Summary: Joshua heard the commotion in the camp and thought it was the "noise of war". He was partly right and partly wrong. Do you know what Israel was doing and why... and do you understand why God and Moses were so furious with the people?
At the turn of the century, there was an Iowa singing group named the Cherry Sisters.
Following one of their concerts a reporter for The Des Moines Register ran a scathing review He wrote that "Their long skinny arms, equipped with talons at the extremities... waved frantically at the suffering audience. The mouths of their rancid features opened like caverns, and sounds like the wailing of condemned souls issued therefrom."
The sisters sued the paper for libel.
The Judge asked the sisters to perform their act for him in court... and then ruled in favor of the newspaper.
(Uncle John's 4th Bathroom Reader, p. 39)
The Cherry sisters obviously didn’t sing very well.
Their concert was not a pleasant experience.
Their singing was little more than mere NOISE.
In our text this morning we have Moses coming back down from the Mountain. He’s just been given the 10 commandments and he’s only about half way down when he and Joshua hear something.
We’re told that “When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, ‘There is a noise of war in the camp.’” Exodus 32:17
Now, Joshua didn’t realize what was happening. He thought an enemy had fallen on the camp during the night and battle had broken out. What he didn’t know that the people had grown tired of waiting for Moses. I mean Moses had been gone for more than a month and as far as they knew – he wasn’t coming back!!
And they intend to take matters into their own hands.
So they confront Aaron and they demand, ‘Make us gods who shall go before us. 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.’ Exodus 32:23
And once Aaron makes the idol for them we’re told “they rose up … and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” Exodus 32:6
They were making noise alright… but it wasn’t the noise of war.
It was the noise of a people having a GOOD time.
But they weren’t having a GODLY good time.
They were making burnt offerings and peace offerings to a golden calf, and then they ate and drank and had themselves a PARTY. They felt they owed it to themselves after suffering in the desert for 50 days and now being abandoned by Moses for another 40. They intended to enjoy themselves. And so… they partied. And they were having a good time.
But there was someone that day who was NOT having a good time.
Do you know who was not having a good time?
God was ticked.
Moses hadn’t been gone for a mere 40 days and these folks were already breaking the 1st commandment. Forty days earlier, God had come down on the mountain before Moses had gone up and He had spoken the Law in the hearing of all the people. And the very 1st commandment was this:
“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…” Exodus 20:3-5a
Forty days earlier they heard that very command – and now that was the very thing they were doing… bowing down to a golden calf.
So when Moses came down the Mountain and HEARD the noise they were making and SAW the evil they were committing he was furious - and he broke the tablets of stone (10 Commandments) ground up the golden calf – mixed it in the drinking water and commanded the people to drink!
Now when Joshua heard the commotion in the camp he thought he heard the noise of war. But Moses was more discerning:
“It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” Exodus 32:18
Now think about this for a moment.
These people were up offering sacrifices and peace offerings, and they’re singing.
What does that sound they’re doing??? (Worship)
To make things even more interesting here Exodus 32:3-5 tells us who they were worshiping:
“… then all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”