Lesson Twenty Nine



Memory Verse: Exodus 20:3
Further Study: Exodus 24,32,34, Patriarchs and Prophets: pp. 309-342; 363-373, The Story of Redemption: pp. 142-150; The Bible Story, vol. 2, pp. 157-176

There’s a recipe website I sometimes visit. When I find one with potential, I always read the comments first to find tips that might make the dish tastier. What never ceases to amaze me are those reviewers who write something like this:

“I didn’t have [x] so I substituted [y]. My family doesn’t like [a] so I used [b]. Instead of boiling, we fried it. It was delicious! Definitely making this recipe again!”

I have to laugh because they didn’t actually make the recipe but created their own and called it by the same name!

The golden calf experience is a low point in Israel’s history. 

The golden calf experience is a low point in Israel’s history. It had only been weeks since Israel made a covenant with God to keep His commandments. How did it devolve into such a mess?

I could write about the art of waiting, clearly something they didn’t do well. I could write about the choice of friends—according to Ellen White it all started with the mixed multitude from Egypt (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 316). I could even write about the danger of setting up an idol. While all of that would be applicable, it was actually more subtle and dangerous.

The people came to Aaron with a problem. Moses was gone, probably dead, and, they added, there was no God as well. Aaron did something interesting. Instead of stopping things right where they started, he accommodated them. But notice he doesn’t come out and agree with them entirely. The people credited the golden calf with leading them out of Egypt (Exodus 32:4). But Aaron did not (v. 5). Aaron didn’t take God away, he simply added. Where God instructed Israel on who He was and how He was to be worshiped, Aaron added the calf, the altar, and the festival all to honor God.

Aaron didn’t take God away, he simply added. 

None of us is worried about setting up a golden anything in our living room. But are we susceptible to voices that suggest how we worship, where we worship, or on what day we worship? Voices that say it doesn’t matter what we do as long as God is honored? In this, we are no different than the cook who alters the recipe to their own liking. The goal may be to make the Special K loaf, but after the substitutions and alterations, is it really the original recipe or one of your own creation?

There is always danger when we add to God’s plan.

There is always danger when we add to God’s plan, whether due to impatience, listening to those not truly converted, or because we fashion our own way to worship. God requires our full attention as well as our commitment. He loves, provides, and has expectations for us. His commandments are not negotiable. They are not a recipe to simply alter because of taste or allergic reactions. Learn of God. Learn of His love. Then like David, we can say, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:7).

Digging Deeper 

Something interesting happens in Exodus 32 that you don’t want to miss. Moses is absent during the golden calf experience. He finds out about it from God, Himself, who tells him to go down to the camp because the people have rejected God and bowed to a calf. That must have been startling news for Moses to hear, but the next words catch his attention. “Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation” (verses 9, 10). Moses doesn’t appear shaken by the news, or God’s response. Instead, he pleads with God that this is not the best plan. 

God relents and Moses heads down the mountain where the sight of the people and their sin angers him as it did God. He broke the commandments, melted the calf, mandated the drinking of the gold powder, and called for the killing of 3,000 people who stood in rebellion. But Moses was not finished.

Moses spent 40 days with God learning about the tabernacle. The purpose of the sanctuary was atonement—the offering of a sacrifice to remove sin that stood between the people and God. While the sanctuary was yet in the future, Moses recognized their great sin required atonement. How could this be accomplished? Verses 30-31 tell us. Moses offered himself! 

Moses understood God’s plan of salvation enough to recognize that in order to reestablish the relationship with God, a sacrifice was needed, not an animal, but a man—one person for the nation. What he failed to grasp was that he was not qualified. To sacrifice Moses’ would not redeem the nation because he was a sinner in need of atonement himself. Only Jesus, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God, could do this. So here we find in Exodus the heart of the gospel, thousands of years before Jesus came to earth, the plan of salvation revealed. A glimpse of the sacrifice that would be given for them and for us, not by an ordinary man, but God Himself.

Making it Real

Moses was willing to sacrifice himself for his people. That shows a deep level of commitment to the leadership God had called him to do. Think about your level of sacrifice. What would you be willing to do for Jesus?

Respond & Share

How does it feel to know that God gave His Son just for you?
Please share with us in the comments!


Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being the grandmother of two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus.


Coming next week:
Exodus 25:8, Exodus 25-27; 30; 31; 35; 36; 39:32-40;
Patriarch and Prophets: pp. 343-358; 363-373;
The Story of Redemption: pp. 151-157; The Bible Story, vol. 2, pp. 177-187


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