(Scripture References from the NIV)
In Exodus 19 the Israelites arrive at Mt. Sinai. You can read in verses 3-5a about how God speaks to Moses – He reminds them of His help in their escape from Egypt and their value to Him. Moses also receives the Ten Commandments and many other laws that the Israelites are to follow. Then in Exodus 24:3-4a it says: “When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, ‘Everything the Lord has said we will do.’ Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.” Bottom line, they agreed wholeheartedly to the commandments and laws and Moses made sure they were written down as a reference so that they had the information before them if needed.
Later, God called Moses up to the mountain again, this time to give him the instructions for the tabernacle construction.
We jump ahead now to chapter 32. Moses has been gone for a while (one account I studied said he had been gone a month – what seems like forever to a child, but for most adults is not terribly long, in my opinion.) Aaron, who has been one of their primary leaders, was left in charge of the Israelites in Moses’ absence. He was approached by some of the people and like impatient children they wanted an idol made to worship. They said “As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” (Really? “…this fellow Moses…”? The man that lead them through so much and the vessel through which God Almighty performed unimaginable miracles? Truly amazing!) But I digress – moving on….Aaron (who was Moses’ brother and had been with him from the very beginning of this arduous journey) has all the people bring gold to him. He then himself fashions a calf and an altar, then announced a festival for the next day. This festival turned into an out-of-control wild party. How could all those people, especially Aaron, forget so quickly the laws they had just a short time before agreed to follow? AND…the very first of the Ten Commandments they had agreed to was “You shall have no other Gods before me”! (Exodus 20:3)
God was so angry with what He saw going on in the encampment of the Israelites, that He declared to Moses He was going to destroy them all (Exodus 32:9-10); but Moses, in their defense, reminded God of His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Israel (Exodus 32:14) and God relented. Moses then headed down the mountain to handle things, carrying with him the two tablets on which God Himself had engraved the Ten Commandments. When Moses saw what was going on with his own eyes, he became so angry that he in his rage threw down the tablets and broke them to pieces.
When he confronted Aaron about what happened and how he had lead the people into sin, Aaron of course started pointing the finger at everyone else and blatantly lied. (Exodus 32:22-24) Aaron, seriously?! You just threw the gold in the fire and out popped this golden calf? Honestly! It truly is amazing that God did not strike him dead right then and there! (I guess it is a good thing I am not God, because that is what I likely would have done.)
As easy as it is for us to read this story and be shocked, we need to consider the fact that in reality, we really are not that different from those people – even today. How often after we receive our salvation, or after God does something wonderful for us, do we forget about it then allow ourselves to fall back into our old sinful habits? What we do may not be as obvious or horrible as making a golden calf to worship and digressing into wild living, but it is sin nonetheless.
How do we avoid falling into the traps of sin that are constantly laid out before us? We need to renew our mind – “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed to the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) We need to stay pure and steadfast – “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) And, as Moses himself did, we should pray to the Lord, “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you…” (Exodus 33:13a) Let us not be so quick to forget!
Written by Karran Martin – February 2, 2019