130915 Exodus 32:7-14

Last Updated on Monday, 16 September 2013 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Sermon Text: Exodus 32:7 – 14
Sermon Theme: Do You Practice Idolatry?


Idolatry. When I mention that word to you, what is the first picture that jumps into your head? Do you picture a Muslim, as he bows down to offer his prayers to Allah? Do you picture a Buddhist bowing down to a statue of his god Buddha? Or, do you picture someone praying for help to one of the "saints," such as Mary or St. Peter? If I were to ask each one of you here today whether or not you practice idolatry, I think most, if not all of you, would quickly respond with a loud "NO WAY! Are you kidding? I don't practice idolatry!" But today I am going to ask you to examine that answer. So I ask the question again: DO YOU PRACTICE IDOLATRY? From God's Word before us in Exodus chapter 32 we will see that the sin idolatry is far too easy for you and me to fall into. And we will see that there is only one cure.

Let's begin with a brief review: Following the awesome display of the almighty Lord's power, Moses and the Children of Israel left Egypt. Three months later they came to Mount Sinai. Moses had gone up the mountain to receive the Law of the Lord. He was there 40 days and 40 nights. The people were becoming impatient. So they said to Aaron, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him." Rather than stand up for the one true God, Aaron gives in to the crowd. He makes an idol for the people in the form of a golden calf. And we are told, "So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry."

As the Children of Israel are allowing themselves to be carried away in their sin of idolatry, Moses is still on the mountain with the LORD. Verse seven tells us that the LORD knows what the people are doing and he is angry! The LORD says to Moses: "Go down, because your people, whom you brought out of Egypt, have become corrupt." The LORD is so upset with the people that, in his righteous judgment, he is no longer able to call them his own. God points out to Moses that it didn't take long for the Children of Israel to fall into the sin of idolatry. He tells Moses, "They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'" The LORD also describes the people as "stiff-necked." Like a cow or a horse stiffens itself up so it won't be able to follow you, so also the Children of Israel had "stiffened" their necks in doing the LORD's will. Just like stubborn children, they would rather defy their Father in heaven. Because of his anger at the people for breaking the First Commandment and falling into the sin of idolatry, the Lord threatens to punish the people. "Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation." Note that the LORD does not take lightly the sin of idolatry. The people have turned away from him for a false god and now he threatens to destroy them.

Several years ago Newsweek Magazine had a stack of silver dollars as its cover picture. On each coin was printed the words "In Oil We Trust." You and I daily are tempted to fall into the sin of idolatry. We are tempted to rely on other things rather than rely on our God. It may start out small. For instance, at first we may keep out only a few dollars from the collection plate, so that we can put a little more away in our retirement or savings account, or buy the latest and greatest electronic gadget. But then, as this sin grows in us, we find ourselves only giving to the Lord what is left over, (which many times may be nothing at all) rather than our first fruits. Or, perhaps you only miss church once a month or so. You went out with your friends the night before, and just couldn't get up; or, you had a hard week at work and Sunday is the only day you had all to yourself. But as the weeks quickly turn into months, you find yourself attending worship less and less. You even find yourself purposely scheduling things so that you can't make it to church. Idolatry today can take many different shapes. Your god may be money, or power, or wanting close friends more than you want to be close to God. But, all forms of idolatry fall under the same sentence from our God. Our Lord in heaven wants us to worship him alone. When you and I give in to temptation and we make the things of this world more important than the One and Only true God, then you and I will have to shake with fear at the judgment of God when he says to you and me, "Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them."

Yes, it is far too easy for you and me to fall into the sin of idolatry. When we do, we are in danger of coming under the curse of our Lord. But, at those times when you and I do fall into the sin of idolatry, we have a cure for that sin. By God's grace, you and I have a cure for ALL of our sins. We have One who pleads before God on our behalf. He is far greater than Moses. He is our one and only Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

For the children of Israel, there was only one cure to save them from the great sickness of idola¬try they had fallen into. The children of Israel had a mediator, a "go-between", for them on that day. After the Lord told Moses what he intended to do to the Children of Israel, we read how Moses pleaded three times with the LORD on behalf of the people. The first thing that Moses does is he reminds the LORD of his great mercy for Israel in Egypt. In verse 11 we read: "O LORD, why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?" To protect the reputation of the LORD is the next plea which Moses uses. "Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people." (Note that here Moses calls the children of Israel YOUR, that is, God's people.) Finally, Moses recalls the promise that the LORD made to Israel's forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (here called Israel): "I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever." In response to the pleas of Moses, we see the LORD's mercy shine forth as we read: "Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threat¬ened."

We have a mediator who pleads before the LORD for you and me, much like Moses did for the people. However, our mediator Jesus Christ, unlike Moses, only needs to point to himself, and what he has done for us. Jesus Christ is our one cure for our guilt. Jesus alone carried your sins and mine on his back. Only Jesus suffered the punishment which our sins deserved. By his death on the cross, Jesus Christ saved you and me from certain destruc¬tion in hell. In Isaiah 53 we read, "For he (Christ) bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressor." Offering up his perfect life on the cross is one way that Jesus made intercession for us. But he has not stopped. It is a sad but true fact: you and I are guilty of committing sins every day. When we do sin, you and I have Jesus Christ, who is now in heaven, pleading with his Father in heaven on our behalf. In 1 John chapter 2 we are told, "If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One." Just as Moses was a cure for the children of Israel, and saved them from certain destruction by interceding for them, so also Jesus Christ saves you and me from God's eternal judgment. You I do have a cure, a mediator, who is greater than Moses; one who not only speaks for us, but who actually took our guilt away!

Do you practice idolatry? If you and I take an honest look at our past attitudes and actions, all of us here today would have to confess that we, at times, fall into the sin of idolatry. We may not walk down the streets praising Allah, or Buddha or a Saint from long ago. However, far too often, you and I break the First Commandment by making the things of this world the most important part of our lives. Sadly, to fall into the sin of idolatry is an easy thing to do. But, at those times when we find that we have fallen into this sin, you and I have peace, knowing that we have the one cure; our loving Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.


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