If you have never read the account in Exodus 32 of God’s people building a Golden Calf to worship I would implore you to stop reading this blog right now and go read Exodus 32:1-6.
This is an astonishing account. Picture it: After spending 400 years in Egypt and becoming slaves, God uses Moses to set his people free from bondage. This doesn’t come easy, though. Moses has to return to Pharaoh many times and tell him that God has commanded him to let his people go free. Each time God sends more plagues to punish Pharaoh’s disobedience and finally after the most extreme – the death of every first-born son in Egypt – Pharaoh lets them go. If that’s not enough, Pharaoh still sends an army after God’s people to try and bring them back.
God proves himself faithful over and over again to protect his people and provide for them. Yet, the people’s hearts are incredibly hard. God calls them a “stiff-necked people” (Exodus 32:9). While Moses is on Mount Sanai meeting with God and receiving the law that he will soon deliver to the people they get impatient and bored. Deciding to take matters into their own hands they go to Aaron, Moses’ brother and the father of the priests of Israel, and they demand that he make “gods who shall go before us.” In other words they need something to worship because Moses and God are taking too long. Wow! This is incredible and it reminds us of at least two things. First, these people are, in fact, a stiff-necked people. Second, that people are created to worship and when they don’t worship the one, true God they will worship something else.
This account should really wake us up as we read it. We should look at this story and ask ourselves how they could be so incredibly hardened after everything that God has done. They have not only seen God’s power on display in delivering them, but have also seen his holiness manifested in countless ways before them. They should be filled with fear and awe as they realize that the God of the universe has chosen to enter into a covenant relationship with them and to care for them as his own children. But, more than all of that, this account should wake us up because we should be able to see ourselves clearly in these “stiff-necked” people.
Our Own Idols and God’s Amazing Grace
We too make “golden calves” to worship all the time, don’t we? We too get tired of waiting on God to give us more tangible evidences of his grace. We are constantly worshiping at the feet of other gods and forgetting God’s amazing faithfulness and love toward us. The ultimate expression of that love was the cross. When Jesus went to the cross on our behalf he bore the penalty of our sins in his body. He paid the price that we could never pay for our idol worship. He satisfied the wrath of God so that we could have complete and total access to God in worship. Jesus did what Moses and Aaron could never do.
The problem is that we can still act like a “stiff-necked” people. We forget about the God who is always faithful. We forget about the depths of what Jesus has done for us. We forget to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which [we] have been called” (Eph. 4:1). And so, we need reminding and encouraging of God’s grace. We need to be repeatedly reoriented to the infinite grace of our infinitely loving God. God, in his boundless wisdom and kindness, has given us the gift of the church to remind us of his grace and forgiveness and to help us to live out the gospel in our lives every day.
The Beauty of God’s Grace in the Church
In God’s beautiful design he has given us his body, the church, to remind one another of the truth and the depths of the Good News. And when we gather to worship him corporately that is exactly what we do. We stir one another up to love and good works. We sing songs of worship with unity that remind us of the depths of his grace. We confess together that we are idol worshippers and a “stiff-necked” people. We hear the Good News proclaimed clearly and faithfully through God’s Word reminding us that we are completely forgiven and remade in Christ. We are given the opportunity to give sacrificially so that we can display our dependence and trust on the One who paid the ultimate price to redeem us. We participate in very physical representations of the gospel through baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We are reminded of God’s transforming grace in our lives as we are commissioned once again to make disciples as we go to our families, our jobs, our communities, and the world. In short, the church is now the bodily representation of Christ on earth.
To say that we love Jesus must also mean that we love the church. To say that we love Jesus and that we love the church means that we should be eager to gather with her and worship the living God! Not only should we be eager to gather as a church to worship because we are supposed to and “the bible tells us to,” but because the church is a gift. The church is one of the most significant expressions of God’s grace towards us in enabling us to walk in the freedom that he has given us through Christ. Worshipping with the church really does serve as an antidote to the poison of idol worship that we are all so easily prone to.
Do you love the body of Christ? Are you eager to worship with Grace Baptist Church this Sunday so we can all experience the glories of the Resurrected Christ once again week-after-week?
For this Sunday:
This Sunday we will be returning to the book of Mark. Pastor Brady will be preaching from Mark 7:24-37. These verses contain two fascinating accounts of the miracles and ministry of Jesus. I would urge you to read through this passage before the worship service as you ask God to prepare our hearts. Likewise, we will be introducing a new modern hymn this Sunday, which is entitled O Great God. This is a wonderful hymn of confession that helps to re-center our hearts on the great mercies of God. You can see the words and hymn music HERE. If you would like to view the order of worship as you prepare and pray for the service, you may view that HERE.
See you Sunday!