Going Deeper

Exodus 30-34  (1-22-22)

In Exodus 32 we are given one of the most glaring offenses of idolatry in the early account of God’s people, as they formed a golden calf to worship, despite all that God had done for them and the fact that He commanded them not to worship anything but Him. Many people, when they think of idolatry, think only of images that are formed by man like the golden calf. But idols that we often worship are so much more than formed figures; they can be just about anything God has made, which we over-elevate in our hearts and minds.

John Calvin, the 17th century Reformer, made this memorable point: “Our hearts are ‘idol factories’, and our words and actions are shaped by the pursuit of things our heart craves.”

Because God made us to worship and be satisfied, in our sin we have taken those two God-given longings and wrongly placed them on things God has created and not God Himself. Because our hearts long to be satisfied, they will always venture to be satisfied by something.

We see Paul speak to this well in Romans 1:18-25: 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Man’s very rebellion is grounded in our worshiping things that are not God. I believe this is why idolatry is the foundation of the 10 Commandments. The first is, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Then the last talks about covetousness, which is craving something more than one should; this is a form of idolatry. So God bookends the 10 Commandments with a focus on idolatry.

What you must understand is that the commands to avoid idolatry are not just confined to the Old Testament:

1 Corinthians 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

1 John 5:21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

When someone says idol-worship or idolatry, what do we commonly think of? Maybe what you picture is someone prostrate on the ground before an object for religious devotion or magical power. Or we might use “idolatry” to describe someone’s obsession with money or someone we “idolize” in society.

Author Richard Keyes says, “We have, in effect, distanced ourselves from the whole idea of idolatry by pushing it out to the extreme cultural and psychological margins of life. “

We don’t see idolatry in our modern culture because we only think of it in this tribal, extreme way.

Or we don’t concern ourselves with idolatry as anything worth worrying about anymore. But idolatry is very present in our lives. It is real. If not rightly understood and addressed, it will wreck us.

You and I are made to worship of the living God. But this worship is not meant to be a stale and distant exultation; instead, it is to be from the overflow of our satisfied hearts in our relationship with God. What this means for us is we have a rightly prioritized relationship with God out of which we have a proper mode in which to live life: to live life in response to Him; to know God and be known by God. 

Because of our right relationship with Him, we then understand who we are and arrive at our identity, personal significance, sense of security, purpose for living, and we constantly find in Him our happiness and joy. The problem is that when sin came into play, we tragically altered our relationship with God: instead of turning Godward and finding in Him all that we need in life, we turned away and to other things to try to discover those things God designed in us to be fulfilled by Him. The way the Apostle Paul put it in our passage today is that instead of turning Godward, we turned away from God. We did not honor him as God!

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him

We ceased to see God as fundamental and essential for the existence and fulfillment of our lives. Because we are made to have relationship with God in which we are fulfilled and purposed and secure and with clear identity, when we no longer seek Him to be those things for us, we now have an active vacuum in our hearts that looks to find that fulfillment in other things.  

So we do not simply turn away from God; we actually have to find something to put in His place. What Paul says is that people embrace a lie to exchange the Creator for the created.

Romans 1:25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Because we are wired for worship, we will worship! So, hear this: When we turn from God, we find a substitute on whom we heap our worship. We look to something else to give us identity, meaning, significance, purpose, security, and joy! When we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing; we will worship anything. It is these substitutes that become our idols.

The Word of Truth Catechism says this: “Idolatry is worshiping or finding hope, identity, significance, purpose, or security in anything other than in God, our Creator.”

In other words, your idols are anything that have become more fundamental than God in your life for your hope, identity, significance, purpose, security, joy, and on and on. So, likely, your idol is not a carved block of wood or shiny metal or formed stone, but a person, a place, a house, a car, a team, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, or a political party. In fact, it’s not idol, singular; it’s idols, plural. We have several things we seek for hope, identity, significance, purpose, or security. In them you are putting your hope and your trust; you’re trying to learn from them. And you are trying to find from them your identity, personal significance, sense of security, purpose for living, happiness, and joy.

When we begin to understand this, we begin to really understand what God was asking for in the first commandment: “Do not have any other gods before me.” He is saying, “Do not make anything more necessary, fundamental, or valuable than Me. Keep Me as your hope, identity, significance, purpose, and security.” 

Martin Luther has said it this way: “Every breaking of the commandments is at its core a breaking of the first commandment.” 

Here is why breaking any commandment is really breaking the first:  

Why do we lie? Because we want the approval or the thing that lie gets us to fulfill us—replacing God.

Why do we steal? Because we think we need that thing to fulfill us—replacing God.

Why do we covet or envy? Because we think, “If I had that, I would be happy. It would satisfy me”—replacing God.

An idol is not simply a statue of wood, stone, or metal; it is anything we love and pursue in place of God!

This brings to light a key thing to understand: An idol, in its essence, isn’t necessarily something evil; it commonly is something very good.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

The Apostle Paul says these things to point to idolatry in our lives. We get how covetousness is, but often we overlook the term “evil desires.” The phrase “evil desires” here is an effort of the English translators to get across a single Greek word, which is “Epithumia.” Epithumia is both an evil desire and an over desire—an excessive desire. It is desiring something evil, or it is an over or misplaced desire for what it good. In this way, it is essentially addiction or lust for something God has made.

John Calvin clearly says, “The evil in our desire typically does not lie in what we want, but that we want it too much.” 

So, often the object of desire is good, and the evil lies in the lordship of the desire. The good thing of “caring for your body” can become an ultimate thing (an idol) in your life in an effort to find your personal significance. The good thing of your “career” can become an ultimate thing (an idol) in your life in an effort to find your sense of security. The good thing of “raising your kids” can become an ultimate thing (an idol) in your life in an effort to find your purpose for living. Idolatry happens when you and I try to find our identity, personal significance, sense of security, purpose for living, happiness, and joy in these things or people or status INSTEAD OF IN GOD!

So, how do we restore what is broken in our relationship with God and remove idols from our lives?

James 4:6-8 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

God gives us undeserved grace! Oh, how we need a Savior—One who can set us free, so we might truly be satisfied in the only One who can satisfy and who is worthy of our eternal praise.

Realize religion is lying to you when it says, “You can save yourself by trying really hard to shut the idol factory down yourself!” Only One can do this for us: the God of grace!

Turn with me to Isaiah 42:5: “Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it.”

Who is the One who puts air in our lungs? Who is the One who sets us in motion and numbers our days?

Who made everything around us so that it might all point to us to Him and cause us to revel in and worship Him? God. The answer to, “Who can set us free and satisfy our deepest longing to worship?” is God, and not only can He, but He has! Now, read verse 6-8:

Isaiah 42:6-8 “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”

The Idol Factory must be closed, and the good news we read here today is it can be, for He declares, “I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

How does Jesus do this? Be giving us Himself. By giving us the expulsive power of a greater affection!

Thomas Chalmers once famously said, “There is not one personal transformation in which the heart is left without an object of ultimate beauty and joy. The heart’s desire for one particular object can be conquered, but it’s desire to have some object is unconquerable. The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.”  

You might be able to temporarily remove one idol, but your heart still must cast its affections on something. So, you will simply pick up another to fill its place. Chalmers is saying idols of the heart cannot be removed; they can only be replaced.

So, the question then is replaced with what? The only thing that can ultimately satisfy and bring joy and life and identity and security and purpose: JESUS!

Temporary fixes and/or helpful habits do not cure the deepest disease and self-inflicted pain we struggle with in life: our idolatry. Only the expulsive power of a bigger and better target for our affections can eliminate the failed idols the heart has tried to cling to.

This is why we are mainly focused on stirring your affections toward the gospel: the good news! To understand the fullness of the beauty and wonder of Christ, to fall deeply in love with Jesus alone—above all else.

The key to being rid of the idols we worship is not really to love them less but to love Christ more.  And in doing so, if the heart truly is that taken by Jesus, our tendency to over-elevate God’s created things is rightfully adjusted. In treasuring Jesus above all else, we can spot idolatry temptations and make war with them, we can joyfully hear from our brothers and sisters in Christ’s concern over idol temptations in our lives, and be thankful for their help to avoid idolatry, and so on. Treasuring Christ above all else is the key; the gospel is the key.

If my children are my idols, He is not calling me to love them less; He is calling me to love them rightly.  The only way I can do that is to be satisfied in the one thing that can truly satisfy; is to be saved by the one and only thing that can save me; is to be secured by the one and only person who can keep me secure; is to be purposed by the only one who can give me eternal purpose—Jesus!

By His grace and for His glory,


Soldiers for Jesus MC

Chaplain Council


Exodus Era-Exodus 34

Exodus 34

Moses Makes New Tablets

34:1 The LORD said to Moses, “Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain. Let no flocks or herds graze opposite that mountain.” So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands,1 forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

The Covenant Renewed

10 And he said, “Behold, I am making a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been created in all the earth or in any nation. And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the LORD, for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.

11 “Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 12 Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst. 13 You shall tear down their altars and break their pillars and cut down their Asherim 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and when they whore after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and you are invited, you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of their daughters for your sons, and their daughters whore after their gods and make your sons whore after their gods.

17 “You shall not make for yourself any gods of cast metal.

18 “You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Abib, for in the month Abib you came out from Egypt. 19 All that open the womb are mine, all your male2 livestock, the firstborn of cow and sheep. 20 The firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the firstborn of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty-handed.

21 “Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest. 22 You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end. 23 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel. 24 For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year.

25 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the sacrifice of the Feast of the Passover remain until the morning. 26 The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”

27 And the LORD said to Moses, “Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.3

The Shining Face of Moses

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.4 30 Aaron and all the people of Israel saw Moses, and behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the people of Israel came near, and he commanded them all that the LORD had spoken with him in Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.

34 Whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would remove the veil, until he came out. And when he came out and told the people of Israel what he was commanded, 35 the people of Israel would see the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face was shining. And Moses would put the veil over his face again, until he went in to speak with him.


[1] 34:7 Or to the thousandth generation

[2] 34:19 Septuagint, Theodotion, Vulgate, Targum; the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

[3] 34:28 Hebrew the ten words

[4] 34:29 Hebrew him



Exodus Era-Exodus 33

Exodus 33

The Command to Leave Sinai

33:1 The LORD said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

When the people heard this disastrous word, they mourned, and no one put on his ornaments. For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.’” Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.

The Tent of Meeting

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD1 would speak with Moses. 10 And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. 11 Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

Moses’ Intercession

12 Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ 13 Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” 14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 15 And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”

17 And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” 18 Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”


[1] 33:9 Hebrew he



Exodus Era-Exodus 32

Exodus 32

The Golden Calf

32:1 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 golden1 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.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

11 But Moses implored the LORD his God and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

15 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. 16 The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18 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.” 19 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. 20 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.

21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘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.’ 24 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.”

25 And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.’” 28 And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29 And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the LORD, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”

30 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.” 31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” 33 But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 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.”

35 Then the LORD sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.


[1] 32:4 Hebrew cast metal; also verse 8



Exodus Era-Exodus 31

Exodus 31

Oholiab and Bezalel

31:1 The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, 10 and the finely worked garments,1 the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.”

The Sabbath

12 And the LORD said to Moses, 13 “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. 14 You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. 16 Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. 17 It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’”

18 And he gave to Moses, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.


[1] 31:10 Or garments for worship