“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.’ ” Exodus 32:1
I’m always a bit incredulous when I think about the children of Israel making and worshipping the golden calf at the foot of Mt Sinai. Everything about it seems crazy. How can they be so stupid and forgetful as to not remember who it was that led them out of Egypt and everything he’d done to those that had opposed him? Couldn’t they just look up and see the cloud hiding the presence of God at the top of the mountain? Couldn’t they remember hearing God’s voice rolling with the thunder and lightening down the mountainside proclaiming his law which includes the command to not make any graven images to worship them? How could they so easily forget the God who was leading them when every day he sustained them with bread from heaven and water flowing miraculously from a rock?
Given all Israel’s experiences in the so very recent past it’s impossible to justify their actions. God was right in describing them as a “stiff-necked people”. This figurative expression calls to mind the willful or obstinate ox that refused to be guided by the prodding’s of the ox-goad upon its neck. In the same way the children of Israel had demonstrated that they too with their stubbornness and pride were continually refusing to be led by God.
But we’re the same way. We too forget and refuse to see all the providences God has showered upon us. We too frequently refuse to be led by him as he directs us and guides us in our journey through this wilderness we call life to the heavenly home he’s promised us. He’s with us all the time and still we blind ourselves to him, turn our backs to him, and plug our ears so we can’t hear him all so we can pursue our own wisdom and fulfill our own pleasures.
God proposed to Moses that he should destroy Israel and start over and make of Moses a great nation. But Moses interceded for Israel reminding God of his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and telling God that if he destroyed Israel it would witness against him because the Egyptians would believe that he’d led them into the wilderness only to consume them.
In the end the guilty and unrepentant were punished by God and so it will be with us. While the window of mercy is still open we must remember the Lord that has saved us and is calling us to himself and repent of our sinfulness and give ourselves to him to be changed.
God’s proven that he loves us. God’s demonstrated that he knows where he’s going and how to provide for us on the path he’s leading us. God’s also shown that his love is not so weak that it will yield to the destructive demands of our sinfulness.
We only have one course if we’re too survive; yield to God, submit to his love, learn from him and be saved.