What does it say?
Moses was a long returning from the mountain and the people became restless, so Aaron made them an idol, a molten calf to worship as their god who took them out of the land of Egypt. The Lord told Moses that the people have broken the covenant by making an idol to worship; therefore, the Lord was angry. Moses prayed to the Lord, that he would not destroy the people and he reminded the Lord of the covenant that he made with Abraham, Isaac and (Jacob) Israel; that he would multiply there descendants and give them the land that they stood on forever. Hearing this, the Lord withheld his wrath from destroying the sons of Israel. Moses descended from the mountain with the two tablets of testimony given to him by the Lord and while descending he heard the people singing. When Moses saw what they were doing he became angry and threw down the tablets which shattered. Moses ground up the golden calf, scattered the grindings over the surface of the water and he made the sons of Israel drink it. Moses then turned to Aaron who blamed the people and said that this calf was created when he threw the gold into the fire. Moses instructed the Levites to go throughout the camp and make war in the camp. Moses went back up the mountain to the Lord to make intercession for the people and offered to be excluded from the kingdom of God if the Lord would forgive them; however, the Lord rejected Moses’ offer of substitution and the Lord vowed to punish them at the judgment.
What does it mean?
Moses’ throwing down and shattering the tablets of the testimony represents the breaking of the covenant. The Lord had no more concluded giving Moses instruction and the people broke the covenant. This is a vivid picture of total depravity. The Lord is a covenant making and covenant keeping God but man always falls short of the glory of God. The people heard God speak from the mountain and they saw the fire that consumed the mountain and they heard the ten commandments spoken by the mouth of the Lord from the mountain. At that time, the people were fearful and elected Moses to go before the Lord. It took but forty days for them to forget and break the word of the Lord. The Lord is holy, righteous and just; therefore, all sin shall be punished. Moses like all men is a sinner; therefore, he was not an acceptable substitute for the sins of the people.
What shall I do?
I shall repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ because he was punished for our transgressions and was raised because of our justification. (Rom 4:25) Moses was not an acceptable substitute for the sins of the sons of Israel but Jesus is an acceptable substitute for the sins of all men. The Lord passed over the sins of the sons of Israel at Mount Sinai because a perfect substitute was coming. Jesus death on the cross was to demonstrate the righteousness of God in passing over the sins of men. God is just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus; (Rom 3:25, 26) therefore, I shall have repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins and I shall learn to observe all that Jesus commanded.