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Jamie Johnson
4 June 2016

Blame Game

NOTE: This is a written version of the message I delivered on June 5, 2016.

How many know the story of the Golden Calf? There are lots of things to take from it. One of them is a reflection of human nature and how we play the "blame game," denying our responsibility and assuming we are accountable to no one. We see an example of this in Exodus 32 (NIV):

Exodus 32 - The Golden Calf

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, 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."

Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me." So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord." So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'

"I have seen these people," the Lord said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation."

But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. "Lord," he said, "why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.'" Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, "There is the sound of war in the camp."

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."

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. And he took the calf the people 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.

He said to Aaron, "What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?"

"Do not be angry, my lord," Aaron answered. "You know how prone these people are to evil. 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.' 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!"

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. 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.

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.'" The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 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."

The next day Moses said to the people, "You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin."

So Moses went back to the Lord and said, "Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written."

The Lord replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin."

And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

In Exodus 32, the Israelites went to Aaron and said, "Come 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 happened to him" (v. 1b, NIV). Aaron told them in verse 2 to take off gold earrings and in verse 3, it says that he "took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf" (v. 4a, NIV, emphasis mine). Further, Aaron built an altar and scheduled a festival! When Moses returned angry about the idol and broke the tablets (v. 19 - yes, God's Law was literally broken), Aaron denied responsibility, blamed the people (v. 22) and he said he threw their jewelry into the fire "and out came tis calf!" (v. 24, NIV). Yet, the truth was Aaron made the calf (v. 4). "The LORD struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made" (v. 35, NIV, emphasis mine). Aaron denied his responsibility and shifted the blame -- just as Adam had done (Genesis 3:12) and Eve had done (Genesis 3:13). And such denial and blame continues and has continued through the ages.

Why did Aaron do it? Did he fail to lead? He actually did lead, but failed to lead in a godly manner. He followed man, not God, and came up with the means to make the calf and he made it. He even scheduled the festival. Aaron's actions were deliberate and intentional. And they had consequences.

Let's look at the progression of Aaron's bad choices and how such choices lead one to play the "blame game":

  1. Denial of God and His Truth

    How did Aaron demonstrate this?

    The people wanted Aaron to make "gods" (v. 1). They denied the true God in exchange for a lifeless idol. In following the people, Aaron also denied God. In addition to denying God Himself, the people denied God's Word. Moses was the mouthpiece to Israel and wrote down the Words of God. He even shared God's Word several chapters earlier in the Ten Commandments, specifically chapter 20, verse 3 (NIV): "You shall have no other gods before me." And the people denied the Word of God as did Aaron.

  2. Following someone else instead of God

    How did Aaron demonstrate this?

    Aaron could have said, "No" but instead told them to take off their earrings and he made the idol. He did this because the people said to make them gods. He gave into that command instead of obeying God's Word that there should be "no other gods" before Him. Aaron also denied God's Word and followed man instead of God.

  3. Continual sin

    How did Aaron demonstrate this?

    Aaron had already sinned, but he didn't stop there. He kept on sinning. How many of us fall into the same pattern when we should say, "No!" and run to God to plead forgiveness and mercy that He may restore us? Aaron not only denied God, denied God's Word and followed man in making an idol. He built an altar and planned a festival (v. 5). He went all out. Every sin has consequences. More sins, more consequences.

  4. Failure to take responsibility

    How did Aaron demonstrate this?

    Aaron continued to stack sin. When Moses returned, he asked Aaron what the people did to him that would cause this great sin. Aaron immediately blamed the people saying to Moses how "prone these people are to evil" (v. 22). Further accusing the people, he indicated the calf just came out after the people threw in their jewelry when in actuality, Aaron had fashioned the idol. Aaron played the "blame game." He failed to be accountable and lied.

So we see that denying God, denying truth, following man, continual sinning and failure to take responsibility lead to the blame game.

This progression also occurred with Adam and Eve. God approached Adam after the fruit had been eaten and Adam blamed Eve. The same progression occurred in Genesis 3:

Genesis 3 - The Fall

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"

The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'"

"You will not certainly die," the serpent said to the woman. 5 "For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, "Where are you?"

He answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."

And he said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"

The man said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."

Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"

The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

So the Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this,

"Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.

And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel."

To the woman he said,

"I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you."

To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat from it,'

"Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.


It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.


By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return."

Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever." So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

  1. Denial of God and His Truth

    How did Adam and Eve demonstrate this?

    The serpent is the father of lies otherwise known as Satan. The serpent denied God and the Truth by questioning God's Word. In response to Eve indicating that they could eat from any tree but the one in the middle, the serpent says, "You will not certainly die ... For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:4, NIV). This contradicts and denies what God said in Genesis 2:16b-17 (NIV), "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die." Adam and Even believed the lie and took it as truth and in doing so denied God. Did Adam and Eve die? Yes. They died and generations of humanity have died since and we still die today.

  2. Following someone else instead of God

    How did Adam and Eve demonstrate this?

    The serpent is Lucifer, the fallen archangel who chose to follow himself in his pride instead of following God. The serpent lied and sadly, mankind fell for it. Eve followed the serpent and Adam followed Eve. They should have listened to God, obeyed God, followed God.

  3. Continual sin

    How did Adam and Eve demonstrate this?

    After the curse, sin abounded. Sadly, it started with Adam and Eve and continues with each successive generation including us and the generations that follow. The curse was in place and we see the results today from death to frail bodies to the horror in the world to disease to people who blatantly celebrate sin and deny God. The denial and disobedience demonstrated by Adam and Eve continued in later generations. It factored into Aaron and the Israelites sinning with the Golden Calf. And it factors into our sin today as well.

  4. Failure to take responsibility

    How did Adam and Eve demonstrate this?

    Consider Genesis 3:10-13 (NIV):

    He [Adam] answered, "I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."
    And He [God] said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?"
    The man said, "The woman you put here with me--she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it."
    Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?"
    The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

    Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. Neither the man or the woman took responsibility.

You see? The progression isn't just for the blame game. That progression is behind a multitude of sins. Ultimately, they all have one thing in common at the root. What is that? It is the denial of God. When we put ourselves in charge or put a feeling in charge or a circumstance in charge, we follow something else and deny Him.

So, what are we to do?

  1. Trust God and His Word.

    How do you demonstrate this?

    He is Sovereign and His Word is Truth. Jesus prayed in John 17:17 (NIV) "Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth." Take it as written.

  2. Follow Him.

    How do you demonstrate this?

    Don't just be a hearer of the Word, but a doer as well. James 1:22 (NIV) says, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

  3. Say, "No" to sin.

    How do you demonstrate this?

    Do you have bitterness? Do you want revenge? Instead forgive. Let go of your idols. Make a choice. Even if you have committed a sin or are mid-way through a sinful thought, you can still say, "No."

  4. Take responsibility if you have sinned.

    How do you demonstrate this?

    Own up to it. Confess it to anyone you have hurt and ask for forgiveness. Confess it to God and seek His forgiveness with confidence. Guess what? He already knows. And in Christ, you can approach His throne of grace confidently (see Hebrews 4:16).

Well, you may be thinking all of that sounds good, but it's impossible. In and of ourselves, it really is impossible. In and of ourselves, we will fail to trust God, follow Him; say, "No" to sin; and take responsibility and confess. That all requires the Holy Spirit. How do you receive Him? Turn to Jesus. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. And you will be indwelt by the Holy Spirt so you can trust God, follow Him, deny sin and responsibly live to God's glory.


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