exasperated woman February 12 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading: Exodus 32:1- 33:17

Restoring Broken Trust

Leaders rely on the faith of their followers, but sometimes if plans appear to go awry, or plans do not seem to be moving forward, people get impatient. There is discontent. People lose confidence in their leadership and trust is broken. Rebels arise and begin to lead people astray. That is what happened to God and Moses.

Moses had gone up on Mt. Sinai to receive God’s written law to govern the moral and social behavior of the Israelites While he was there, Moses also received instructions for building the tabernacle (a portable worship center) and all its furnishings. He also received designs for the clothing the priests were to wear to set them apart as holy ministers before the LORD (pictures of these were in the last two Bible studies). While Moses was away the Israelites lost faith.

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.” (Exodus 32:1, NIV)

So, under pressure, Aaron listened to them.

Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:2-4, NIV)

How ironic that while Moses was receiving the ten commandments on stone tablets, written from the finger of God, and instructions on the building of a tabernacle to worship Him, the Israelites turned from following the LORD. How did God react to this? God got angry with the Israelites (Exodus 32:7-9). He immediately cut off the dialogue with Moses, regarding plans for worship that would have brought them into intimacy with Him, and disowned the wayward Israelites. God was angry enough to destroy them; and was it not for Moses’ intercession, He would have done that very thing. This is not to say that God was dependent on the intercession of Moses; God acts with mercy when and upon whom he desires, yet he is often pleased to answers our prayers (Romans 9:18; Luke 11:9-10; James 4:2).

Moses was a friend of God. Moses was concerned about God's reputation with other nations. How would it look to other nations if God destroyed his own people in the wilderness? Wouldn't other people conclude that God was not able to bring them into the Promised Land? How much do we care about God's glory? Do we pray in relation to God's glory or do our prayers only concern ourselves? Prayers for God's glory get answered (John 14:13).

When Moses found out how the Israelites had turned to idolatry, he got very mad. Such ingratitude! How could they break their covenant so quickly by worshipping idols and committing adultery? How could they jeopardize their relationship with God and their inheritance? When Moses saw what they were doing

his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain [symbolizing their broken covenant]. And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it (Exodus 32:19b-20, NIV).

Then Moses grilled his brother Aaron, who was left in charge while he was on the mount. Embarrassed, Aaron lied to him, saying he put the gold earrings into a fire and (magically) up comes this calf.

Even after all this, the people were still wild and apparently did not comprehend the severity of what they had done. What’s wrong with a little partying? In the right context, nothing is wrong; however, the Israelites were supposed to be a holy people set apart to God. Instead, they were performing shameless orgies. Apparently, only the Levites remained faithful to the LORD. At the bidding of Moses, the Levites went throughout the camp exercising judgment upon the faithless Israelites. 3,000 died that day. “The next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’” (Exodus 32:30, NIV)

The people mourned their losses and their sin and would not wear any ornaments. Day by day they watched Moses meet with God outside the camp and awaited their fate.

God forgave the people, but as a consequence he sent a plague to punish them for worshipping the golden calf, and then he told them he would not go with them. We might ask at this point, why would he not go with them; he forgave them didn't he? God says in Exodus 33:5,

For the LORD had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you.’” [God is Holy]

The Israelites felt alone, abandoned and vulnerable. Who would help them on their way? Who would protect them? Who would lead them to the Promised Land? They messed up big time. Someone rightly said, “Don't bite the hand that feeds you,” but that is exactly what they did. Have we done that? Have we lost patience with God and angered him by going our own way? Do we now feel deserted? Was there any hope that God would change his mind in regard to the Israelites?

To restore trust and to demonstrate their change of heart and mind, they had to strip off the ornaments they were using to worship the golden calf and humble themselves (Exodus 33:5-6). The same is true of us when we have offended God. If we want his favor restored to us, we must show true repentance.

Moses interceded for the Israelites and God relented. The LORD told Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked [go with the Israelites], because I am pleased with you [Moses] and I know you by name.” (Exodus 33:17, NIV)

Lessons to live by:

  • Prayers for God's glory get answered.
  • God can restore a broken trust. If we truly humble ourselves and repent, we will find mercy with him (more...). Once again we will be able to sense the presence of God going with us.

Today’s Bible memory verse:

Luke 1:50 “His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” (NIV)

praying girl Write a private prayer response to today’s Bible study:

Please send your comments to

Previous Lesson  |  Next Lesson

Back to top of page
Return to Chronological Bible Studies main page
Go to Scriptures main page
Go to Topics main page
Go to Home page

Contact Us