Once again I had a note in my study Bible that I wanted to share with you. It offers a different take on the story about the golden calf than I have heard before. This note says that “crafting a golden calf was the ancient way of inviting a deity to dwell among the people, the very thing God was promising to do.” Now, this note helps shed light on verse 5 when Aaron announces that the next morning they will have a festival to the Lord. I always read that as they were going to have a festival to their new god, the golden calf- but my Bible literally has it translated as Lord. So with this different perspective, the people were not deserting God for a different one, but were use current pagan beliefs to try and get God to dwell with them.
My mind is racing with so many possible applications for this, and honestly- I don’t know what to think. This is very different than how I was taught this passage in Sunday School, but it seems to have some seriously valid points backing it up. Plus, it gives the Israelites a little more credit- not that they haven’t already had their moments of questioning God, but completely turning on Him and making their own to worship because Moses was taking too long does seem a little more idiotic than they have been in the past.
My first thought is that there is another thread of being impatient with God’s timing- which we have already seen multiple times. “Moses is taking too long, and so why don’t we try this other thing and maybe that will be the magic thing that makes God show up on my time table.” I surely can relate. In a sense it is trying to manipulate God. Which honestly, we do all the time. It is the same attitude we can have: “if I do this, then God will have to do this.” It didn’t work for them, and it certainly won’t work for us.
The other thing I can’t get off my mind is the multiple layers of irony. For starters, while God is giving Moses instructions on how to build the tabernacle so He can dwell with the people, those very people are making a golden calf to try to force God to come dwell with them. They are going to get exactly what they desire, but in God’s time, not theirs. And they’re going to get God’s vision, not their attempt to throw something together. God’s plan for His dwelling place is so much larger than their calf. Not to mention much more symbolic, meaningful, and rewarding. It reminds me of something that God told my husband once, “A gift taken early is stealing.” God wanted to dwell and commune with them- the exact thing they were looking for- but their impatience encouraged them to look for a lesser version. Can you relate? I know I can. I very easily can struggle with settling for a small fraction of what God wants for me because I would rather have that little bit now than have to wait for the full thing. How short sighted!
The other ironic piece is the exact same situation, but on a very personal level with Aaron. Moses is on top of the mountain receiving instructions on the tabernacle God is going to dwell in with Aaron as the high priest. And while that is happening, Aaron is making the golden calf. Some of the notes suggest he did it because he was afraid for his life, but the truth is that no matter the motive- he still did the wrong thing. He still should have said no. It breaks my heart to think about God setting all these things in place for Aaron to play a very important and honorable role, and here he is leading a whole nation to sin because he couldn’t say no. Can you relate to this one? I wonder how many times I’ve missed the fullness of what God has for me because I can’t say no to something else. I don’t want to let someone down, I feel too guilty, I want people to like me, I think I have to say yes to every good thing… Whatever the reason is, if it is not the instructions God has given me, it is a distraction from what He does want to do with me. And even good distractions can be very damaging.
So how about you? Are you accepting a lesser version of what God has for you because you want it now? Or are you missing out on some role God wants you to play because you can’t say no? I hope you can relate to neither, but if you’re anything like me the truth is that they both sound right. Oh, God forgive me. Forgive us.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Exodus 33-35