Memoirs of Moses
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Lesson Fifteen • Broken Tablets
Dr. Randy T. Johnson

Opposites attract and sometimes they even attack. My wife and I have been married for more than 35 years. We dated for about seven years before that. We have known each other for four decades and are still learning how to work together better.

One of our differences is how we give a farewell wish to one of our children. As our son or daughter is leaving to go do something, I say, “Have fun,” and my wife says, “Be careful.” We have done this since they were young. I find it humorous.

Which of your parents was the “fun parent” and who was the “strict parent?”

Which do you tend to be like?

What is the strength and weakness of both?

Ideally, both parents would know how to be both fun and strict. We need to know our boundaries and how to set guidelines and expectations for others while still finding and making time to enjoy life and each other. Our children want to have fun, but they also want stability, structure, and to know someone cares about what they do.

Exodus chapter 32 shows how this balance can be seen in teams other than just the mother and father. Aaron and Moses were brothers. They were also leaders. In essence, they had a couple million “children” they were responsible for their well being. This chapter details a major fall in leadership with horrific consequences.

1. Idolatry


As Exodus chapter 32 begins, we realize Moses has been up on the mountain with God for 40 days. Verses 1-6 share the chilling details, “When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, ‘Up, make us gods 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.’ So Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.’ And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.”

Why did the people turn to idolatry? How does this compare to our lives?

What were Aaron’s negative actions and positive actions? Why did he do them?

Verses 7-14 contain a conversation between the Lord and Moses. The Lord is furious about how they “have corrupted themselves” (verse 7). He refers to them as “a stiff-necked people” (verse 9), which is a reference to an animal fighting the yoke. The Lord concludes that His “wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them” (verse 10). He suggests destroying His people. In an interesting twist in the conversation, Moses reminded the Lord of His covenant and “the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people” (verse 14).

How were Aaron and Moses like the “fun parent” and the “strict parent?”

What forms of “idolatry” tempt us? Are we allowing it in our homes?

2. Infliction


Sin has consequences. The law of cause and effect steps into the scenario. Infliction, punishment, or discipline have to take place. Verses 15-20 record the start of the consequences, “Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, ‘There is a noise of war in the camp.’ But he said, ‘It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.’ And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.”

What actions did Moses take?

Was Moses justified in his actions? Why or why not?

Verses 21- 29 continue the punishment for sin. Aaron blames the people and even suggests that the making of the calf was miraculous, “So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf” (verse 24). Moses then draws a line in the sand. Moses says, “Who is on the Lord’s side? Come to me” (verse 26). The sons of Levi stepped forward. Moses ordered them to take their swords and kill their fellow kin who have chosen to follow other gods. Verse 28 says that about three thousand men died. They even had to kill close relatives. It was horrendous. Sin has consequences.

Normally when we speak of anger, it has a negative connotation. However, there is a righteous anger. In John chapter 2 and Matthew chapter 21, Jesus clears the Temple. Jesus, the One who never sinned, experienced anger.

Mark 3:1-5 describes another time when Jesus was angry, “Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Come here.’ And he said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.”

Why was Jesus angry?

What did Jesus do?

There are other verses that do not condemn all anger:

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Ephesians 4:26

“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Psalm 103:8

What are some guidelines for anger?

When should we get angry? Any specific situations you should be facing now?

3. Intercession


Exodus chapter 32 closes with Moses being willing to stand in the gap, “The next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ So Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.’ But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.’ Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.”

What did Moses offer to do?

Moses is a major player in the Bible. His name is listed 796 times in the Bible being found in 31 of the 66 books. With all of his references, this is one of his most heroic moments. He offers to give himself up as a ransom for the people. Psalm 106:23 refers to this moment, “Therefore he said he would destroy them - had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.”

Moses was a type of Christ. Although Moses was willing to be exchanged for others, he could not offer eternal life on his own merits. Jesus does. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

Isaiah 53:12 adds, “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

What has Jesus offered to do?

“Jesus Christ carries on intercession for us in heaven;
the Holy Ghost carries on intercession in us on earth;
and we the saints have to carry on intercession for all men.”
Oswald Chambers

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