Speaker: Vasko Belovski
Good morning family. It’s a blessing to be here. The sun is shining so beautifully outside. And I certainly hope that the Son of Righteousness is shining in our hearts this morning. This morning, we’re going to talk about a subject that I believe has become really important, particularly in these last days, the title of the message is: The Return of the Golden Calf. But before we begin, I would kindly invite you to kneel where possible so that we can invite the presence of the Lord to be here with us.
Dear Lord, and Heavenly Father, we’re so thankful for having You in our lives. We’re so thankful for this beautiful day. And for Your bringing us together to hear your word. Father, I pray and ask that You be with us that You hope in our minds in our hearts to receive that which You have in store, I pray that You use me and help me to present Your Word this morning. Please be with me as I speak, please touch my lips and help me to interact in such a way that the information can be presented in a manner that will be easily understood by those that are here, and that most importantly, will represent that which has been revealed in Your Word. We’re thankful for all that You have done for us. And we pray and ask all of this in the name of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The majority of the Old Testament is focused upon the experience of Israel. We’re all familiar with the story. God called a man named Abraham out of his land, and promised to make of him a great nation, and to give an inheritance for that nation, a place to call their home, namely, the promised land. Abraham’s great grandson Joseph by his pure, true and steadfast connection with the one true God of heaven, secured Israel’s future by delivering them from famine, and relocating them to the land of Goshen, just outside of Egypt. There they were favored and guarded by Pharaoh for Joseph’s sake. This is what we see at the end of the book of Genesis, which closes with the death of Joseph. Unfortunately, by the time we dive into Exodus, we’re faced with a sad state of affairs that I believe holds valuable lessons for the Israel of God today. You see, history is to be our teacher. Winston Churchill once said, “Those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” And you know, that is a lesson that it is not something that Winston Churchill necessarily came up with. In fact, this is something that the Bible itself presents to us and teaches.
I’m going to invite you to come with me to First Corinthians chapter 10. And there, we’re going to look at verse 11. And it says there: “Now all these things happen unto them for ensamples, and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” How many of us here today, this morning, believe that we have found ourselves near the end of time? How many of us believe that these verses are particularly speaking about those who would find themselves in the last days? I myself believe that we are living in the last days, and I believe that this verse is very applicable with respect to what we are to heed as far as instructions that are found in the Bible, so that it can be helpful in our spiritual growth, and help us to get through the things that are ahead of us.
This morning, we’re going to study a particular event that took place among the chosen people of God during their journey in the wilderness. But before we get there, let us consider that sad state of affairs that I had just mentioned earlier. Let us go to the book of Exodus, the first chapter, and there examine verses eight through 14 so that we can get acquainted with what was going on with the people of God at that time. And it says there: “Now there arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them less they multiply, and it happened in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land. Therefore, they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens and they built for Pharaoh supply cities Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew, and they were in dread of the children of Israel. So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar and brick and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.” This passage gives us a very good illustration of the condition in which the Israelites had found themselves in years after Joseph had passed away.
Usually, when adverse circumstances come into our lives, we tend to look to God and ask, why is it that He allows all of this to take place? We sometimes have difficulties to believe that God has something better in store for us. We forget how merciful He is, and how He’s ever ready to help, that He’s always there. And looking at us, and thinking of how He can bring us closer to Him, and in fact, even improve our temporal life upon this earth. This seems to be the case for the Israelites. It seems that they had forgotten how God promised Abraham a land for him and his descendants. You see, Goshen was not the land of milk and honey, God had told him to be separate from the Egyptians and not to adopt any of their customs. But the Israelites did not hold to these instructions.
We very well know that despite all this, the Israelites eventually did leave Egypt, physically, experiencing many signs and wonders. But unfortunately, this was not the end of Israel’s rebellion against God. And although they were now journeying to a better land, Egypt had still remained in their hearts. There were several important events that took place during the journey of the Israelites to Canaan, but one of them stands out in particular. And this is what we’re going to examine this morning. And we learn of this event in the 32nd chapter of the book of Exodus. And there, we’re going to begin with verse one, and examine what it is exactly that took place. Exodus 32, verses starting at verse one: “Now, when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, come, make us Gods that shall go before us. For 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. And Aaron said to them, break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me. So all the people broke off the golden care, the golden earrings, which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool and made a molded, calf. Then they said, this is your God, or this is your Elohim, O Israel that brought you out of the land of Egypt.”
Moving on to verse seven, we see how God reacts to this apostasy that has just taken place among those who are supposed to represent Him upon the earth. “And the Lord said to Moses, go get down for your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves, they have turned aside quickly out of the way, which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshipped and sacrificed to it and said, this is your God O Israel that brought you out of the land of Egypt.”
It is very important for us to notice here that this apostasy took place the moment the Prophet had left them behind. Moses had gone up to speak to God. And instead of meditating upon that which had been going on in their lives prior to this event, the fact that God has miraculously taking them out of the land of Egypt, out of bondage, instead of thanking Him and searching their hearts trying to build their relationship with him, they went into apostasy and forsook the God that had just taken them out of Egypt. False worship. This is what we see here. Over and over again, we see this to be something that Israel struggled with. If we sit down to read the Old Testament, we would notice that it comes up constantly.
We have the example of Solomon and Ashtoreth. We have the example of Jeroboam and the two calves that he built as well. We have the example of Ahab and the worship of Baal. False worship was something that was part of the Israelite nation, over and over again. You see this apostasy was so great, because God had particularly given them instructions prior to this event taking place.
There’s a passage in Patriarchs and Prophets that is connected with this and clearly illustrate what the people of God were instructed not to do, and yet they failed, and went on into apostasy. We find this on page 315. It is a beautiful synopsis, actually, of the situation that we’re examining this morning. While Moses was absent, it was a time of waiting and suspense that Israel during this period of waiting there was time for them to meditate upon the law of God which they had heard, and to prepare their hearts to receive the further revelations that He might make to them. They had none too much time for this work. And had they been thus seeking a clearer understanding of God’s requirements and humbling their hearts before Him, they would have been shielded from temptation. But they did not do this, and they soon became careless, inattentive, and lawless. Feeling their helplessness in the absence of their leader, they return to their old superstitions. The mixed multitude had been the first to indulge murmuring and impatience, and they were the leaders in the apostasy that followed. Among the objects, regarded by the Egyptians as symbols of deity, was the ox or the cow.
So here we see exactly why it is that they molded a golden calf. It was because this was something they had adopted or learned from the Egyptians. It was at the suggestion of those who had practiced this form of idolatry in Egypt, that a calf was now made and worshiped. The people desired some image to represent God and to go before them in the place of Moses. God had given no manner of similitude of Himself, and He had prohibited any material representation for such a purpose. The mighty miracles in Egypt and the Red Sea were designed to establish faith in Him as the invisible, all powerful Helper of Israel, the only true God. You see, the Israelites needed not go into apostasy. They had been given clear instructions with respect to who God is. But they did not heed these. They did not humble themselves as we just read, they were not meditating upon that which has taken place in their life, just prior to this.
So the question that we need to answer this morning is, why are we looking at this particular scenario? What is so important for us today to understand with this particular scenario that we find in the book of Exodus? To give you the short answers, I want to share a paragraph from the Review and Herald which was penned in the year 1909. And notice what it says there about those who are living in these last days. And I hope that all of us here understand the fact that we’re living in the last days of Earth’s history, are in the greatest danger of placing their confidence in men, rather than in the true and living God. The Lord has given instruction, that the history of the apostasy of Israel is now to be presented. Now to be presented, and this was back in 1909. Already around the year 1909. She was given counsel to warn the people that that which took place during a time of Israel, during their journey from Egypt to the promised land was now to be presented. It continues, because men who in the past have had great light have become self sufficient, and are looking to man trusting in human leaders who are are themselves practicing evil. Men who ought to stand as firm as a rock to principle are treading in the same path that the Israelites followed. Some shall depart from the faith giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. This is the snare that has come into our ranks. There are wrong sentiments that have to be met. There are men who are acting the part of Aaron, at the very time when every soul should be working to seal the law among God’s disciples. They are building up the very things that God has specified should not be built up.
You see, brothers and sisters, we have been warned by the Bible itself, but also through the inspired writings of the prophet, that that which took place in the time of Israel, this great apostasy, this departure from the truth, idolatry, false worship, would yet again be something that we’re going to have to face and deal with she said. So let us now dig deeper and examine the details with respect to this event.
I would like us to go back to the Bible and understand where are these earrings came from? Because if you remember, it was the earrings that were used by Aaron in order for this golden calf to be put together. So the source, or the earrings were the source that was used in order for this idol to be fashioned in order to be a representation of God. So where did the earrings come from? To find the answer to this question, let us go to Exodus chapter three. And there, look at verse 21, and 22. And it says there: “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. And it shall come to pass that when he goes, he shall not go empty. But every woman shall borrow of her neighbor, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver and jewels of gold, and raiment, and ye shall put them upon your sons and upon your daughters. And ye shall spoil the Egyptians.” The earrings did not belong to the Israelites, they were taken from among the Egyptians as a spoil. It was this Egyptian jewelry that was used in the shaping or molding of the golden calf, the source of the idolatry was Egypt, and the golden calf was made in similitude to the data which the Israelites had adopted from the Egyptians.
So now that we have examined the earrings, where they came from, and what they were a symbol of. Let us continue on and try to understand what Egypt is a symbol of. Because that’s what we’re dealing with here. Egypt played a major role. So what is as far as what is the symbol behind Egypt, that we’re trying to understand in the lesson that we are to learn from this event? In order to do so we’re going to go and cover now a few verses in the Bible so that we are certain that we get this right and the first verse that we’re going to look at is found in Deuteronomy, chapter four. And there verse 20, Deuteronomy four, verse 20. And it says there: “But the Lord had taken you and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, even out of Egypt, to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day.” And what we see here in this verse is the fact that Egypt was referred to as an iron furnace. And this is not the only place in the Bible where we see this reference. We see the exact same reference made in Jeremiah, chapter 11 and verse four. And notice what it says there. It says there: “Which I commanded your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace.” Egypt is represented as an iron furnace.
What is iron, a symbol of in the Bible? When we think of the word iron, and when we think of the word kingdom? What does our mind immediately go to? What portion in the scripture do we see a reference between iron and a kingdom? We find that in Daniel chapter two, and there verse 40. So let us quickly go to Daniel chapter two verse 40. Daniel 2:40 says: “And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: for as much as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.”
What is this fourth kingdom that this imagery here in the book of Daniel is in reference to? It is the kingdom of Rome. We see this repeated again just a few chapters later in chapter seven. And there verse seven, iron is yet again used to depict this beast power, or Rome. And it says there in verse seven: “After this I saw in the night vision, and behold, a fourth beast dreadful and terrible and strong exceedingly.” It had great iron teeth. So we see clearly here that iron in the Bible is a symbol of Rome. So do you notice now this correlation that we’re starting to form here between Rome and Egypt? But it does not end there. When we go to Revelation chapter 12. And there when we read verses three to four, we are again presented with a kingdom with a power, Revelation three to four says: “And there appeared another wonder in heaven and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and 10 horns and seven crowns upon his head.” What as we continue through the book of Revelation here, and we move on to chapter 13, we will see that this great red dragon gave its power and authority to who? To another power– to another beast, and yet they were one and the same power, because this prophecy here is again referencing Rome. So we see the Rome in the book of Revelation is represented as a dragon.
So if Egypt and Rome are to be symbolically used as one in the same thing, as we just saw that from the example of iron, then we should be able, by another verse in the Bible, find a passage where Egypt is represented as a dragon, just as Rome is represented as a dragon here in the 12th chapter of the book of Revelation. So we actually have that reference. And it’s found in Ezekiel chapter 29. And there in verse three, it says: “Speak and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself.”
So yet again, here in this passage, we see that Egypt is represented as a dragon. In case any of us have any doubts with respect to this line of thinking, I’m just going to read a quick passage from Great Controversy, page 438, paragraph two. It says there, the line of prophecy, in which these symbols are found begins with Revelation 12, with the dragon that sought to destroy Christ at his birth. The dragon is said to be Satan. He it was that moved upon Herod to put the Savior to death. But the chief agent of Satan, he making war upon Christ and His people during the first centuries of the Christian era, was the Roman Empire, in which paganism was the prevailing religion. Thus, while the dragon primarily represents Satan, it is in a secondary sense, a symbol of pagan Rome. So you see, when the Bible talks about Egypt, also as being a dragon, we can automatically connect the two points and see that Egypt can symbolically also be a representation of Rome.
Let me ask you the following question as we meditate upon these few symbolisms that we have examined so far, from the event that took place in the wilderness. Why did the Advent movement come into existence? What was the reason that God had to raise up yet another movement in order for the work to be finished up on this earth? The reason for that was that Protestantism or the protesters, stop protesting. Ever since the Reformation began, there were new light that was given upon the people of God. But unfortunately, little by little, all these movements, all these churches began to adopt teachings that were something they had to be separate from: teachings that originated from Rome. So God’s intention was to separate his people from the errors that were coming from the Papal power and place these people up on a platform of choice. Truth upon a platform that represents everything that the Bible teaches–a platform that was not going to have any of the wine of Babylon.
So let’s recap and see if we can apply this lesson to us today. We saw that Egypt is a symbolic representation of Rome. We also learned that this great sin or apostasy that took place among the Israelites, was when the Prophet had gone from the people. Remember, Moses was not among them, it was Aaron that assisted the people with the molding and shaping of the golden calf, and Moses was no longer among them.
We also learned that the Israelites erected a false representation of God, false worship, an idol. We also saw that this full representation idol was fashioned from the Egyptian gold and silver, or in other words, things that had come from Egypt. We also learned that there was material representation. In other words, God was presented and explained through the material things of this world.
I would like to ask you and every Seventh Day Adventist a question this morning. Is there anything within the Seventh Day Adventist Church that meets all of these different points that we had just discussed? Is there something in the Seventh Day Adventist church that is symbolic or a representation of Rome? Is there something in the Seventh Day Adventist Church that can be considered as an apostasy? Is there something in the Seventh Day Adventist church that was fashioned by things that had come out of Rome? Ideas, perhaps not necessarily material things? Is there something in the Seventh Day Adventist church that is a false representation of God, which mimics that which Rome has presented to the people as far as who God is? And unfortunately, the answer to this question is, Yes, there is.
In the year 1980, the church officially voted and accepted the doctrine of the Trinity as part of its fundamental teachings. The Seventh Day Adventist Church during the time of Ellen White in the pioneers was a non-Trinitarian church. The Trinity doctrine was never part of the teachings of the church because all these pioneers, including Ellen White herself, believed in the only true God and His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. It was only when the Prophet was no longer among them, that this apostasy crept into the ranks of the church. Ellen White was no longer there. Was she, just as Moses was–no longer there? And where did this apostasy come from? Wasn’t it Aaron whom fashioned the golden calf and presented it to the people? Wasn’t it the leaders of the church who came together years, year after year discussing these things, and began to present them little by little to the people? Yes, it was, until the year 1980, when the whole church officially voted in the doctrine of the Trinity. And erected a misrepresentation of who God is, who He truly is.
But the lesson does not stop or end there. And there’s something even far more important for us today, as we examine this point. Let us go back to the book of Exodus and see how everything continues now. Did every Israelite partake in the apostasy? Was there a group of people that stay true to God, even when the majority of the Israelites were dancing and worshipping the golden calf? Was there someone else? Was there a remnant who did not partake of the apostasy, and remained true to God, in the midst of all of this? In Exodus 32, and there in verse 26, we find the following: Moses had now come down from the mountain. If you remember, God had told him, You need to come back because the people that you took out of the land of Egypt are no longer with Me. They’re now worshipping a false deity. So Moses comes down and he’s having a conversation with Aaron, and where Aaron is here, explaining to Moses what had taken place. It says that Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord side?” Let him come unto me and all the sons of Levi gather themselves together unto him. The Levites brothers and sisters did not partake of the apostasy that took place amid the Israelites. This line of thinking is clearly presented again in Patriarchs and Prophets on page 324. And there we are told, those who had not joined in the apostasy were to take their position at the right hand of Moses, who were those, the Levites. Those who are guilty, but repented were on the left side of Moses. The command was obeyed. It was found that the tribe of Levi had taken no part in the idolatrous worship. And I want us to pay attention to this because as we continue now we’re going to see that the entire plan of salvation was impacted by this one single event and I am going to explain what I mean by this.
Originally, the firstborn sons were to have been the priests of the Jewish nation who would serve in the tabernacle in the temple and the spiritual leaders. They were to be the spiritual leaders. When God spared the Jewish firstborn during the plague of the firstborn in Egypt, he acquired them and designated them to this position. But after the golden calf apostasy, the tribe of Ruben, who was the firstborn, lost this privilege, and it was given to the Levites. The entire Levitical priesthood, everything with respect to the priesthood in the Old Testament, revolves around what took place among the Israelites in the wilderness, when the golden calf apostasy took place among the people. The Reubenites lost, the firstborn lost their privilege of being part of the priesthood. And that priesthood was given to who? To the people who did not partake of the apostasy, to the tribe of Levi. We find the record of this in Numbers, chapter eight, verses 15, and 16. So let’s go on Numbers, chapter eight, verses 15 and 16. And see this being presented to us clearly here in these verses. And it says there: “And after that, the Levites go in to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and thou shalt cleanse them, and offer them for an offering for they are holy given unto Me from among the children of Israel, instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto Me.”
You see, God gave the priesthood to the to the tribe of Levi, not because they were the firstborn, but because they were the ones who had stayed true to him. The whole Jewish priesthood was built around the fact that the tribe of Levi stayed true to God. They were to be the priests associated with the work in the tabernacle. So what are we to say today, who are going to be the priests of God in these last days? In 1 Peter 2:9, we’re told that we are to be a chosen generation. We are to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people.
Brothers and sisters, I want to intimate that the only group of people that is going to be a royal priesthood are those who are going to follow the example of the tribe of Levi. The Levites received the royal priesthood because they remained faithful to God and did not partake in the apostasy of worshipping the golden calf. I would like to suggest this morning that God will yet again have faithful spiritual Levites, who just as the Levites of old will not worship the modern day, golden calf, the three in one papal God, and are to be chosen of God to be a royal priesthood, used to minister the truth in these last days. The Bible presents them as those who keep the commandments of God, and they keep all the commandments of God. They keep the fourth commandment, but they also keep the first and the second commandments. There will be no idolatry among them. And they’re also going to have the faith of Jesus. A faith that can only be given by the only mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus Himself. If you remember closely there were three groups of people when this apostasy took place. We had those who stay true to God, the Levites, who are on the right hand of Moses. But we also had those who worship the golden calf. But did what? Repent, because even back then, repentance was offered to the Israelites, and those who repented came, and they stayed on the left side of Moses.
But brothers and sisters here is the importance of why we are examining this particular scenario this morning, this event that took place in the Bible. It has been given for our admonition, as 1 Corinthians 10 says. There was unfortunately a third group of people that was part of that apostasy. And that group of people was those who repented not, and did not choose to take their stand on the side of the Lord. And I think all of us remember the story and what happened to those individuals. Those individuals unfortunately, lost their lives. I have been asked over and over again, why does it matter, for us to uplift God? The only true God that the Bible presents? Why does it matter that we are to recognize Christ as the only begotten Son of God? Why is it important to denounce the doctrine of the Trinity? It’s something that originates from Egypt, from Rome, it’s something that is not a true representation of God. It matters because all of this, as the Bible clearly presents here, is a matter of life over death. It’s idolatry.
The beautiful thing is that God is ever merciful, he will continue to offer repentance to each and every one of us. It is our goal today to fulfill the role of becoming a royal priesthood, of ministering the truth that God has given to his people so that others might come to repentance, and truly take their stand with God and be on the side of God. You see, all of us have fallen short of the glory of God, at one point or another, we have all sinned. But the beauty is that God offers repentance. It is just a matter of whether we’re going to humble ourselves or allow him to humble us, so that we can come to our knees and ask him for forgiveness, and be allowed to take our stand on the side of God.
In conclusion, I just want to reiterate the facts that were presented in this story again, because it is important for us to meditate upon this example. You see, Egypt was symbolical of Rome. The golden calf is symbolic, all of that which is taking place among God’s people in these last days. And I would like to appeal to all of you this morning. Will you choose to stand on the side of the only true God and dispose of all theological misrepresentations that originate from Rome? May the Lord give us wisdom to understand the importance of this biblical example, and bring people to an understanding of who God is, and not just about a theoretical knowledge of who God is. But understand the importance of how every aspect of our faith in these last days, in one way or another, impacts our eternal destiny.
I would like to invite you to kneel where possible so we can petition the Lord in prayer, and ask him to assist us with all of this.
Dear Lord and Heavenly Father, Lord, we’re so thankful for the examples that you have given in Your word. We’re thankful that we can go back and learn from the lessons of ancient Israel and apply these lessons into our lives, Lord, so that we can be able to stand with You through to the end. Father, I thank You for Your mercy. I thank You for stretching Your hand and allowing us to have repentance, allowing us to come in front of Your throne of grace and bring our mistakes, bring our sins, bring our shortcomings to You. Lord, please continue to work with us. Please continue to work with Your people. Please continue to work specifically with those who have not understood who You truly are and who have not allowed Christ to step in, and truly be the only Mediator, the only source of righteousness upon this earth. We thank You for everything Lord and we surrender ourselves. We surrender our brothers and sisters into Your hands. And we pray in us all of this in the name of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.