International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday September 19, 2010
Purpose: To explore our unwillingness to trust God and our attempts to create our own security.
Scripture Text: Exodus 32:1-10 (NRSV)
(1)When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (2)Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” (3)So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. (4)He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (5)When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the LORD.” (6)They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.
(7)The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; (8)they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! (9)The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. (10)Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Has this ever happened to you? Someone you love is traveling and you have a prearranged time that they are to call in and let you know everything is fine, but they do not call. The longer the time goes by the more you create in your own mind a scenario of a disaster. Eventually they call, and you see how foolish you were, and what a waste of time it was to worry.
That is the situation as we look at today's text. Moses had gone up to the top of the mountain to commune with God, and he was gone longer than the people thought he should be. Consequently they started to create in their own mind a scenario of disaster.
They had left Egypt under the direction of Moses, now Moses was gone and evidently not coming back. Who are we to follow? We have no leader and no god.
In verse one, the word translated as delayed, should probably have been translated as “was shamefully late”. That allows Aaron to have a bit more of a break from his decision to give the congregation what they wanted. That brings me to my first point. How many times do we change our focus of worship, and change our mission, in order to give the congregation what they want? Meeting the church budget becomes more important than real worship. Our worship and devotion to God is altered by another god, one of prestige and money. Our focus can go from God to a building or a program, we become impatient with God's timetable and we begin to create our own timetable and our own agenda. Forgetting what we have been taught, we start doing it our way, instead of God's way.
I find the fact that these stiff-necked people would only follow a god of value, somewhat disturbing. Aaron asked for and got their gold, and seemingly had little trouble doing that. How willingly we think we can buy a god.
My other observation is; Did they want a god or reason to party? Sometimes I feel the same is true today. I recently read an article about how overweight, and how much heart problems and diabetes there is among our pastors; maybe we need to cut down on the church suppers and try and meet without having refreshments all of the time. Get back to worshiping the real God, and not these newly created gods, that are only designed to appeal to the masses.
If we give Aaron the benefit of the doubt, you might excuse him, but when he tells Moses a few verses later, “I just put the gold in the fire, and our came this calf.” You have to wonder about his understanding and ability to be the worship leader for this congregation.
Webster defines the word “revel” as 1. To take great pleasure or delight: 2. To engage in uproarious festivities; make merry. n. A boisterous festivity or celebration; merrymaking. Often used in the plural. From the Latin rebellare, to rebel.
Whatever they were doing it certainly got God's attention, but not in a good way. When God saw what was going on He dismissed Moses, because he did not want Moses to see what He was about to do. Without Moses’ intervention God would have destroyed the entire nation of Israel and went to plan number two, Moses would have become the new Abraham. Moses intervening tells us how important it is for us to engage God in our lives; God can be swayed by prayer, as we learn later in the Book of Revelation.
Ralph Wald Emerson wrote once; “A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts. But it will come out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshiping we are becoming.”
My question for you this week is: Is keeping your faith and trust with God solely an individual matter? Are others affected by your faithfulness?