We continue our bible study in Luke’s gospel. We covered Luke 9:23-36. If you’d like to follow along at home, here is the written copy: The gospel of Luke: A Bible Study.
This is the sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost. The sermon text is: EXODUS 32:15-29. The sermon theme is: How Dedicated Are You? Here is the Written Sermon.
How Dedicated Are You?
There are some things you have to do. But very often the tasks we have to do are not one we want to do. In the words the Lord records for us this morning Moses had to get a task done. He had to go down from Mt. Sinai and tell confront the Israelites about their sin. In Exodus 32, we read: “15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.” 18 Moses replied: “It is not the sound of victory, it is not the sound of defeat; it is the sound of singing that I hear.”” (Ex 32:15-18 NIV)
As they are going down the mountain, Joshua hears people shouting. And with such bitterness in his soul Moses tells Joshua that it’s not shouting in triumph or shouting in defeat that he hears. No, it’s the sound of people singing in worship. And no doubt Joshua was wondering how Moses seemed to know so much more about what was going on at the bottom of the mountain that he did. And the answer was very simple. While Moses was alone with the Lord, the Lord told him. He told Moses that the Israelites worshiping a false god and engaging in sexual immorality. And no doubt, there was a question that was burning its way through Moses’ heart and soul: How bad can it be? And when he gets to the foot of the mountain he finds out: “19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 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. 21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” 22 “Do not be angry, my Lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘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.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” 25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies.” (Ex 32:19-25 NIV)
How bad was it? It was so bad and Moses’ anger was so strong that he threw down the tablets of stone onto the ground and shattered them. And these were the tablets that God himself had written on. It was so bad that he ground up the calf, scattered the gold dust over the water and made them drink it. It was so bad that in his anger he confronts Aaron, asking him what drove him to sin so much. And in response Aaron spills out this stupid lie: “I threw the gold into the fire and this gold calf came out.” 1 And all of this was so bad because not only had the people lost all control, but Aaron, the man Moses left in charge had let them lose control.
And when these people lose control this is something you have to picture. The things that only married people should be doing with each other, other people were doing. And no doubt, some things no one should be doing to another person, they were doing. They had lost control. And it was only a matter of time before their enemies found out and attacked them. And when they were defenseless they would all die.
Now, my brothers and sisters in Christ, what would you do? What would you do in this situation? How would you regain control again? How would you keep Israel’s enemies from descending on them and destroying them? The Lord’s solution was unique. We read: “26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him. 27 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”” (Ex 32:26-29 NIV)
Moses stands at the entrance to the camp and he cries out: “Who is for the Lord? Then come to me!” 2 All of the men from all of the tribes did nothing-all except the Levites. On that day the Levites showed their dedication to the Lord. And very quickly they learned that being dedicated to the Lord didn’t just mean standing standing up for the Lord. It also meant showing your dedication. So the Lord ordered each of them to go throughout the camp. And as they opened up one tent flap after another, when they found a couple engaging in sexual immorality, they killed them. They obeyed the Lord’s command. And on that day the Lord commended them for their dedication.
And all of this leads us to the question we need to ask this morning: How dedicated are you? On that day would you have stood with the one tribe or with the eleven? On that day we see two sins. First, we see the sin of losing control. Second, we see the sin of listening to others instead of listening to our Lord. How dedicated are you? When we take a step back and look at our lives we see that it’s easy-It’s easy to lose control and listen to others instead of our Lord. It’s easy when you’re young, isn’t it? I remember what it was like that first year after I graduated from high school. I went to Montana State University. And there, for an entire year, I got to see what people are like and what they do when there is no one to tell them, “no.” Words they would never say in their parents home, they said freely. Actions they would never take at home they did both because there was no one to say “no” and because there were people all around to encourage them to sin.
But we could say the same about growing older, couldn’t we? Any parent with common sense knows that you have to set a good example for your kids. Otherwise they will see your hypocrisy and rebel against you. But what happens when all the children grow up? What happens when there is no voice in your head to say “no” anymore? It is ever so tempting to lose control. It’s so tempting to do what you want to do because there’s no one standing there telling you “no.” How many countless people have abused their money and destroyed their marriages because their children grew up and then they felt free to lose control?
So let me ask you again, how dedicated to the Lord are you? In all blunt honesty, we have to admit that if we are dedicated to anything, we are dedicated to our own desires. On that day of death so long ago, when the Levites went through the camp killing their sons, brothers and friends, there was one person who was dedicated to the Lord. But that one person was not any of the Levites. And that one person was not Moses. The one person who was a silent witness to all this was the Angel of the Lord. That one person was Jesus. And Jesus was the only one who was completely, perfectly dedicated to the Lord. Where all of us have lost control, Jesus never did. There was no amount of anger, no amount of stress that moved him to give up his complete control. And where all of us have listened to friends and family members instead of listening to God’s word, Jesus never did. He listened to his Father perfectly in our place. And when he died on the cross, all of our sins-even and especially those sins we commit when we lose control and listen to others are forgiven.
How dedicated are you? Isn’t it wonderful to know that the answer to that question is really the fact that Jesus was completely dedicated to our Father in our place? But Jesus’ kindness to us doesn’t stop there. Through his word he gives us the Holy Spirit. And with that he gives us the dedication to follow the Lord. And you can look back in your lives and see how the Holy Spirit has worked in your lives. How many of you used to belong to churches that mixed the truth with error? But the Holy Spirit gathered you out of those churches into this one where God’s grace is given and your Savior Jesus shines. That dedication didn’t come from you. It came from Jesus. It came from the Holy Spirit given to you in your baptisms. And every single time the Lord tells you “no” and you listen now, that too is the Holy Spirit’s work. So now, at the end of these word, when you are asked the question, ‘how dedicated are you’ you can say with joy in your heart, “Jesus was perfectly dedicated to his Father in my place. And through him I am dedicated to our Father too.” Amen.