Exodus 32 Sermon. Many People Worship Idols, Are They Wrong? What Does The Bible God Says About Idol Worship?

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Hi, my name is Janice. Welcome to Christ Unite. In today’s sermon I am covering on Exodus 32 about Idol Worship. Many of us know of people who are worshiping idols. People going to temples to pray to idols or worship them at home. Maybe you are one of these people who worship idols. Is it really good and right to worship all these idols?  What is idol worship? Is God an idol? Who is the real God? I will be covering on all these shortly.

Let’s pray.

Dearest Heavenly Father, open our ears open our eyes to hear and see you that we will know where we have sins against you. Turn our hearts towards you to know you and repent from our sins. Help us to understand your word.

In your son name Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

Let’s turn our Bible to Exodus 32. I will be reading from the NIV 1984 version.

Exodus 32 (NIV)

1When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "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."

2Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me."

3So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron.

4He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."

5When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord ."

6So 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.

7Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.

8They 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.'

9"I have seen these people," the Lord said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people.

10Now 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."

11But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. "O Lord ," he said, "why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?

12Why 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.

13Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: '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.' "

14Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

15Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back.

16The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

17When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, "There is the sound of war in the camp."

18Moses replied: "It is not the sound of victory, it is not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear."

19When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.

20And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.

21He said to Aaron, "What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?"

22"Do not be angry, my lord," Aaron answered. "You know how prone these people are to evil.

23They said to me, '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.'

24So I told them, 'Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.' Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!"

25Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies.

26So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, "Whoever is for the Lord , come to me." And all the Levites rallied to him.

27Then he said to them, "This is what the Lord , the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.' "

28The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.

29Then Moses said, "You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day."

30The next day Moses said to the people, "You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord ; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin."

31So Moses went back to the Lord and said, "Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold.

32But now, please forgive their sin-but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written."

33The Lord replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.

34Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin."

35And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

What will you do when you keep waiting and waiting but still didn’t get any response. Didn’t see any thing happening? Your friend didn’t turn up for appointment. You feel tired, frustrated right?

This is what happened when the Israelites feel when they grew tired of waiting for Moses when he went to Mount Sinai to see God for many days, not knowing when he will return, whether he will return. Moses only returned after 40 days and 40 nights as stated in Exodus 24:18. So the Israelites complained to Aaron that they don’t know what happened to Moses and want Aaron to make other gods to lead and guide them. Aaron feeling the pressure from the huge crowd request told them to get their gold earrings and bring them to him.  He took all the gold, melted them and made them into a gold cast in the shape of a calf bull.  The Israelites seeing the calf, they proclaimed it is this calf their god that brought them out of Egypt. Aaron seeing the people reaction, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced next day there will be a festival to the Lord. The people got up early next day and worship the calf idol sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. They celebrated, went into eating and drinking spree.

God knowing what is happening told Moses what these people had done. God got angry with them and told Moses to leave Him. He said they had forgotten what He had just commanded them not to do. Not to worship idols. Not to bow down any other gods a few days ago. This can be found in Exodus 20:2-4 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The people have totally repel against God and make a calf idol and worship it as god proclaiming that it is the calf that brought them out of Egypt.

Why did the people make a gold calf bull? Is because when they were in Egypt, the Egyptians worship calf. In the old testament the Hebrew word used is egel (pronounce as hay girl) which is a young bull of about one year old. This actually represents Egyptian god Apis. The people were turning back to the religion that they knew.  The god Apis was the god of strength and fertility.  The bull was chosen because it symbolized the courageous heart, great strength and fighting spirit of the king. Apis was considered a manifestation of the king, as bulls were symbols of strength and fertility, qualities that are closely linked with kingship. Apis was linked to the pharaoh and the symbol of pharaoh embodying the qualities of kingship.  The spirit of Apis was said to be present in the body of a real bull that was kept and raised by pharaoh’s priest.  When the bull reached the age of one year, it was sacrificed and the flesh was eaten by the pharaoh taking on the spirit of Apis.

Knowing what the people had done. Going back to Egyptian god. God wanted to destroy them. Moses appeal to God reminding him if the Israelites were killed. The Egyptians will say that you have evil intent from the beginning to get them out of Egypt and kill them. Don’t let this happen. Turn from anger, don’t bring disaster to your own people. Remember your covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Israel that you will make their descendants numerous, giving them land you promise.

The Lord God relented after hearing from Moses appeal. He did not give the disaster he proclaim.

Moses then went down the mountain with the 2 tablets of 10 Commandments God had written. However, when he reached the bottom of the mountain, saw the calf and the people dancing, Moses grew angry and broke the 2 tablets God gave. He took the calf, burnt it, ground it to powder, scattered in on the water and made the Israelites drink the powder water.

Why did Moses burnt the idol calf, put the burnt calf powder into water and made the Israelites drink it? This is to show idols can be destroy. It is not God. It has no power to defend itself, protect itself. Moses powder the ashes mixed with water was for the Israelites to drink back their own sins. He wanted them to realize their own sins, mistakes. Also, they were in desert and drought area. Hardly had sufficient water. They had complained previously to Moses for water and God provided water for them. Now, with the contaminated water is a form of punishment to them and reminder of their sins and what God had previously provided them with clean clear water to drink.

Have you ever have experience drinking incense water, ashes water, burnt paper water? I had experience drinking burnt paper ashes water before when I was young. I was brought up in a family with Buddhism and Taoist belief. We worship various gods deities idols at home and in temple. There were occasions where my mum brought me to mediums who chanted, asking various gods idols to heal me. The medium wrote some words on a paper and asked my mum to burn it for me to drink with water. The taste was terrible but I was forced to drink it saying is good for me. In those days, I was afraid of all these idols and also the Niu Tou Ma Mian牛头马面 (Ox-Head and Horse-Face) who are in charge of hell according to traditional Taoist belief. Taoist believe that you need to offer incense and money paper offering to Niu Tou Ma Mian so you will not suffer in hell and your ancestors will not suffer in hell. Thinking of this now, they remind me of the calf bull idol mention in today’s sermon. Is also related bull. Ox face idol. I am no longer worshipping all these idols.

I also recalled every Chinese New Year, my mum and I will check any clash with Fan Tai Sui which means offending the God of Tai Sui for the new year. If there is any family member that clashes, that family member need to make offering to Tai Sui for pardon. Those who don’t people say these people life will not be smooth, problems at work, bad relationship, health problems. So for a few years, my family and I had to go to the temple and pray to Tai Sui for pardon and offer incense.

Thinking about my past experience of visiting the temple to pray to Tai Sui, Niu Tou Ma Mian, Hell god, I remembered was a very dark room full of incense that I couldn’t stand and the incense hurt the eyes. They were bad experiences. Yet my family and I blindly continue to worship all these idols for many years.

Now my mum, my 1st younger brother and me are Christian. We no longer go to Chinese temples to worship idols. I still have my youngest brother and his family who are Soka Buddhist. All 3 of us, me, my mum and my 1st brother couldn’t stand the chanting of the Soka Buddhist. We often have conflict because of our differences in belief. My dad passed away as Buddhist. Actually, my dad wanted to know more about God, Jesus Christ after his recovery from a major surgery to remove a huge tumor around his lung. He had thymoma cancer. That time, only my 1st younger brother was Christian and he brought some of his Christian friends to visit my dad and they prayed for him. Dad after his surgery wanted me to bring him to my brother’s church. I refused and told him to go on his own. He went to the church on his own. I think twice. After that, I told him he should not believe in Christianity. He is Buddhist. He should believe in Buddha. Not Christianity. I thought Christianity then is a false God. He listened to me as I am his favorite child and went back to worship idols in Chinese temples. That move turns out to be deadly as soon after he died of pneumonia caused by radiotherapy killing all the good cells and he got infection. I am still regretting over my past sins, mistakes and my dad. May God forgive my mistakes and my dad.

I hope you will realize that there are consequences if you worship idols in your life. Now let’s continue to see what are the consequences the Israelites suffered for their sins.

Moses asked Aaron his brother Israelites high priest what did the Israelites do that he led them to such great sin. Aaron actually lied that the calf came out by itself from the gold fire, He was the one that made the golden calf shape with a tool. Despite Moses burning the calf turning it into powder ashes and forcing the Israelites to drink it, there are still many people continue to be wild partying, eating, drinking merrily. Moses then addresses the people at the entrance of the camp asking anyone who is for the Lord to come to his side. Only the Levites came to him. The rest didn’t.

Moses then told the Levites men saying the Lord God of Israel wanted them to get their swords and go to the camp and kill those who repel against God. Show no mercy even though they might be their friend or relative. They obeyed and killed 3000 people.

Looking at the number 3000 people. Is this the full Israelites population? No. In Numbers 1, God had told Moses to take a census of the whole Israelites population all the men who are 20 years and above can serve the army. The total men were 603,550 not including children and wives. The total estimated Israelites population including men, children and wives were more than 2 Million people. This shows that only those who continue to repel against God, the rebellion leaders were killed.

Note, in today’s context, we can’t go about killing people just because of others not worshipping God. Even though in history, God spoke through his appointed leaders to do so. For today’s context, is totally different. Don’t be mislead by others who tell you to kill others to honour God. You need to be careful. Leave it to God’s own judgement in the future.

After a day of killing, the next day Moses feel he needs to make atonement for the people sins. He told his people that they have committed a great sin and he need to appeal to God for forgiveness of their sins.

He went to God and offered himself to be removed from the book of life as atonement for the people’s sins. God told him, whoever has sinned against Him, He will blot out of his book of life. God told Moses to go and lead them to the promise land, his angel will go with them. He said when the time come for punishment, He will punish them for their sin. After saying that, the Lord struck the people with a plague because of their idol calf worship.

Do you notice that this time, God didn’t go ahead of them. Instead He sent his angel instead. Because of the people sins, God left them. Also, did you notice Moses wanted to offer himself as sacrifice for his people? Moses a human being can’t be an atonement sacrifice for God. Later on in the Bible, God sent his son Jesus Christ as an atonement sacrifice for his people which He accepted as that is his only son.

Now let’s come back to our earlier questions.

Is it really good and right to worship idols? The answer is No. Why is it so? Because God commanded us not to worship idols. If not, there will be punishment. Remember to love your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. 

What is idol worship? Anything that is more importance than God. Treating the idol that can give them their desires. It can be physical idols, human idols or material idol such as wealth.

Is God an idol? No. God is not an idol. God cannot be put in any physical form, sculpture form to worship.

Who is the real God? God the Father. God the son Jesus Christ is the real God.

I hope you now have a better understanding what is idol worship, the consequences of idol worship and who God really is and what He wants us to do. That is to believe and trust in Him even though it might be a very long waiting time for Him to answer your prayer.

Let’s pray.

Dearest Heavenly Father,

You are our almighty God and Lord. Our only God whom we believe and trust. Forgive us of our past mistakes in life. Our sins for turning to false idols making many mistakes that upset you, hurt you, anger you. Turn away from your anger, remember we are your beloved children whom you love. A Father always love His children and He will take good care of his children, always loving them, protecting them and providing for them. We need your love and care Abba Father. Don’t leave us. Don’t forsake us. Be with us always. We love you always.

In your son name Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

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