Today, I’m skipping ahead in Exodus to a dramatic narrative from at Mount Sinai… It’s rather long, so I’m jumping right in…
Then He said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel, and you shall worship at a distance. 2 Moses alone, however, shall come near to the Lord, but they shall not come near, nor shall the people come up with him” (Ex 24:1-2 NASB).
“At a distance” proclaims the best the Law could do for the Children of Israel. They could search out the Law and not be able to find the two words, “come near” until the Blood of Jesus made it possible to draw nigh to the LORD.
But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the Blood of Christ. For He is our peace, Who has made both one and has broken down the middle wall of partition between us (Eph 2:13-14 KJV).
Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!” 4 Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. 5 He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the Lord (Ex 24:3-5 NASB).
The people made this response to what Moses told them as he came down from the mountain the first time. They vowed as a whole to do all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, which included the Ten Commandments.
The “Altar” built by Moses represents Chris and what He would do at the Cross. The “twelve pillars” represent the Government of God, built on the Foundation of the Cross, which was in the Mind of God from before the foundation of the world.
Forasmuch as you know that you were no redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers. But with the Precious Blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot. Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world (I Peter 1:18-20 KJV).
The “burnt offerings” signified that God would give His all as it refers to the Redemption of man, and the “peace offerings” signified that the “whole burnt offering” was accepted by God and peace is now restored.
Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7 Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” 8 So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words” (Ex 24:6-8 NASB).
The Bible is for a second time mentioned, this time in connection with the Law. The blood, which symbolized the life of the victim, was the essential part of every Sacrifice, and was usually poured over the Altar or sprinkled upon it, as the crowning act of Offering. The blood being sprinkled on the people probably pertained to their leaders and representatives. Half of the blood was sprinkled on the Altar, pledging God to His engagement, and the other half was sprinkled upon the people, so pledging them.
Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, 10 and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. 11 Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank (Ex 24:9-11 NASB).
Before the invitation given to Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s two sons, and seventy elders could be accepted, the Blood of the Burnt and Peace Offerings had to be shed. No matter how distinguished the man, no one can approach God in his own person. He can only draw near through the Blood of Jesus.
Now the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction.” 13 So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. 14 But to the elders he said, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them” (Ex 24:12-14 NASB).
Moses and Joshua ascended up to the mountain of God, and they left Aaron and Hur in charge below.
Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the Lord rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17 And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. 18 Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights (Ex 24:15-18 NASB).
Apparently, Moses went further than Joshua, stopping only when he arrived at the Cloud. He waited six days until the LORD called him. He would spend the next forty day and forty nights being given instruction from Jehovah God.
There is great detail given in the next few chapters of the instruction given for the Tabernacle—its structure, furniture, and Priesthood. It is interesting to note how God gave us only two chapters about the Creation of the Earth and fitting it for human habitation, and He gives twelve chapters to tell us about the Tabernacle, which in every detail pointed to the Messiah Jesus Christ.
At this time, I am not going to talk about all the details of the Tabernacle but instead moved ahead to the narrative of what was happening among the Children of Israel as they waited on Moses to return…
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, 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.” 2 Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me” (Ex 32:1-2 NASB).
Israel could not go very long without the strong spiritual leadership of Moses. Without Moses being present, the people would cry, “Make us gods!”
Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt” (Ex 32:3-4 NASB).
The calf was the great god of the Egyptians. It was carried in the vanguard of their processions. Sacrifices were offered to it, and dances executed in its honor. It was worshipped as the generator of life. So, the Children of Israel were, in effect, returning to the pagan worship of the land from which Jehovah God had brought them forth.
Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” 6 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 (Ex 32:5-6 NASB).
One of my best friends is named Aaron, and he’s commented that the Aaron of the Bible really wasn’t much of a person, and I’ve replied that Rachel wasn’t much of a Biblical character either—the truth be told… Just thought I’d throw that personal tidbit in there…
George Williams writes: “One of the great ploys of Satan is not to abolish God, but to represent Him by something visible. Also, Satan can, through a religious teacher like Aaron, associate idolatry with Christ, recognize the good in all religions, and provide a worship that appeals to man’s natural heart. In fact, everything was done by Aaron under the cover of ‘religion.’”
While Cain had the right Altar but the wrong sacrifice, Israel here had the right sacrifice but the wrong altar. The LORD could not accept either one because both were man-devised.
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!’” (Ex 32:7-8 NASB).
The LORD calls the Children of Israel “your people,” revealing that He has disowned Israel at this point. They had, in fact, as a whole made spiritual orphans of themselves.
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” (Ex 32:9-10 NASB).
The word “obstinate” also is translated “stiff-necked.”
Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. 16 The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets. 17 Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.” 18 But he said, “It is not the sound of the cry of triumph, nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat; but the sound of singing I hear” (Ex 32:15-18 NASB).
So, Moses comes down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments, and he and Joshua hear the Children of Israel singing to their golden calf.
It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it (Ex 32:19-20 NASB).
The anger of Moses was righteous indignation. He broke the Tablets as a symbols of the anger of God, and he burnt the calf and ground it to powder and mixed it in the water for the people to drink to show the utter worthlessness of this idol they had made.
Then Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?” 22 Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make a god for us who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf” (Ex 32:21-24 NASB).
Now Moses will hear his brother Aaron’s excuses. He blames his actions on the people, instead of repenting by accepting his own personal responsibility. And he goes even further to insinuate that it is also somehow Moses’ fault for tarrying on the Mountain. Then he seems to claim that he hadn’t actually built the idol but it had somehow appeared by its own accord.
Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies— 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him (Ex 32:25-26 NASB).
In response to the mayhem, Moses issues a rallying cry—“Who for Jehovah?” The successor of Moses, Joshua, would later draw such a line in the sand, saying, “Choose you this day.”
Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak but Thou art mighty; hold me with Thy powerful hand; bread of heaven feed me till I want no more.
Open now the crystal fountain whence the healing streams do flow; let the fiery, cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through; strong Deliverer, be Thou still my strength my shield.
When I tread the very of Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside; bear me through the swelling current; land me safe on Canaan’s side; songs of praises I will ever give to Thee. – Oliver