Exodus 32-34…The golden calf, the glory of the Lord is revealed to Moses, and the new stone tablets are given.
Three observations about these chapters in Exodus:
1) Exodus 32 – It is possible to be sincere in our worship of God, and be wrong.
Aaron led the people in an act that they thought would please God. However, they worshiped an idol, and not God. This angered the Lord. We know from Ecclesiastes, that there is nothing new under the sun, and this kind of false worship, veiled in “religiosity” is popular today. Worship of the idols of health and wealth, which is simply an obsession over self, has become popular in our day. Using the name of Christ as a way to get something else is deplorable, but the greed we see in the prosperity teachers today shouldn’t surprise us. God clearly has a harsh judgement for them, seen in 2 Peter 2:2-3:
“Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.”
Do not be deceived by false teachers. They are dangerous because their teaching seems right and true. Be careful not to follow teachers who use singular verses as theological pillars. The context of each verse in light of the passage, book, testament, and scripture as a whole needs to be understood to avoid false teaching.
2) Exodus 33 – God’s wrath is against false worship.
False worship, or the love of idols, is deplorable to the Lord. In Exodus 33, He refuses to go with the people to the land flowing with milk and honey. In 33:5 He says, “Tell the Israelites, “You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you.” This is another reason why false teachers are dangerous. You can be so deceived that your faith may not be authentic, particularly if it’s misdirected. God is the object of our worship, and by grace alone through repentance and faith in Christ alone are we saved.
3) Exodus 34 – The riddle of the Old Testament points to Christ.
If Genesis 3:15 was the proto-gospel, Exodus 34:6-7 could be called the riddle of the Old Testament. Moses asks to see God glory, and He reveals Himself, and says:
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
How can God do this? How can he forgive sin and still not leave the guilty unpunished? This is the great riddle, and the answer is Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life, fulfilling God’s law without blemish. This is the only way for God to love thousands, and preserve a people for Himself. Apart from Christ, God’s wrath is on those who are guilty. If we’re in Christ, the only way we’re not guilty is because He took on the punishment we deserve.