Read Exodus 32
The Golden Calf
1 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.”
2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 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.”
5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 6 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.
7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 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.’
9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 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.”
11 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? 12 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.13 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.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
15 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. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.
17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”
18 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.”
19 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. 20 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.
21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”
22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 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.’ 24 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!”
25 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. 26 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.
27 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.’” 28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29 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.”
30 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.”
31 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. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”
33 The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 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.”
35 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.
In today’s reading, we see the crushing consequences of creating our own comfort, as the Israelites suffer the ramifications of their rebellion.
While Moses spent 40 days & nights on the mountain with God, the people of Israel remained at base camp. They got bored and restless. Getting out of Egypt was what they wanted, but they expected to be going somewhere to settle. Instead, they were stuck in this temporary camp with no known plan and a shaky faith.
Sound familiar? No plan, life in limbo, and God calling you to trust Him in the midst of chaos. There is such strong temptation to DO something. To make our own plan. To move things forward, even if in the wrong direction. To undo the unsettled and create the comfortable. The Israelites were comfortable with idols and parties, so in the midst of the unknown, they created something familiar.
And yet, that is not God’s direction.
Right in the middle of all of it? Aaron. Among the people, gathering gold and forming it into an idol. This is the same Aaron who spoke to Pharaoh for Moses, who held up Moses’ arms during the battle against the Amalekites, who ate in the presence of God last month. The last thing Moses said to Aaron was to wait for him in the place they had seen God. Aaron knew God’s plans and directions were worth the wait. He knew better than to cave to culture.
Yet, so do we.
How often in our discomfort with waiting do we take matters into our hands? How many times do we ask God why something went differently than we think it should have gone? However, we see here that God appoints us to the right time and place for His purpose, not ours. When we think we know better than God, we should remember His love and redirect our path to His guidance. He calls us to settle during the uncomfortable, to trust during the tension, to believe during the boredom.
- In what ways are you tempted to DO something, while God is calling you to settle in the uncomfortable?
- Think of a time in your life when you thought something should have gone differently but God later revealed His purpose?
- In what area or situation in your life are struggling to trust God? Pray for His strength and unfathomable peace to overwhelm you so you may direct your path to His guidance.
Did You Know?
Paul uses the Israelites’ unfaithfulness and idolatry as a warning to new believers in Corinth. In his first letter to the Corinthians he writes, “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: ‘The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.’”
1 Corinthians 10:7