“Digging Ourselves into a Hole”

Exodus 32:1-14


            Traveling through Nebraska one wintery yet spring like evening, Jessica and I came upon a vehicle on the side of the road. As we slowly drove by, it looked like they needed some help. So we decided that we since we were on our way home and it was kind of a nasty evening with the wind and mist, we would turn around and see if there was something we could do to help. Since it was dark out, I decided that I would just pull a U-turn in the middle of the road. I slowed down, turned on to the shoulder so I could turn around and then it happened.

            You see, the ground had been thawing and it had been raining. As I pulled our suv onto the shoulder where there was a driveway into a field, I felt our suv slide a little and despite my foot being on the gas pedal, we stopped. I tried to back up, then go forward again … nothing. I tried this rocking back and forth thing a couple more times … nothing. I tried to just gun it and the movement we had was toward the ditch and deeper into the ground. Jessica looked at me like, “Uhhhh, I think we’re stuck.”

            And we were. We were stuck with no way out. Aaron in our reading from Exodus 32, Aaron, Moses’ older brother, he knows exactly what it feels like to be stuck.

            As we look at Exodus 32 this morning, we’re going to see how Aaron takes a wrong turn and goes off the road, that Aaron gets stuck, and that Aaron hits the accelerator and ends up digging himself and the Israelites into a huge hole.

            To understand why Aaron makes a wrong turn and goes off the road, we need to understand the context leading up to and surrounding our reading. In the previous chapters of Exodus 25-31, Moses received detailed instructions from God in regards to the building of the tabernacle. The tabernacle was the place where the invisible God was going to personally dwell amongst His people. God initiated this construction process and the people freely gave of personal items to help. In the following chapters, chapters 35-40, the tabernacle is constructed.

            Here in the middle we have the building of the golden calf. “When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. ‘Come on!’ they said. ‘Make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt’” (Exodus 32:1 NLT). You see, Moses had been on the top of Mt. Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights. The people were getting impatient. “How long?

            You and I .. we know the feeling. We see how long it takes to get through school. We see how long it takes to build a marriage. We see how long it takes to raise children. We see how long it takes to save money. We don’t like a God who makes us wait. We want a god who can satisfy, right now!

            And that is exactly what Aaron offers the people. “‘Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.’ All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf” (Exodus 32:2-4 NLT). Aaron offers a god who can satisfy, right now! And with that, Aaron takes a wrong turn, slides off the road and gets stuck.

            “Aaron saw how excited the people were, so he built an altar in front of the calf. Then he announced, ‘Tomorrow will be a festival to the LORD!’” (Exodus 32:5 NLT). Aaron makes a stunning claim as Aaron calls the calf “the LORD.” Really Aaron? The calf is the LORD?

            Question for you … how often do we exchange the real God for a fake god and then claim that the fake god is the real God? … The answer … way too often. Way to often. What are the top fake gods in America? Money, sports, jobs? Money, sports, and jobs, they promise everything. In the end … money, sports, and jobs deliver nothing.

            Aaron takes a wrong turn. Aaron gets stuck. Aaron then hits the accelerator and ends up digging himself and the Israelites into a huge hole.

            “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and indulged in pagan revelry” (Exodus 32:6 NLT). Pagan revelry means “sexual immorality.” When Paul reflects on Exodus 32 in 1 Corinthians 10:8, that’s what he calls it. Sexual immorality. Talk about digging a huge hole!

            It starts out for us just like it did for Aaron. We get impatient. “O Lord, how long?” We make a wrong turn, we get stuck. But then we’re tempted to hit the accelerator. How so? By disregarding the sixth commandment. “You shall not commit adultery.”

            This is the main commandment focused on here in Exodus 32, but there all the others are here as well. When we give into temptation, when give into breaking the commandments, especially if it is intentional, all we are doing is hitting the accelerator and digging a deeper and deeper hole.

            Let me say this as clearly as I can. Don’t hit the accelerator! If you’re stuck in an emotional, financial, or a relational hole, don’t make matters worse by doing something you’ll regret for the rest of your life. Here’s a suggestion … make a list of all the people you would hurt by doing something immoral.

            I’ve got my list and you’ve got yours. One bad decision is a poor exchange for a lifetime of lost legacy. Every sin, every action has a reaction, a consequence which comes with it. Not only do you hurt those closest to you, but you break God’s heart.

            In Exodus 32:21, 30 and 31, Moses calls Israel’s sexual immorality a great sin. It’s a great sin because of who committed it. Aaron, the high priest, and the Israelites, God’s chosen people. It’s a great sin because of where they committed it. They were on Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. It’s a great sin because of when they committed it. It’s right after God delivered them from Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. If I was Moses, I’d wash my hands of the whole mess. But Moses doesn’t do that. Moses doesn’t do that at all!

            Instead, Moses prays to God, “Turn away from your fierce anger. Change your mind about this terrible disaster you have threatened against your people! Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel” (Exodus 32:12-13 NLT). When you’re in a hole, claim the covenant, the promise made by God. Claim the unconditional covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. When you do, guess what happens?

            “The LORD changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people” (32:14 NLT). Genesis 15:10 tells us that the covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel is an everlasting covenant sealed in blood. Sin can’t break it. Idolatry can’t nullify it. Death can’t defeat it. And a huge hole can’t destroy it!

            The covenant God cut with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel … it’s fulfilled in the death of Jesus. God’s covenant promises are sealed forever in Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross … for you. The covenant blood of Jesus announces that God is always loving. God is always kind. God is always forgiving. God is always abounding in grace and mercy.

            We have all made wrong turns. We have all built golden calves. We have all worshiped other gods. We have all known the hell of the hole. I don’t care how deep the hole is, you’re not stuck, we’re not stuck. We are not stuck in a hell hole forever.

            What can we do? We can do what Moses did. Claim the covenant. Claim Christ’s new covenant promises that deliver us in his cleansing, powerful, and renewing blood. Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.


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