I am not a patient person. When a big decision looms, I gravitate toward the quickest decision which is (surprise, surprise) not always the best one. Impatience gets me in trouble. When I grasp at the solution at hand instead of seeking the best solution, it almost never goes well.
That’s what Israel did in Exodus 32. They tired of waiting on Moses and on God. They knew what was right, but it required patience and faith, so they discarded it. Instead of waiting for Moses to return from Sinai with God’s word, they demanded a new god made of gold.
This sounds absurd, doesn’t it? You can’t just manufacture a god. If it’s manufactured then it isn’t a deity. It’s just a decoration.
At the same time, though, we all do this when we choose to grasp at hope in something that isn’t God. Maybe it is money or employment or a relationship or status. Each of these are manufactured things, made up of created matter and created beings. They aren’t gods, yet we still turn to worship them and place our hopes in them—just like Israel did with the golden calf that Aaron made.
We forget something when we do this, something of utmost importance. We forget God —just like Israel forgot the God that thundered atop Sinai and wrote His commands on stone tablets. We forget God who freed us from our bondage to sin just like they forgot God who freed them from bondage to Egypt. Forgetting God has dire consequences.
For Israel, it led to the deaths of more than 3,000 people, followed by a plague that struck down even more. Is that vindictive of God, or too harsh? No. It’s a reminder of His holiness and how seriously this holy God takes idolatry. He is the only God to be worshipped.
God was setting aside a people for Himself, a people through whom He would bless the whole world. How could they be set apart as His if they gave themselves to a golden bovine? How can anyone who claims to be part of God’s people now be set apart if we worship anything other than Him?
God is holy—wholly other and perfect. There is no other. And that means we must be in or out, redeemed and committed to Him or facing judgment for our rebellion. We cannot pick our god. There is no menu off of which we order deities. Will we worship The Lord even when it means waiting and wondering? Because in this life, there will be waiting and wondering.
written by Barnabas Piper