Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | May 31, 2009

Deuteronomy 9:7-21

• A Review of the Golden Calf Incident | Deuteronomy 9:7-21

9:7-21 | These verses illustrate Israel’s stubbornness. Moses reviewed the golden calf incident (Exodus 24:12-18 and chapters 32 and 34) to help the people understand that they had not been given the Promised Land because of their righteousness or the uprightness of their heart (9:5). They were, in fact, a forgetful and rebellious people. Notice the following significant facts in the review of the golden calf incident.

First, notice the difference between the behavior of Moses and that of the Israelites (9:9). When Moses went up on Mount Horeb he neither ate bread nor drank water for forty days and nights (9:9) while he patiently waited on the Lord to give him “the tablets of the covenant” (9:11). However, “when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain” (Exodus 32:1), they asked Aaron to make them a god. Aaron willingly obliged the people’s request (Exodus 32:2-6).

We should use our influence for good. | When Moses was absent, the people grew impatient and asked Aaron to assist them in making a god. Aaron should have used his influence to encourage the people to patiently wait for Moses to return. Instead, Aaron assisted them in their sin. I heard someone say that we must neither bring sin upon others nor encourage them in it. We have a responsibility to guard our influence. Henry Ward Beecher wrote, “The humblest individual exerts some influence, either for good or evil, upon others.” We should always use our influence for good.

Second, notice the nature of the Israelite’s rebellion. Verse 10 indicates that the people had heard the terms of the covenant before they were written. Therefore, their rebellion and violation of the first two commandments was willful and not out of ignorance.

Third, notice the anger of the Lord over the Israelite’s rebellion (9:13-16). Within days of hearing the terms of the covenant, the people “turned aside quickly from the way which the Lord had commanded [them]” (9:16). God told Moses to leave the mountain and return to the people (notice that God referred to them as “your” people and “this” people but not “My” people) to behold what they had done. God told Moses that He would deal with the people in a two-fold manner (9:14). First, by destroying them. Second, by blotting out their name from under heaven. God could still fulfill His purpose through Moses.

Short-term memories can lead to long-term problems. | After hearing the terms of the covenant (9:10) and before those terms were written on the stone tablets (9:11), the Israelites quickly violated the first two commandments. The Israelites had short memories and consequently got themselves in big trouble. James (1:23-24) commented on the problem of a short memory: “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”

Fourth, notice the anger of Moses over the Israelite’s rebellion (9:17 and Exodus 32:19). Moses smashed the tablets of the law in the presence of the people, a powerful visual object lesson that illustrated the Israelite’s breaking of the covenant.

Fifth, notice the steps Moses took to deal with the situation (9:18-21). Moses interceded for the people and for Aaron (9:18-20 and 26-29). Notice the following things about Moses’ prayer.

• Moses was earnest in prayer: “And I fell down before the Lord” (9:18).
• Moses persevered in prayer: “forty days and nights” (9:18).
• Moses fasted in prayer: “I neither ate not drank water” (9:18).
• Moses was bold in prayer: “For I was afraid … but the Lord listened to me” (9:19).
• Moses interceded in prayer: “so I also prayed for Aaron at the same time” (9:20).
• Moses followed-up on his prayer by completely destroying the golden calf (9:21).

Our concern for others should find expression in prayer. | Moses’ concern for the welfare of the Israelites found expression in earnest intercessory prayer. His prayer Moses was heard and honored by God and Israel was spared destruction. James (5:16b) notes, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” It is often easier to give up on people than to earnestly pray for them. Our concern for others should find expression in earnest and sincere intercessory prayer.

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