Exodus 32

* The people cause Aaron to make a golden calf. (1-6) God's

displeasure, The intercession of Moses. (7-14) Moses breaks the

tables of the law, He destroys the golden calf. (15-20) Aaron's

excuse, The idolaters slain. (21-29) Moses prays for the people.


1-6 While Moses was in the mount, receiving the law from God,

the people made a tumultuous address to Aaron. This giddy

multitude were weary of waiting for the return of Moses.

Weariness in waiting betrays to many temptations. The Lord must

be waited for till he comes, and waited for though he tarry. Let

their readiness to part with their ear-rings to make an idol,

shame our niggardliness in the service of the true God. They did

not draw back on account of the cost of their idolatry; and

shall we grudge the expenses of religion? Aaron produced the

shape of an ox or calf, giving it some finish with a graving

tool. They offered sacrifice to this idol. Having set up an

image before them, and so changed the truth of God into a lie,

their sacrifices were abomination. Had they not, only a few days

before, in this very place, heard the voice of the Lord God

speaking to them out of the midst of the fire, Thou shalt not

make to thyself any graven image? Had they not themselves

solemnly entered into covenant with God, that they would do all

he had said to them, and would be obedient? ch. #24:7|. Yet

before they stirred from the place where this covenant had been

solemnly made, they brake an express command, in defiance of an

express threatening. It plainly shows, that the law was no more

able to make holy, than it was to justify; by it is the

knowledge of sin, but not the cure of sin. Aaron was set apart

by the Divine appointment to the office of the priesthood; but

he, who had once shamed himself so far as to build an altar to a

golden calf, must own himself unworthy of the honour of

attending at the altar of God, and indebted to free grace alone

for it. Thus pride and boasting were silenced.
7-14 God says to Moses, that the Israelites had corrupted

themselves. Sin is the corruption of the sinner, and it is a

self-corruption; every man is tempted when he is drawn aside of

his own lust. They had turned aside out of the way. Sin is a

departing from the way of duty into a by-path. They soon forgot

God's works. He sees what they cannot discover, nor is any

wickedness of the world hid from him. We could not bear to see

the thousandth part of that evil which God sees every day. God

expresses the greatness of his just displeasure, after the

manner of men who would have prayer of Moses could save them

from ruin; thus he was a type of Christ, by whose mediation

alone, God would reconcile the world to himself. Moses pleads

God's glory. The glorifying God's name, as it ought to be our

first petition, and it is so in the Lord's prayer, so it ought

to be our great plea. And God's promises are to be our pleas in

prayer; for what he has promised he is able to perform. See the

power of prayer. In answer to the prayers of Moses, God showed

his purpose of sparing the people, as he had before seemed

determined on their destruction; which change of the outward

discovery of his purpose, is called repenting of the evil.
15-20 What a change it is, to come down from the mount of

communion with God, to converse with a wicked world. In God we

see nothing but what is pure and pleasing; in the world nothing

but what is sinful and provoking. That it might appear an idol

is nothing in the world, Moses ground the calf to dust. Mixing

this powder with their drink, signified that the backslider in

heart should be filled with his own ways.
21-29 Never did any wise man make a more frivolous and foolish

excuse than that of Aaron. We must never be drawn into sin by

any thing man can say or do to us; for men can but tempt us to

sin, they cannot force us. The approach of Moses turned the

dancing into trembling. They were exposed to shame by their sin.

The course Moses took to roll away this reproach, was, not by

concealing the sin, or putting any false colour upon it, but by

punishing it. The Levites were to slay the ringleaders in this

wickedness; yet none were executed but those who openly stood

forth. Those are marked for ruin who persist in sin: those who

in the morning were shouting and dancing, before night were

dying. Such sudden changes do the judgments of the Lord

sometimes make with sinners that are secure and jovial in their

30-35 Moses calls it a great sin. The work of ministers is to

show people the greatness of their sins. The great evil of sin

appears in the price of pardon. Moses pleads with God for mercy;

he came not to make excuses, but to make atonement. We are not

to suppose that Moses means that he would be willing to perish

for ever, for the people's sake. We are to love our neighbour as

ourselves, and not more than ourselves. But having that mind

which was in Christ, he was willing to lay down his life in the

most painful manner, if he might thereby preserve the people.

Moses could not wholly turn away the wrath of God; which shows

that the law of Moses was not able to reconcile men to God, and

to perfect our peace with him. In Christ alone, God so pardons

sin as to remember it no more. From this history we see, that no

unhumbled, carnal heart, can long endure the holy precepts, the

humbling truths, and the spiritual worship of God. But a god, a

priest, a worship, a doctrine, and a sacrifice, suited to the

carnal mind, will ever meet with abundance of worshippers. The

very gospel itself may be so perverted as to suit a worldly

taste. Well is it for us, that the Prophet like unto Moses, but

who is beyond compare more powerful and merciful, has made

atonement for our souls, and now intercedes in our behalf. Let

us rejoice in his grace.
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