And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. (Exodus 32:19)
Way back in chapter 24, before Moses went up the mountain the people having heard God set out the initial terms of their relationship, agreed to obey what God said.
Time has passed since, though, and this Moses guy hasn’t returned. Understandably the people get a little concerned and impatient. After all, what are they meant to do now? Where is he? Is he coming back? What are we supposed to do?
What better way to occupy our time than to do what our former oppressors did. Lets worship some gods, let’s get it on!!
Aaron is intimidated by the unrest of the people and so this is the way to keep them all in place. Yield to their wishes, even if it goes against God’s commands. What’s a real concern about Aaron’s response to the issue, after the crafting of the golden calf following the submission of their gold jewellery, is that He calls this the Lord. Not just as a god, but the God who rescued them from Egypt. It’s one thing to turn to idolatry, it’s even worse to equate theses alternative gods as the Creator Himself – as though the created was the creator.
The subsequent excuse of Aaron that the people were bent towards evil sounds pathetic, just because it’s an excuse, however true he happens to be. The actions of Moses, however, are amazing in their range. From pleading on behalf of the people – interceding – that they might not be wiped out, to the anger that rises up in him as he witnesses the people as they ‘break loose’ (v. 25 is a stinger). Moses is the man in the middle – His responses here don’t excuse sin before God, but does look for mercy for the people. That’s a tricky tightrope to walk. That Moses does so as humanly as he does is illuminative.
We are reminded of Moses’ anger issues – the same one that lead to murdering an Egyptian before, and another expression of anger that would get him in trouble later. We’re aware of these, but that just makes him someone that can be related with easier when things upset and anger.
That capacity to care and feel is incredible. Especially as in it all is the desire to be pleasing to God and do what’s right by the One who not only delivered His people – but started the delivering, by delivering him from his wondering as a shepherd in the wilderness.
Perhaps remembering what we have been delivered from and who delivered us will help us to remain faithful to Him and not seek other gods to put in His rightful place.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden