Excerpt From The Book, Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing
5 catastrophes to avoid
They Give Us Something Tangible to Worship
Every Bible student knows that Aaron built the golden calf because the Israelites demanded it. (1) They also know that their calls came after God gave the law forbidding idols.
What preceded these events recorded in Exodus 32 may surprise you.
The children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt where they had lived for about 400 years. A short time prior to this setting, God met with Moses on the mountain and gave him the law as recorded in Exodus 20.
Exodus 24 describes how Moses, Aaron and his 2 sons, and 70 elders of Israel went to worship God. As they worshiped, they saw God standing on sapphire stone, and they ate and drank with Him. (2)
Out of that group, God called Moses to come up to His presence. Before Moses and his helper Joshua went to God, Moses told the others to wait for their return. If needed help before he returned to them, they could ask Aaron and Hur for counsel. (3)
These events introduce the disastrous events in Exodus 32. Those Israelites who met with God, saw Him standing on a sapphire stone, and observed His wonder, majesty, and beauty cried for new gods and new leadership.
The rebellion of Israel provides a clear picture of the conditions that give rise to false prophets and teachers. It repeated in history and again today, too.
Dissatisfaction For Delay
Few, if any of us, likes delays. We want “Jack-in-the-box responses to our needs and wants.
The Israelites responded in the same fashion. When Moses delayed from his return from his time with God on the mountain, they grew restless. (4) They rebelled against God and Moses, impatient to wait upon and for God’s directions for them.
This same attitude emerges as one of the great evils present in the professing Church today, an unwillingness to wait for God.
We want God to respond yesterday to today’s demands. The desire for instant gratification dominates the Church’s plans:
- the longing for numerical church growth now;
- the desire for spiritual growth now; and
- the need to fill Church program positions now, even with unqualified people rather than wait for God to provide qualified ones.
The Scriptures relate dire illustrations of the disasters that come upon those who fail to wait.
King Saul’s judgment from God for his rejection of Samuel’s command to wait for him before offering sacrifices; and
Abraham and Sarah’s refusal to wait for God’s promised son, which resulted in the birth of Ishmael and the subsequent pain and suffering instead of joy.
In contrast, the Scriptures teach the great value in waiting. For example, God promised,
“they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” (5)
Again, Isaiah records another example of God’s instruction about waiting:
“Therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” (6)
Like the children of Israel who expressed dissatisfaction for delay for Moses and God’s directions for them, the Church today does not want to wait for God. We want instant gratification.
Disobedience Of God’s Commands
The Children of Israel disobeyed God’s commands. God had told them not to make any graven images of birds, anything on earth or in the heavens, or especially of God. They must worship God and Him alone.
Even though the Israelites swore allegiance to God to worship Him only, they cried to Aaron to make them gods to go before them. They violated the First and Second Commandments.
God never changed these commands. Yet, professing believers today use religious paraphernalia, images, or other kinds of replicas that we design “make it easier to understand and think about God and to feel Him.”
This particular emphasis has experienced a sudden increase in the professing church today. People flock to churches that make these things available as part of their “worship” in their vain and evil appeal to human nature.
Such practices detract from the true nature and character of God and degrade Him into things made with hands.
Excuses and explanations for these false practices abound.“If it only brings in one lost soul, isn’t it worth it?”
- “Anything is worth one soul, isn’t it?”
- “They make me feel closer to God.
The professing Church accepts almost any kind of means that will bring about the desired numerical growth, even to the extent of violating God’s law.
The Lord Jesus, in John 4.23-24, said to the woman at the well,
“Those who worship me must worship me in spirit and in truth.”
What did He mean by that statement? God desires that we avoid anything in or worship of Him that would detract from His true nature and character. Nothing that we make can represent Him in His fullness. He manifests Himself to His children in glorious ways beyond our imaginations.
Deification Of A Man
In their displeasure and disobedience, they deified Moses: “He brought us out of Egypt.” They failed to wait for his return from his visit with God, yet they attributed to him that which God accomplished.
God brought them out of Egypt.
- He parted the Red Sea when Moses stood there quivering and wondering before God: “What am I going to do?”
- God made the bitter waters at Mara sweet so that they could drink them. Moses threw the tree into the waters, but God made them drinkable.
- God provided the manna every morning for six days each week, not Moses.
- God caused the pillar of fire to guard them by night and the cloudy pillar to guide them during the day.
- God provided the water out of the rock when Moses spoke to it.
The Scriptures record numerous accounts of God’s supernatural works on behalf of the children of Israel. But, they attributed them to Moses. They deified Moses and elevated him above God.
In a similar fashion today, the professing Church deifies its leaders.
- The Church desires leaders with glorious, wonderful personalities.
- They want pastors and teachers who will draw in the masses.
- They want preachers who sway them with magnetic personalities and wonderful message delivery.
That describes in part what people want for their leaders. They have deified man and elevated him to the position above God. The professing Church replaced God with a popular man.
The want ads in the back of Christian magazines that advertise for pastors and Christian leaders illustrate this practice. Rather than looking for Godly characteristics and experience with God, they instead concentrate upon relevant work experience, education, ability to manage a multiple staff, and other human qualifications.
In essence, they seek a man. The Christian community today has placed its emphasis upon man. Man runs and directs the Church today, not Christ, the Head of the Church.
In the minds of the Children of Israel, Moses brought them out of Egypt. That pattern repeats now in the professing Church. The Church wants someone to lead it into the new millennium of the Church. The Church deifies man and rejects God.
Disdain For Godliness
Exodus 32 describes the Israelites as wondering what had happened to Moses. (7)
They knew where Moses went. He obeyed God’s call to him to come up to meet with Him. Their leaders had met with God, too, saw Him standing on a sapphire stone, and beheld His glory. They knew that Moses had gone to meet with that God.
They preferred that Moses had stayed with them. They never considered what it meant for Moses to meet with God. They rejected the impact that God would have upon Moses.
Look again at the magazines that advertise for pastors and leaders of Christian colleges and organizations. These ads fail to identify that they want a man who meets with God.
They neglect to say,
- “We want a man of prayer.”
- “We want a man who will come and spend hours on his knees beseeching God to meet our needs.”
- “We want a man who walks with God, who knows Him intimately, and can share that with us and guide us into that same pursuit.”
Several years ago, my wife served as a secretary in a large church. One time, the pastors of that church gathered to pray. While the pastors met in prayer, she received a phone call from a church member, who asked to speak with one of the pastors.
My wife replied, “Oh, I’m sorry. He cannot come to the phone right now. He is in a prayer meeting with the other pastors.”
The caller replied, “What do you mean he is in a prayer meeting? He ought to be working.”
That description depicts the attitude of many in the Church today. Few members realize the absolute necessity of their leaders spending time alone with God. Worse yet, few pastors and leaders recognize its importance. Too often, schedules, demands, and activities have a higher priority than time with God.
A number of years ago, I served on a pastoral search committee of the church that we attended at the time. As the committee met, it established a list of criteria for the new pastor, which emphasized the very issues mentioned earlier in this study. At that time, I joined in the chorus of agreement with the list…until we met one of the candidates.
I will never forget him. It was, I am sure, God’s appointment to bring that man in as a candidate just for me, because that interview changed my life.
I will never forget sitting in that meeting. As the committee questioned him on every conceivable issue, he replied in the same fashion after each question. After every question, he gave his answer to the question and finished his answer with this statement:
“…but the most important thing is this. What are you doing with Jesus? Are you walking with Jesus? Have you yielded your life to Christ? Is he working and functioning in your life on a day-to-day basis? That is the most important issue.
At the end of the session, God had used that man’s statements to change my life. That church rejected him as the pastor because of his responses to the committee’s questions.
One of the “respected” leaders on the committee swayed the congregation with this telling statement,
“Well, you know, we really do need a whole lot more than just hearing messages about Jesus.”
That attitude permeates the professing Church today. It does not want a godly man. More than any other qualification:
- the Church today needs leaders and pastors who know God;
- the Church needs to hear from those who have an intimate relationship with God, who spend time on their knees and on their faces before God beseeching Him on behalf of the Church, trying to know Him, trying to understand Him.
That describes the Godly leaders and pastors the Church needs today.
Denial Of Glory To God
After Aaron fashioned for them the golden calf from the gold that they brought to him, they worshiped it. They said, “These be the gods that brought us out of Egypt.”
After all of the wondrous display of God that they observed, His nature, and His supernatural works on their behalf, they took a chunk of gold, worshipped it, and said, “That brought us out of Egypt.”
They denied God the glory that He alone deserved. They gave it instead to a hunk of gold.
How does the professing Church follow this pattern today? The Church gives honor to programs for what the “successes” they delivered. The Church increases in size with multiple programs and honors the programs that fostered the growth, adding praise to the wonderful personality who leads the programs.
God receives no glory.
The Bible warns believers that God will not share His glory with another. Thousands of years ago, the Israelites denied glory to God for His works, and the Church today follows in their footsteps.
In that day, God judged them for their sin. In this day, He, too, has withdrawn His glorious presence and begun to judge the house of God.
This setting of Aaron’s making the golden calf provides clear examples of the circumstances that encourage false prophets. The signs present in that day,
- dissatisfaction with delay,
- disobedience to God’s word,
- deification of man, and
- denial of glory to God,
have become increasingly predominant in this day. The Church must awaken to its condition and seek God for remedy.
Questions For Review
- What caused the sons of Aaron and the 70 elders, who saw God in His glory, to decide they wanted new gods?
- What does the modern evangelical Church want?
- In what ways do you see disobedience to God’s word in the church you attend or in the churches near you?
- What does John 4.23-24 mean?
- How did the Israelites deify Moses?
- How does today’s Church deify their leaders?
- How does that harm pastors?
- How does it harm the congregation?
- How does it harm nationally known “spiritual” leaders who appear on television, write best selling books, and speak at large conferences?
- What reasons does the average Church have for failing to seek out Godly, praying men of God with Biblical qualifications to shepherd?
- How do we, as individuals, fail to give God a place of glory in our lives? How does that reveal itself?
Thank you, heavenly Father, for this example that you have given us in your Word of the failure of your chosen people to follow after you and in choosing the idols and choosing of leaders that would be other than the ones that you had in mind for them. I pray that you would teach us from it and conform our lives to the truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
- Exodus 32.1-6
- Exodus 24.9-11
- Exodus 24.14
- Exodus 32.1
- Isaiah 40.31
- Isaiah 30.18
- Exodus 32.23