The text for this lesson is Exodus 32:1–20
- God commands that we put Him first. Through Jesus, He also forgives us when we fail to do so and, in love, puts us first, providing for our physical and spiritual nurture.
- Law: Just as the Israelites sinned by failing to trust in God and instead worshiped an idol, in the same way, I sin by worshiping my own idols over God: money, relationships, success, and everything I put ahead of Him.
- Gospel: The one true God meets all my needs today just as He did for the Old Testament Israelites. Most especially, God tends to my spiritual needs through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, and for His sake, He forgives my sins and gives me eternal life.
- God gave the people of Israel no reason to doubt. When they languished in slavery under Pharaoh’s cruel lash, He delivered them through Moses and the mighty plagues. When their mouths were dry in the desert heat, He satisfied their thirst with water from the rock. When their bellies grumbled in hunger, He filled their weary bodies with manna and quail. Now, at Sinai, the loving, almighty God gave them the Ten Commandments and covenant law governing societal life and worship. God had always been faithful and never broke a promise. Nevertheless, in sinful impatience, the people forsook Him and in His place worshiped a lifeless image of a dull animal covered in their own gold.
Unlike shoe tying and basic arithmetic, which children normally need learn only once, it appears that the Old Testament Israelites needed to learn to fear, love, and trust God over and over again. Despite repeated evidence of God’s love, strength, and faithfulness, the people of Israel continued to put their fear, love, and trust in anything except God. It seems all they had for God were complaints, impatience, and infidelity. In wishing to return to the predictable slavery of Egypt, the people demonstrated that their fear of hunger and thirst was greater than their trust in God’s almighty power and providence. In fashioning and worshiping a golden calf, the Israelites feared their circumstances more than they feared God. They loved themselves over God, choosing their own solution as opposed to God. They trusted a dead image of molten gold over the living, almighty God.
Despite having even more evidence of God’s good character today than did the Israelites, we behave no better. In the First Commandment, God demands that we fear Him above all other things. Yet, when we fear poverty, we steal. When we fear boredom, we try to invent better ways of serving God, ways He did not intend. God demands that we love Him above all things. However, when we deem our Lord’s love unsatisfactory, we sin to gain the approval of others. When we love what belongs to others, we covet what God has not given us. Ultimately, we trust ourselves over God, sinning by seeking to do for ourselves what God has promised to do for us.
Loving God above all others is the best way to love others. We see this clearly in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Although God Himself, Jesus feared God in the sense that He always obeyed His Father in heaven, even when doing so meant displeasing others. Even when obeying His Father meant death, Jesus kept His priorities straight. Jesus expressed love for His heavenly Father through absolute devotion in life. Jesus spent each day and hour fulfilling God’s plan for our salvation. Our Savior trusted that His Father would provide for all His needs and bring His plan to fruition. Jesus kept the First Commandment impeccably for us.
While it would have been easy for Jesus to fear death, love comfort, and trust Himself more than God’s plan for our salvation, our Savior did all that was necessary on the cross to atone for our sins. Through His faultless obedience and death on the cross, we are forgiven of our sins and are free to live with God in fear, love, and trust. .