Remembering the Passover & Exodus: a selection of passages & meditations
"I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people"

Scripture: Exodus 32:1-20

1 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; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."

2 And Aaron said to them, "Take off the rings of gold which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf; and they said, "These are your Gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!"

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, "Tomorrow shall be 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 drink, and rose up to play.

7 And the LORD said to Moses, "Go down; for your people, whom you brought up 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 for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, `These are your Gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'" 9 And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people; 10 now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; but of you I will make a great nation." 11 But Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, "O LORD, why does thy wrath burn hot against thy people, whom thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, `With evil intent did he bring them forth, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou didst swear by thine own self, and didst say to them, `I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.'" 14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people.

15 And Moses turned, and went down from the mountain with the two tables of the testimony in his hands, tables that were written on both 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 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, "There is a noise of war in the camp." 18 But he said, "It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear." 19 And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses' anger burned hot, and he threw the tables out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it upon the water, and made the people of Israel drink it.

Meditation: The people in Moses' absence break the covenant and earn God's punishment. While Moses was gone for forty days on top of the mountain, the people grew impatient and restless. The reverted to the paganism of Egypt and demanded that an idol be made. The golden calf provided the Israelites with something they could hold on to as their strength and security. It very likely represented the throne of the God who supposedly sat upon its back.

For Israel to revert to idolatry, so soon after God's manifestation to them on the mountain, after the solemn pledge of the whole assembly to follow the law of the covenant, and the sealing of the covenant with the blood of sacrifice, was an act of grave infidelity to the God who delivered them from Egypt and who brought them to his holy mountain to form then into a holy nation. Idolatry is a strong temptation in any age. The prominent idols of our age are the Gods of self, fame, and material wealth. Behind all idolatry is rebellion and self-will, a refusal to submit to God and his ways. God warned Moses: "I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people." Union with God is not possible without the surrender of self-will and the surrender of the heart to him What idols do you need to guard against?

When Moses recognizes the grave offense which his own people have committed, he stands in the breach between Israel and God and pleads with the Lord for mercy. Moses pleaded God's eternal covenant with Abraham, and he appealed to God's faithfulness, and his intercession prevailed. Without a mediator in God's redemptive plan, our sinfulness would draw down his judgment on us (see James 1:17). Moses' intercession foreshadows that of Jesus, our mediator, who intercedes on our behalf before the throne of grace and mercy.

"Lord Jesus Christ, you plead for us at the right hand of the Father. Your blood has won for us eternal salvation. Free me from pride and wilfulness, that I may serve you wholeheartedly and obey you fully in all you ask of me."

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(c) 1999, 2001, 2002 Don Schwager