Wednesday, May 29, 2019

At the Golden Calf

"So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron" (Exodus 32:3).

While Moses was on the mountain getting plans for the Tabernacle, the people on the plain below invented their own ideas for worship. Before they had a chance to donate the Egyptian spoils of gold and silver to build God’s house, they gave much of it to build a golden calf. The people had not only taken Egyptian goods, which as “spoil” had been commanded by God, but they had brought along Egyptian philosophy and worship, which was entirely forbidden.

The golden calf did not represent another god, but was a false way of approaching Yahweh, the God who had delivered them from Egypt (Exodus 32:4–6). Instead of worshipping God the way He had directed, the people devised their own way of worship, which rapidly degenerated into carnality and riot.

God had delivered the firstborn sons of Israel, claiming them for Himself. These young men became the priests of Israel (Exodus 24:5). At the golden calf, however, they betrayed their calling and were disqualified. When Moses called for men to join with God in executing the leaders of the apostasy, it was the Levites who came to his side. As a result, Moses told them they had been set apart for the Lord, and that they would replace the firstborn sons of Israel as priests (Exodus 32:29).

In Numbers 3 we read that God commanded that a census be taken of the Levites and firstborn sons of Israel. Then, head by head they were exchanged. There were 273 extra firstborn sons who were redeemed at the rate of five shekels each. Thus, the firstborn sons of Israel, though in principle dedicated to the Lord, were always redeemed and God took the tribe of Levi as His priests instead. 

Jesus serves as our Levite. Though in Adam we were initially assigned to be God’s priests, we fell to sin and were disqualified. As Adam listened to an animal, so Israel worshipped through one (Romans 1:23). Because of our failure to live up to our calling as priests, God sent The Perfect High Priest, Jesus Christ, to take our place. If we had remained as priests, we would have been destroyed because of our sin. By taking our place, Jesus has removed us from the threat against us.

When Adam fell, God banished him from the Garden. When Israel fell, God removed Himself from their camp. What reason did God give for this (Exodus 32:10; 33:3–7)? Assess whether you have built any idols in your life.