49 - A Golden Calf
February 18 - Nº 49 Exodus 21 – 24; 32
After giving Moses ten moral laws (which we call the Ten Commandments), God provided other instructions to guide the people as they entered their new land. These included civil laws, which instructed them how to live well with each other; and ceremonial laws, which explained how they should worship and stay in fellowship with Him. Moses explained all of them to the people. When he had finished, they responded, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” So, Moses built an altar at the foot of Mount Sinai. The blood shed on that altar signified the importance of the covenant the new nation had just accepted. Then God invited the elders to meet Him halfway up the mountain. There, God served them a meal as a sign of unity and friendship. After they had eaten, God summoned Moses to the summit again. This time God gave him plans for building and furnishing the Tabernacle. These included the instructions for building the Ark of the Covenant. This was to be God’s home on earth with His people. Moses stayed on the mountain with God for forty days and nights. While he was there, the Israelites became restless. They weren’t sure what had happened to Moses, so they asked Aaron to create a tangible god they could worship; a god they could see; one they thought could protect them and lead them into their promised land. (If they had just stopped and looked up at the top of the mountain, they would have seen that God was still there!) Aaron had them bring all the golden jewelry they had confiscated as they left Egypt, and he melted it. Then he molded it into an image the Israelites had often seen the Egyptians worshiping. The next morning, they bowed down to their own golden calf—worshiping it and offering sacrifices. God was angry. He told Moses He planned to destroy the people and start over, creating a new nation from Moses’ descendants. But Moses pleaded with God to reconsider. “If you destroy them now,” he reasoned, “the Egyptians will laugh and say you brought them out here to kill them all. Remember your promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You told them that their descendants would inherit the land and become as many as the stars in the sky.” God listened to Moses and allowed the Israelites to live. Moses went down the mountain to see what was going on. In his arms he was carrying two stone tablets on which God had engraved all His laws. When Moses saw the people dancing and worshiping the golden calf, he became so angry that he threw the stone tablets on the ground. They shattered. Then Moses burned the calf, ground the gold into a powder, and scattered it in the water. He commanded the Israelites to drink it. But none of the Israelites (not even Moses’ brother Aaron who lied about his role in the fiasco) seemed to understand the gravity of their actions. Only the descendants of Levi came to Moses’ defense and stood with him. Later God blessed them in a big way (see #53).
Does God’s invisibility sometimes make Him seem distant or absent? Are there “tangible” things in your life that have become more important to you? We must stop often, look up, and take the time to let our busy minds and wandering eyes focus on God!