TiO 45 – Exodus – The Dangers of Freedom

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The Main Idea

This message wraps up our Exodus series by focusing on the high-point in the book, the little blank space between Chapter 31 and 32!  The entire Exodus story is reviewed through the eyes of Moses with special take-away-lessons relevant to each of us.  The message then examines the cause of Israel’s downfall and the dangers of extreme personal freedom concluding with the idea that ‘Faith has a short shelf life’ and the victories and successes of yesterday don’t rollover into today.  Faith needs to be kept fresh!

Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)

Q1: How do you define freedom?

Q2: Do you feel better when you have freedom or structure in your life?

Q3: Would you describe the household you grew up in as being “free” or “restrictive”?

Dig a Little Deeper

This week Todd walked us through Exodus 29-34. In these chapters we see the following:

Chapter 29:

  • Instructions for consecration (setting apart) of the priests.

Chapter 30:

  • Instructions for making the altar (vss. 1-10)
  • Raising money for the maintenance of the tabernacle via. Census
  • Washing and anointing for the priests

Chapter 31:

  • Designation of the artisans who will supervise the creation of the tabernacle and all the associated items
  • Instructions on keeping the sabbath as a day of rest
  • God gives Moses the tablets of the covenant.

Chapter 32:

  • the people make a golden calf and worship it as their saviour
  • God sends Moses down the mountain to deal wth the idolatry and disobedience of the people
  • Moses has the faithful kill 3000 of the wicked
  • God sends a plague on the people to punish them

Chapter 33:

  • God instructs Moses to lead the people to the promised land but says that he (God) will not go with them
  • Moses meets with God to advocate on behalf of the people: “If you do not go with us then do not make us go!”
  • God promises to show himself to Moses

Chapter 34:

  • God passes before Moses: Moses face shines from this point forward
  • God reaffirms his covenant with the people 

Read Exodus 32

Q1: According to verses 1-6, the people abandoned the leadership of Moses and God. What were their reasons?

Q2: Thinking a bit deeper about verses 1-6, why do you think that the people were eager to

  1. a) substitute a golden calf for God;
  2. b) pick a new leader to take over from Moses?

Q3: According to verses 7-10, God has a solution to the disobedience of the people, what is it?

Q4: According to verses 11-14, Moses and God has a conversation. What was the result of this conversation?

Q5: What thoughts or ideas does the phrase (vs. 14), “And the Lord changed his mind …” bring up for you?

Q6: List the results and punishments that come from the disobedience of the people (vss. 15-35).

In his message, Todd recapped the story of Exodus to this point as follows:

  • God called Moses –> Don’t waste your weakness on yourself
  • The Passover saved the people –> Passover is of little value until you activate it at the Red Sea
  • Wandering in the wilderness –> When you don’t need much, you don’t need much God.
  • The people committed to God –> Exodus 24:3,7
  • God gave the tablets to Moses after 40 days on the mountain

But after all of this the people rebelled against the leadership of God and Moses and made their own god.

Todd described it this way: Faith has a short shelf-life. Yesterday’s faith-experiences and successes don’t rollover to today.

Q7: What is the danger of freedom? Do you have a story about how freedom (comfort, choice, etc.) created problems in your life?

Next Steps

After all that God has brought the people of Israel through they abandoned God and Moses to their own idea of what God and leadership and freedom should mean. In the end, God did not abandon the people but, as we see in chapters 32 and following, they had to start over, and even this had consequences: people died, there was sickness, there was 40 years of wandering in the wilderness while the disobedient generation died off, and even Moses was not able to enter the land of promise and could only view it from a hilltop.

Freedom and the response of the people of Israel to that freedom had real and lasting consequences.

As he concluded, Todd spoke of many things that we are free to do, as followers of Jesus. Many of these, while acceptable (or at least forgivable) would not contribute to the good of the body of Christ.

Todd concluded with the words of Paul in Galatians 5:13

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.

Q1: How do you see evidence of freedom in your life? 

Q2: If you see limitations on your freedom, what would it take for you to feel/be free?

Q3: Should we quest for freedom or just wait for it to happen? 

Q4: What are some acceptable limits to our freedom? When is the “good of the many” an acceptable reason to limit freedom?

Pray that we would all accept the freedom we have been given and give up that freedom for the good of others.

The Scriptures

In this section we are provide the scriptures referenced in this study. Some are core to the lesson, others can optionally be read and discussed as part of your time together.

Exodus 32 (NRSV)

            When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, 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.” Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a 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 proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a 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!’ ” The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”

            But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, written on the front and on the back. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.”

But he said,

“It is not the sound made by victors,

or the sound made by losers;

it is the sound of revellers that I hear.”

As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.

Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” And Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are bent on evil. 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.’ So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off’; so they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

When Moses saw that the people were running wild (for Aaron had let them run wild, to the derision of their enemies), 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. He said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side, each of you! Go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill your brother, your friend, and your neighbour.’ ” The sons of Levi did as Moses commanded, and about three thousand of the people fell on that day. Moses said, “Today you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of a son or a brother, and so have brought a blessing on yourselves this day.”

On the next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will only forgive their sin—but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.” But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.”

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

Galatians 5:13

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.

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