No sooner does Moses deliver the 10 Commandments than the people ask Aaron to make them other gods to serve. Aaron does so by turning their donated gold jewelry into a golden calf. Presenting the idols to them he said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” In response, God’s anger burned against the people and Moses interceded on their behalf. Moses’ petition worked as “The Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.”
Yikes! Our sermon series in worship just ended with the famed 10 Commandments. Dare I say it ended on a high note. Now, just after they received the commandments, the people break them by worshipping others gods and building an idol out of gold. It didn’t take long! As the saying goes, “you can lead them to water but you can’t make them drink.” How quickly we human beings turn from faithful to faithless, from joyful to fearful, from obedient to sinful. They made and worshipped the idol as fast as Adam and Eve saw and ate the prohibited fruit in Eden. God’s word is so quickly forgotten, so easily and readily dismissed!
Though we are separated by many years and miles from their situation, ask yourself: “what false gods do I worship rather than the living God? What precious things do I desire in place of the Savior?” That’s the problem with commandments---they show us how to live but they also reveal our sin because we fail to keep them. Just as King David would break the commandments prohibiting adultery and murder (remember the story of Bathsheba?), so here the Israelites turn to a golden calf when Moses was delayed on a mountain. We should not point the finger too much at their sin, for surely we have sins and idols of our own.
God’s anger burned. God’s punishment was declared. And though Moses interceded to spare them from disaster, still at the end of the story “the Lord sent a plague on the people because of the calf that Aaron made.” This is a story of how judgement and punishment are directed by God upon God’s own people because their sin was so great. They suffered from the consequences of their foolish and faithless actions. It is one of the stories that push us into the arms of Jesus Christ “who does not hold our sin against us” but “who takes away the sin of the world” with forgiveness and newness of life.