Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.Exodus 32:2
Who would not have been ashamed to hear this answer from the brother of Moses, 'Pluck off your earrings'? He should have said, 'Pluck this idolatrous thought out of your hearts'.
Unless reason be employed in ascertaining what doctrines are revealed, humility cannot be exercised in acquiescing in them; and there is surely at least as much presumption in measuring everything by our own fancies, feelings, and prejudices, as by our own reasonings. Such voluntary humiliation is a prostration, not of ourselves before God, but of one part of ourselves before another part, and resembles the idolatry of the Israelites in the wilderness: 'The people stripped themselves of their golden ornaments, and cast them into the fire, and there came out this calf.
—Archbishop Whately, Annotations to Bacon's Essays (i.).
It is the very joy of man's heart to admire, where he can; nothing so lifts him from all his mean imprisonments, were it but for moments, as true admiration. Thus it has been said, 'All men, especially all women, are born worshippers'; and will worship, if it be but possible. Possible to worship a Something, even a small one; not so possible a mere loud-blaring Nothing! What sight is more pathetic than that of poor multitudes of persons met to gaze at Kings' Progresses, Lord Mayors' Shows, and other gilt-gingerbread phenomena of the worshipful sort, in these times; each so eager to worship; each, with a dim fatal sense of disappointment, finding that he cannot lightly here! These be thy gods, O Israel? and thou art so willing to worship—poor Israel.
—Carlyle in Past and Present.
Writing in 1657 to Lord Craighall, Samuel Rutherford warns him seriously against kneeling before the consecrated elements. 'Neither will your intention help, which is not of the essence of worship; for then, Aaron in saying, "To-morrow shall be a feast for Jehovah,' that is, for the golden calf, should not have been guilty of idolatry; for he intended only to decline the lash of the people's fury, not to honour the calf. Your intention to honour Christ is nothing, seeing that religious kneeling, by God's institution, doth necessarily impart religious and Divine adoration.'
Recreations and Amusements
I. We must have 'play'. Even the children of Israel must. We have great examples in this matter. Our Incarnate Lord and His Apostles had their feasts as well as their fasts; their quiet hours as well as their hours crowded with holy toil.
Such 'play' is greatly needed in our overworked days. Physical labour requires mental amusement, and mental labour demands physical recreation.
The words 'amusement' and 'recreation' are in themselves full of suggestiveness. The idea of the word 'amusement' is 'to draw the mind to' something lighter. 'Recreation' obviously signifies a fresh creation.
Everything, however, depends upon the quality and the quantity of our recreations and amusements.
II. Let me enumerate some good amusements and recreations. Some 'play' that is to be held honourable to all.
Earliest in such a category I would place pure light literature.
Music, at home and in public, is one of the most exalted and delightful of recreations.
Art offers splendid and tranquil amusement and recreation.
What delights modern science opens to the multitude! Nature teems with instructive delights.
I hardly need to remind young men or young women in these times of the athletic pleasures which abound.
A good walk in the city streets will, if we practise an educated observation, be a manifold benefit to us. Charles Kingsley said that a walk along Regent Street was an intellectual tonic. A walk in the country, especially with the ministry of pleasant and profitable conversation, may be a memorable and every way beneficial experience.
The pleasures of travel are happily now by the cooperative plan within reach of large numbers of young people.
Church life affords the best recreation to some. Ever remember the noble words of Dean Church, 'Every real part of our life ought to be part of our Christian life'.
III. Suffer me to warn you against certain evil amusements and recreations.
Shun that class of entertainments which vulgarizes and sullies mind and soul.
It is not wholly superfluous to caution you against exhausting amusements. Whatever impairs your vital energy and lowers your physical tone is a foe to your highest well-being. Nor is it fatuous to enter a caution against such amusements and recreations as disincline you for more serious pursuits. Few, if any, amusements work such injury as do betting and gambling.
The 'play' in which Israel occupied itself and to which my text refers was arrantly unworthy. May this ancient lapse save us from similar lapse. Take heed lest evil 'play' discredit and ruin you.
Christ is the ultimate source of true pleasures. He causes these to abound to the believing soul.—Dinsdale T. Young, Messages for Home and Life, p. 47.
Illustration.—You have heard the story of the young hunter at Ephesus: returning from the chase with his unstrung bow in his hand he entered the house of the venerable St. John. To his utter astonishment John was playing with a tame dove. He indicated his surprise that the seer should be so frivolously occupied. St. John asked him why he carried his bow unstrung. 'In order that my bow may retain its elasticity,' was his immediate reply. 'Just so,' said St. John; 'and mind and body will not retain their elasticity or usefulness unless they are at times unstrung; prolonged tension destroys their power.'
—Dinsdale T. Young, Messages for Home and Life, p. 47.
References.—XXXII. 7-14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlii. No. 2486. XXXII. 10, 31, 32.—T. G. Selby, The God of the Patriarchs, p. 185. XXXII. 14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xli. No. 2398. XXXII. 15-26.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Exodus, etc., p. 177.
I. The pleading supplication, 'I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory,' is the language of the human heart, under the pressure of the deepest desire man can experience. It is the voicing of the ceaseless, agelong yearning on the part of man for tangible, ocular demonstration of God. And the answer given to Moses is an authoritative declaration of the only demonstration of the existence and character of God possible to beings in the finite condition of earth's education.
The only proof of the existence of any primal force is that force in action; the absolute is only known as it is conditioned. God to us, only is as He acts; and so the answer to the universal appeal of humanity is, 'I will make all My goodness pass before thee'.
II. The unwillingness on the part of man to accept this answer of God as final has been the cause of most of the defective apprehension, narrowness, superstition, and second-hand religion which have clipped the wings of Godward growth. He who follows God's clue is he whose eyes are slowly opened. God makes all His goodness to pass before him. He has discovered and acknowledged physical beauty in the universe, and moral beauty in man; he infers logically that there must be a Divine ideal of both physical and moral beauty, of which he has recognized the shadow, and he knows that that Divine ideal must be God.
Moses, the servant of the Lord, affords a striking example, from the ancient world, of a standard thus slowly raised, till his one absorbing need was to see God. He had followed the clue. Symbolisms and limitations had no power to satisfy the instincts of his heart, and his whole soul goes out in the cry, 'I beseech Thee, show me Thy glory'. A picture-lesson of the same process is afforded by our Lord's dealings with His disciples. Slowly He unfolds their aspirations, as the sun unfolds a flower. At, last, one of them, as the spokesman of the rest, bursts out with the cry, 'Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us'. And in each case the answer is the same: to Moses it is, 'I will make all My goodness pass before thee'; to Philip it is, 'Have I been so long time with you, and hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.'
III. Now, is not this the meaning of the Festival of the Epiphany? The story of that star leading thoughtful Zoroastrians across the wilderness to Bethlehem, is the analogy of the secret drawing of the Infinite Mother-Heart, leading watchful souls through the deserts of materialism, idolatry, imperfect Theism, to the oasis of the Incarnation, the highest philosophical demonstration of the character of God.
Two conditions appear to be suggested by today's Epiphany teaching as pre-requisite for the right apprehension of this full restful revelation of God: the one is aspiration, the other is activity. God is often not known because He is not wanted. At the threshold of every spiritual function there is a want, a restlessness, a desire, a hunger, that the largest promises of the world cannot fill. Prayer, thought, aspiration, will quicken and vitalize that blessed restlessness.
The second condition is activity, usefulness, ministry. A life of selfish vanity, a life of idle indulgence, a life of mean self-concentration, may have a good deal of religion in it, but it cannot see God.
—B. Wilberforce, Following on to Know the Lord, p. 57.
Illustration.—O, my God, let me see Thee; and if to see Thee is to die, let me die, that I may see Thee.
—Prayer of St. Augustine, p. 58.
References.—XXXII. 24.—J. H. Halsey, The Spirit of Truth, p. 261. XXXII. 26.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, God's Heroes, p. 197. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, p. 303. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1531; see also vol. 1. No. 2884. XXXII. 31, 32.—E. L. Hull, Sermons Preached at King's Lynn (3rd Series), p. 106.
'Not by reading, but by some bitterly painful experience,' said Maurice (Life, i. p. 171), 'I seem to have been taught that to aim at any good to myself while I contemplate myself apart from the whole body of Christ, is a kind of contradiction.
Let my name be blotted out, and my memory perish, if only France may be free.
Afflictions speak convincingly, and will be heard when preachers cannot. If our dear Lord did not put these thorns under our head, we should sleep out our lives and lose our glory.
—Baxter, Saints' Rest, chap. x.
References.—XXXIII.—W. Gray Elmslie, Expository Lectures and Sermons, p. 295. XXXIII. 7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 359. XXXIII.—R. J. Campbell, City Temple Sermons, p. 27. C. Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxix. 1906, p. 273. XXXIII. 12-14.—H. Varley, Spiritual Light and Life, p. 97. XXXIII. 12-23.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—Exodus, etc., p. 186.
And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.
And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:
They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
And the LORD said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:
Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation.
And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.
And Moses turned, and went down from the mount, and the two tables of the testimony were in his hand: the tables were written on both their sides; on the one side and on the other were they written.
And the tables were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables.
And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.
And he said, It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome: but the noise of them that sing do I hear.
And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.
And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.
And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?
And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.
For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.
And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)
Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD'S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.
And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.
For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.
And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said unto the people, Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the LORD; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin.
And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.
Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.
And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.
Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.
And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.