Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.” Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. (Exodus 32:1-6)
Man has an attention span as long as a second. Exodus is the story of the redemption of the Hebrews from slavery. The children of Israel had been in Egypt four hundred years but when a Pharaoh rose to power that did not remember the benevolence of Joseph they became an embittered people. Pharaoh had enslaved them to make bricks for his building projects; they were persecuted, beaten and treated harshly. God in His mercy sent Moses to deliver them. Ten plagues showed the might and power of Jehovah God upon the Egyptians. Crossing the Red Sea on dry land the Hebrews could see how wonderful and mighty their deliverance was formed by God. Time and time again the omnipotence of the Lord was manifested before the people.
From a rational point of view one would think no one would ever doubt God again. Shortly after the Jews leave Egypt they arrive at Mt. Sinai. Moses communes with the Lord for some time and the people get restless. They do not know what happened to their leader and they want action. Instead of asking for the power of God they want what they had in Egypt – gods. Aaron fails miserably as a leader of men. He does not encourage the people to wait on the Lord. He falls victim to the pressure of his peers and forms a golden calf. Here is the remarkable part: they proclaim this graven image their deliverer from Egypt. Aaron even has a “feast to the Lord” in honor of this cow.
I enjoy Chick-Fil-A for two reasons. First the food is always good. Second the marketing is very enjoyable. They have made a franchise on cows convincing people to eat chicken instead of hamburgers. Sadly this ploy has been used since the beginning of time. What happened at Sinai is a prime (not like beef) example of how Satan wants us to serve someone else. What did a cow have to do with the deliverance of the people from Egypt? How did the bovine part the red sea? Remember the people have only left the scenes of death and destruction in Egypt just a month or so previous. How soon they forget.
Aaron could have been a great leader but he failed. He allowed the people to pressure him into making a cow to worship instead of Jehovah God. The greatest tragedy is when men bow down to a golden calf and proclaim it delivered them from bondage. We have golden calves today. We believe in our wealth to deliver us. Our lives are so wrapped up in our stuff we do not have time for God. The world fills our hearts with golden calves we worship as our deliverer.
Three thousand people were killed that day because they refused to change. A plague swept over the people as punishment. Sin has consequence. Golden calf. Lessons to learn. This is a great story.
Man has thought to do without God. In those terrible words of Nietzsche’s he has proclaimed: “God is dead”; now he is discovering that it is he himself who is the first victim of this negation. It is he who is cast helpless into that abyss of nothingness into which he had designed to cast God. (Henri Daniel-Rops, Christianity and Freedom, 1952)