them for our own gain or like Moses intervene even at risk of our own loss? Do we seek what would be good for ourselves or is our driving motivation the glory of God as it was for Moses? Do we pick and choose among God’s attributes that make us comfortable or are we willing to risk knowing God in the fullness of His glory? Do we set ourselves apart from those who sin or do we identify with them in seeking the Lord’s forgiveness?

The Renewed Covenant – Exodus 34:10-28

The Lord responded with a renewed covenant. First, the Lord would perform unique miracles among them which had not been done before so that they would see the working of the Lord. He warned as well that it would be a fearful thing He would do (vs. 10). Second, God warned them about their interaction with the people He was going to drive out – the Amorite, Canaanite, Hittite, Perizzite, Hivite and Jebusite. They were not make any covenant with them for they would be a snare to them if they were in their midst (vs. 12). They were to tear down and smash their sacred places and altars lest they be led astray to play the harlot with their false gods. They were to worship only the Lord and they were not to make any molten gods (vs. 13-17). Third, they were to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread (vs. 18). Fourth, the were to follow the laws of redemption concerning their own first born and those of their animals (vs. 19-20). Fifth, they were to keep the Sabbath even during plowing time and harvest. Sixth, they were to celebrate the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Ingathering (vs. 22-24). Seventh, they were not to offer the blood of the Lord’s sacrifice with leavened bread nor leave the sacrifice of Passover until morning (vs. 25). Eighth, they were to bring the first fruits of their harvest into the house of the Lord (vs. 26). Ninth, they were not to boil a kid in its mother’s milk (vs. 26).

Moses then wrote all these words on the tablets along with the Ten Commandments. He had been on the mountain for forty days and forty nights without eating or drinking. That in itself is a miracle. He would have to have been physically sustained by the Lord directly.

Moses’ Return – Exodus 34:29-35

Moses returned to the camp with the two tablets. He did not find the sons of Israel at play this time though he had been gone the same length of time. What Moses did not know was that his face shone from having been in the presence of the Lord to speak to Him. When he returned to camp the people were afraid to come near him because of it.

Moses called all of them to gather along with Aaron and the rulers in the congregation and he told them all of the Lord’s commands. When he finished speaking he put a veil over his face. After that he would remove the veil when speaking to the Lord at the Tent of Meeting and then put it back on when he met with the sons of Israel.

Epilogue – Exodus 35-40

The book of Exodus concludes with the construction of the Tabernacle (35-36), all the articles that were to be used in it (37-38), and the garments for the priests (39). Moses and Aaron had prepared themselves according to the Lord’s directions and then put up the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:17-33). They erected it for the first time on the first day of the first month of the second year after they had left Egypt (vs. 17).

After it had been set up and everything put in its place the cloud covered the tent of meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Even Moses was not able to enter it at the time of its filling. Throughout the rest of their journeys the pillar of cloud would be over it during the day and the pillar of fire by night. If the cloud moved, they would set out and move with it. If the cloud remained they would stay encamped. The presence of the Lord was in their midst.


As Hebrews 12:29 states, “our God is a consuming fire.” Their should be reverence and awe when coming into His presence. That is something that is sadly lacking in our times among many that profess to be Christians. Ancient Israel learned the hard way the importance of coming before Him properly and obeying His commands. 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells us that we should learn from their example. It was only the intercession of Moses that kept them from being utterly destroyed for their sinful obstinance though there were still consequences they had to bear. In our own time we find that the Lord is still patient and forbearing with our sinful obstinance. We also know that Jesus and the Holy Spirit make intercession on our behalf. But these factors do not mean we should presume upon them. There are still consequences to disobedience and not having the proper reverence when coming before the Lord.

Let us give thanks that because of Jesus Christ we can come before God the Father. Through His death & resurrection He redeemed us from our sins and brought us into God’s family. Through His intercession all our needs are met and our fellowship with God is maintained. Let us also be committed to walking in daily life worthy of our calling by pursuing personal holiness, and that includes reverence in our worship of the Lord.

Sermon Study Sheets

Sermon Notes – October 14, 2007


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.

Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times Moses is mentioned. Talk with your parents about how to gain forgiveness from God for your disobedience of His commands.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What attitudes should we have when we come before God? How might those attitudes be reflected in our actions? Why did the Israelites want Aaron to make a god for them? What was their fear? Why did Aaron go along with their request? How did the calf get made? Why did Aaron proclaim a feast to the Lord using the golden calf? Why was this wrong? What commandments did they break? What was the purpose of God offering to destroy Israel and make Moses a great nation? Why then did Moses intercede to have God spare Israel? Exodus 32:14 states that the “Lord changed His mind.” How can this be compatible with the doctrine of immutability? What does it tell us about prayer? What are some of the things that demonstrated how angry Moses was when he returned to the camp? What kind of character does Aaron display in this incident including his excuses to Moses for it? Why were their only 3,000 executed? What did the Lord still have for Moses to do so that He refused to concede to Moses’ second intercession (Exodus 32:31-35)? Why wouldn’t the Lord go up with Israel? What was the reaction of the people when Moses told them about this? What is the basis of Moses’ intercessions in Exodus 33: 12-16? Moses wanted to see God’s glory. How did God reveal it to Him? What cautions had to be taken and why? Why did the Lord agree to forgive Israel’s sin and go up with them? How do you compare with Moses in how you intercede for others? God renewed the covenant with Israel. Name at least four of the requirements He placed on Israel? How long was Moses on the Mountain? What miracle occurred while he was there? What physical effect did speaking with God have upon Moses? When was the Tabernacle erected? What indicated the presence of the Lord? What can you learn from the example of Israel in this story that you can apply in your own life? How can you show God reverence in your worship?

Consequences of False Worship – Exodus 32-34


We are to come before God with ______________, ______________ and _______________

The Golden Calf – Exodus 32:1-6

40 days earlier, the people said they would _____________ the Lord had spoken

The people asked __________ to “make us a god who will go before us”

    The gold for the calf came from the ______________ of the people

They broke the __________, ______________, and _____________ commandments

It is _____________ that determines the moral character of a feast

Moses’ Intercession– Exodus 32:7-14

God’s offer to destroy Israel and make Moses a great nation was a _____________ of Moses as mediator

Moses’ arguments to not destroy Israel were based on God’s __________

Immutability means that God does not change in _______________ or from His sovereign decrees

God’s “change of mind” is an encouragement to us about the effectiveness of _______________

Moses’ Return – Exodus 32:15-29

After Moses met Joshua on the way down the mountain. He heard _____________ from the camp

Aaron claimed the calf came out of the fire _________________

The Levites killed _________________ that day. ________ the camp was guilty

Moses’ Second Intercession – Exodus 32:30-35

Moses pleaded that if God would not forgive their sin, then God should ____________ him.

God had work for Moses to do, and He would hold only the _______________ accountable

Moses’ Third Intercession – Exodus 33:1-17

Israel was at risk of being ____________ if God dwelt in their midst & they were obstinate.

Stripping off their _____________ was a sign of their repentance.

God would speak to Moses as a man speaks to his _________________

Moses asked the Lord’s favor upon him to be demonstrated by the Lord _______________________

This would also demonstrate that Israel was _______________ from all other people

God’s Glory – Exodus 33:18-34:8

God hid Moses in the cleft of the rock because if he saw God’s _______ he would die

Moses had to cut out and bring ______________ with him up the mountain

The Lord’s name is tied to His ___________ and ______________

Moses asked the Lord to ________________ their sin & take them as His own

The Renewed Covenant – Exodus 34:10-28

The Lord would do unique ____________ among them which would be a fearful thing.

They were not to make any ______________ with the inhabitants of the land

They were to keep the Sabbath even during ______________ time and ______________

Moses was on the mountain ___________ days and ___________ nights.

Moses did not ________ or __________ during that time

Moses’ Return – Exodus 34:29-35

The people were afraid of Moses because his face ___________

Moses wore a ___________ when he was with the people

Epilogue – Exodus 35-40

The Tabernacle was erected by __________ and Aaron on the 1st day of the 1st month of the ______ year

The camp would move when the _______________ moved


Only Moses’ _______________ kept Israel from being destroyed

Let us ___________________ because of Jesus Christ

Let us be committed to walking ____________ of our calling & pursue __________

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