It took the Israelites three months to reach Mount Sinai after leaving Egypt (Exodus 19:1). During this time God had shown that he was with his people and that he would take care of them.
Besides leading them out of Egypt after the last plague with the plunder they had been given, he led them through the Red Sea when it appeared they were boxed in and had no where to go (Exodus 14). When they needed fresh water, God provided (Exodus 15, 17). When they needed food, God provided quail and manna (Exodus 16). When enemies attacked them, God gave Israel the victory (Exodus 17). Whatever they needed the Lord provided.
When they arrived at Mount Sinai, they saw the power of God in the form of thunder, lightning and a very loud trumpet blast when he descended on the mountain (Exodus 19). They heard the voice of God speak to them the Ten Commandments, which so terrified them that they no longer wanted to listen to such a voice – let God speak to Moses and Moses would relay the information to the people (Exodus 20).
After all God had done for them and all that they had seen and heard, you would think that this was a group of people who would never turn their back on the God who had delivered them from bondage as slaves.
Sadly, just a month and a half later, they were asking Aaron to make idol gods for them. “When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Get up, make us gods that will go before us. As for this fellow Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him!’” (Exodus 32:1 NET).
Perhaps even more surprisingly, Aaron did it! The man who had performed signs in front of the Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-9) by the power of God was willing to build an idol and credit the golden calf that he made with leading the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery.
When asked by Moses why he did it, this was his incredible reply: “Do not let your anger burn hot, my lord; you know these people, that they tend to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods that will go before us, for as for this fellow Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out” (Exodus 32:22-24).
The result that day was that 3000 Israelites were killed by the Levites, who rallied to defend God and God sent a plague on the people. Rather than Israel becoming a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6), the Levites became the tribe of priests in place of the nation.
As Christians, today we are the kingdom of priests that God had wanted Israel to be: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9). We are these things for a purpose: to proclaim God to those around us.
May we never forget who we are because of God’s mercy (1 Peter 2:10) nor forget who led us out of the bondage of sin.
Readings for next week:
21 December – Exodus 33
22 December – Exodus 34
23 December – Exodus 35
24 December – Exodus 36
25 December –