When Moses failed to come back down the mountain right away, the people went to Aaron. “Look,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. This man Moses, who brought us here from Egypt, has disappeared. We don’t know what has happened to him.” — Exodus 32:1
When the boss is out of town, the office staff often proves the old adage, “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.” Nevertheless, good leadership is often sorely missed, and the boss’s return is usually welcomed.
For the children of Israel, Moses was the boss. He was a visible reminder of the presence of the Lord in their midst, a tangible expression of God’s leading in their lives. So even though they at times threatened to reject his leadership and return to Egypt, they became very nervous when he went away to meet with the Lord on Mount Sinai. They said, “This man Moses, who brought us here from Egypt, has disappeared. We don’t know what has happened to him” (Exodus 32:1). Their consternation was understandable. They had been deposited leaderless in the middle of a vast wilderness.
Their course of action was understandable, though not acceptable. They panicked and decided to take matters into their own hands. They approached Aaron. “‘Look,’ they said, ‘make us some gods who can lead us’” (32:1). Their plan was to go back to the kind of idol worship they had left behind in Egypt.
Amazingly, Aaron acquiesced. He instructed the men, “Tell your wives and sons and daughters to take off their gold earrings, and then bring them to me” (32:2). The people did as Aaron directed, and the donated gold was made into a golden calf. Incredibly, the people declared this statue to be “the gods” that had brought them out of Egypt! Aaron promptly built an altar and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord” (32:5). But the situation became completely unmanageable when the “festival to the Lord” quickly turned into unabashed “pagan revelry” (32:6). The Lord was incensed, Moses was appalled, Aaron was rebuked, the calf was ground to powder, and many of the people perished as a result of their own fickleness.
When people panic, they resort to desperate measures. They turn to what they fondly imagine will prove to be an immediate solution, however illogical or even immoral. They abandon their principles, they deny their commitments, and they make decisions in haste that they are then required to repent of at leisure.
What is most needed at such a time is a cool head and clear conviction. Imagine how the situation would have changed if the people had come to Aaron and said, “Aaron, we are frightened, we are unsure, we don’t know which way to turn. Moses has disappeared; what shall we do?” Aaron could have said, “I don’t have the answers to your questions. I understand your fears, and I, too, am afraid. But this one thing I know. The Lord brought us this far and He will not abandon us. He has proved faithful in the past, He will be faithful in the future. So we will trust and not be afraid.”
Fickle faith flounders, but firm faith flourishes.
For further study: Exodus 32:1-14
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.