Scripture: When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, 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 32:1 ESV
Observation: Having endowed and commissioned Bezalel and Oholiab to oversee the finery and other accoutrements of the temple, the Lord further instructs Moses regarding the observance of and consequences for violating the Sabbath (31:12-17). Finally, as the end of these forty days of preparation conclude, Yahweh engraves the Ten Commandments into two stone tablets (signifying the law’s permanence) and gives them to Moses (31:18).
Meanwhile, God’s impatient and impetuous people grow weary of waiting for Moses to return and harass Aaron to craft gods who will lead them to the Promised Land, assuming Moses fell upon ill fate (above verse). The Hebrew in this verse reveals a more coarse language than as translated, revealing the extent of their rebellious, sinful hearts.
Takeaway: This passage of Scripture (covering temple construction and worship, observance of the Sabbath, and the people’s reaction when patience grows thin) presents three distinct juxtapositions between life on the mountaintop and the desert floor:
- authentic worship of the one true God versus fabricated worship of lifeless idols (in violation of commands 1 and 2),
- the glorious presence of God versus the insidious encroachment of sin, and
- Moses’ patience and prudence versus the nation’s impatience and reckless reaction.
While it would be easy to scoff at Israel’s behavior, given all that had miraculously transpired to this moment of their journey, we would do well to self-reflect on our life paths. Speaking for myself, I am prone to grow impatient in seasons of waiting (that often feel like wilderness wanderings) and problem-solve in ways that subtly leave God out of the picture. While this may not seem as severe as casting a golden calf, it is no different. Both are forms of idolatry that lead to self-worship. And like Israel, when we try to take control rather than wait on God (or his representatives), it will lead us to destructive behavior. But when we seek God’s glory and worship him in the waiting, the Holy Spirit reveals the unsurrendered areas of our hearts and deepens our understanding of grace in Christ. And thus, we gain a clearer view of our destination in the eternal Promised Land.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for sending your Son to cover the penalty for our sins and your Holy Spirit to guide us away from the power of sin. Would you please help us worship you in the waiting and exercise patience until your Holy Spirit reveals the next step? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling