Mom, this is taking forever! Imagine this being said by your young children with sighs and groans as you teach them how to do a task in ways that will help them later. Imagine how they draw out the word f-o-r-e-v-e-r and say it in a way that takes forever! I can still hear their voices even now in my memories.
We were planting a garden as a family. It was a lot of fun—in the first ten minutes. In planting a garden in a new place, it takes a lot of prep work. First, you must till the soil while taking away the rocks and weeds that you do not want in your garden. Then you hand rake getting the soil ready for seeds to be planted. If you have ever planted a healthy garden, you know all the rest of the steps. Our children just wanted to get it done and go back to what they knew best—playing, riding bikes, and being kids without responsibilities. As parents, we wanted them to learn skills that would last a lifetime.
(Sidenote: Today, our oldest daughter and family have a garden that is admired by many and produces enough veggies for the neighborhood where they live! “And the beat goes on…”)
It is time for Moses, the leader of God’s Chosen people to come back down the mountain upon getting instructions from God over the past forty days and nights. What he comes back to is nothing short of childish behavior, people wanting their own way, reverting back to the ways of the Egyptians—minus the cruel slavery they seem to have forgotten. “Moses is taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r…so let’s build a god we can see.” Oh my, are we like the Chosen at times? How quickly we forget God in times of waiting and frustration. Friends, we must confess, we are just as childish at times.
Exodus 32, The Message
“Make Gods for Us”
When the people realized that Moses was taking forever in coming down off the mountain, they rallied around Aaron and said, “Do something. Make gods for us who will lead us. That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what’s happened to him?”
2-4 So Aaron told them, “Take off the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters and bring them to me.” They all did it; they removed the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from their hands and cast it in the form of a calf, shaping it with an engraving tool.
The people responded with enthusiasm: “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up from Egypt!”
5 Aaron, taking in the situation, built an altar before the calf.
Aaron then announced, “Tomorrow is a feast day to God!”
6 Early the next morning, the people got up and offered Whole-Burnt-Offerings and brought Peace-Offerings. The people sat down to eat and drink and then began to party. It turned into a wild party!
7-8 God spoke to Moses, “Go! Get down there! Your people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt have fallen to pieces. In no time at all they’ve turned away from the way I commanded them: They made a molten calf and worshiped it. They’ve sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are the gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt!’”
9-10 God said to Moses, “I look at this people—oh! what a stubborn, hard-headed people! Let me alone now, give my anger free reign to burst into flames and incinerate them. But I’ll make a great nation out of you.”
11-13 Moses tried to calm his God down. He said, “Why, God, would you lose your temper with your people? Why, you brought them out of Egypt in a tremendous demonstration of power and strength. Why let the Egyptians say, ‘He had it in for them—he brought them out so he could kill them in the mountains, wipe them right off the face of the Earth.’ Stop your anger. Think twice about bringing evil against your people! Think of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants to whom you gave your word, telling them ‘I will give you many children, as many as the stars in the sky, and I’ll give this land to your children as their land forever.’”
14 And God did think twice. He decided not to do the evil he had threatened against his people.
15-16 Moses turned around and came down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of The Testimony. The tablets were written on both sides, front and back. God made the tablets and God wrote the tablets—engraved them.
17 When Joshua heard the sound of the people shouting noisily, he said to Moses, “That’s the sound of war in the camp!”
18 But Moses said,
Those aren’t songs of victory,
And those aren’t songs of defeat,
I hear songs of people throwing a party.
19-20 And that’s what it was. When Moses came near to the camp and saw the calf and the people dancing, his anger flared. He threw down the tablets and smashed them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, melted it down with fire, pulverized it to powder, then scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.
21 Moses said to Aaron, “What on Earth did these people ever do to you that you involved them in this huge sin?”
22-23 Aaron said, “Master, don’t be angry. You know this people and how set on evil they are. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will lead us. This Moses, the man who brought us out of Egypt, we don’t know what’s happened to him.’
24 “So I said, ‘Who has gold?’ And they took off their jewelry and gave it to me. I threw it in the fire and out came this calf.”
25-26 Moses saw that the people were simply running wild—Aaron had let them run wild, disgracing themselves before their enemies. He took up a position at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is on God’s side, join me!” All the Levites stepped up.
27 He then told them, “God’s orders, the God of Israel: ‘Strap on your swords and go to work. Crisscross the camp from one end to the other: Kill brother, friend, neighbor.’”
28 The Levites carried out Moses’ orders. Three thousand of the people were killed that day.
29Moses said, “You confirmed your ordination today—and at great cost, even killing your sons and brothers! And God has blessed you.”
30 The next day Moses addressed the people: “You have sinned an enormous sin! But I am going to go up to God; maybe I’ll be able to clear you of your sin.”
31-32 Moses went back to God and said, “This is terrible. This people has sinned—it’s an enormous sin! They made gods of gold for themselves. And now, if you will only forgive their sin. . . . But if not, erase me out of the book you’ve written.”
33-34 God said to Moses, “I’ll only erase from my book those who sin against me. For right now, you go and lead the people to where I told you. Look, my Angel is going ahead of you. On the day, though, when I settle accounts, their sins will certainly be part of the settlement.”
35 God sent a plague on the people because of the calf they and Aaron had made.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
Their leader, Moses was learning from God how to live for God and with each other. The people could not wait for this learning to take place. They wanted to get on with life in their own ways. “Let’s skip the steps of growing and get on with our new lives of freedom” they seem to be saying. Let’s just do what we know. We think the same thoughts when we are challenged with waiting on God while He grows us from the inside out. We have little patience for how God prepares the soil of our hearts, getting rid of all that does not belong there. We want our way and we want it now. The first lesson God teaches new believers is often, wait, chill, listen, and learn from God in the stillness and quiet of the wait.
Admit it. We want to party as much as the Israelites! Growing in God’s ways are hard, tedious, and sometimes we fail. We don’t like to fail. It is much easier to go our own way thinking our way is best, thinking we have control—until we don’t. When tough times come and wise decisions of life or death need to be made, who do we turn to for help? Do we revert back to childhood with what we knew before God by avoiding our problems altogether, hoping they will just go away?
Do we act childish in the wait for God’s leading? Yes, this is the toughest of all.
Why did Israel commit such an evil act at such a glorious time in their history? To begin with, they were impatient with Moses who had been on the mountain with God for forty days and nights, and impatience is often the cause of impulsive actions that are sinful.
Israel didn’t know how to live by faith and trust God regardless of where their leader was. Whether Moses was with them or away from them, they criticized him and ignored what he had taught them. When we avoid, turn away and reject the steps of growing spiritually with God, we will fall to the plight of Israel in childish behaviors while our faith falters and wilts on the vine of our existence. Have you “been there, done that”? I have.
Israel’s lust for idols was born in Egypt and still worked in their hearts. Aaron fed that appetite by giving the people what they wanted. Much is being said these days about “meeting the felt needs of people,” but here was a nation that didn’t know what its needs really were.
As leaders, we are tested!
In leadership, the difficult experiences with our people either make us or break us, and Moses was about to be tested. God called Israel “your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt,” as though the Lord were abandoning the nation to Moses, but Moses soon reminded Him that they were His people and that He had delivered them. Furthermore, God had made a covenant with their forefathers to bless them, multiply them, and give them their land. Moses intended to hold God to His word, and that’s what God wanted him to do!
Sin is always costly, and Israel’s sin had not only led to the death of thousands of people, but it had robbed the nation of the presence of the Lord in the camp and on their pilgrim journey to the Promised Land.
As believers, we must stay as close to God, draw near to Him, abide in His Presence and He promises to abide in us! We must be so close that we hear the slightest whisper of His voice. Be childlike in faith. Avoid being childish in behavior.
May we never forget what you have done to save us from our sins. May we never shun the lessons we must learn from you as we grow in our relationship with you.In Jesus Name, For Y