I heard a sermon recently on Exodus Chapter 32. You know, the incident of the golden calf. (That would make a great book title, maybe a Sherlock Holmes adventure.) The sermon was about Arron. Arron was wishy-washy. Instead of leading he caved in to the wants of the people. He lied. When Moses came down from the mountain he said that the calf just kind of popped out of the fire when the truth was that Arron had deliberately crafted the idol. But the point of the sermon was not so much about the failure as it was about what happened to Arron in spite of the failure. Because in the end Arron still became the high priest. Failure does not mean God is through with us. Even when we fail God can still use us.
The sermon focused on Moses’ perspective which I think we usually associate with God’s perspective. We saw the children of Israel as a weak willed milling mob, ready to throw in the towel at the first sign of adversity. And Arron was one of them, more than willing to do absolutely anything to keep order and peace. You read this passage and you marvel at their naivety and well, stupidity. That’s easy to do if we sit here in our superiority and identify with Moses. But the truth is that sometimes we are Moses and sometimes we are the children of Israel. I think we could take any passage in the Bible and put ourselves in the place of any of the characters and gain something from it.
So what do we see when we put ourselves in the place of the children of Israel? Do we see ourselves in them? What can we learn from them?
First, we see their bondage mentality. When the going got tough it was easy to say ‘The little in Egypt was better than the possible starvation ahead. After all we are slaves. We should go back to Egypt.’ So how about it? Are we going to follow God’s direction or are we going to stick with what we know? And what are we going to do when the going gets tough? I’m not necessarily talking about going to Africa. Maybe it’s an exercise program. Or a change in diet. Or consistent prayer and Bible reading. Or some volunteer program. Or blogging?
Second. the children of Israel were following Moses instead of God. When Moses climbed the mountain and stayed gone too long they started looking for someone else to follow. God gives us pastors. He plants vision in them and we follow. That’s as it should be. But what happens if the leader drifts off, loses focus, fails? If our focus is on God we will trust Him to bring us another leader. If not we could wander till we find someone to lead us. We can latch onto someone with charisma, a gifted speaker, a natural born leader. God led or not. Have you noticed how often God chooses people who are not natural born leaders to lead us? Like Moses.
Third, they looked for a god that was like the gods the rest of the world had. They wanted a god they could see, an idol they could sacrifice to. A god that would let them engage in revelry. This God who revealed Himself as smoke on the mountain, as wind and lightning, a God who was everywhere all the time, who spoke in a still small voice. This was no god to them.
When you read the Bible, especially the words of Jesus, you get a sense of God, an understanding of how wholly other He is, how unlike the world and the thoughts and ideas of the world He is. The children of Israel wanted a god that was like them instead of seeking to know God Himself.
So how about it? Do we want a god like us or do we want us to be like Him? God is so unlike us and unlike what we see in our world that I can’t even define what it means to be like Him. I think the only way we can get that is in a one on one conversation with Him. But that’s where the adventure is, or where it begins. It’s not going to Africa or going into the ministry or volunteering. It’s following Him. It’s in being conformed to His image. It’s in being like Him.