Settling for Golden Calves [When God Appears to Take Too Long]

When Moses met with God on the mountain to receive the commandments, all of Israel waited to hear the divine directives.

The problem is they didn’t wait that long.  They grew impatient and took matters into their own hands.

The baffling thing about this narrative is how good God had been to them.

God didn’t prescribe commandments until after he had provided deliverance.

He rescued the people for no apparent value within themselves.  He loved them because he wanted to love them.  His power over Pharaoh procured their deliverance out of Egypt and the crashing waves of the Red Sea made sure that their enemies would never again enslave them.

And how did they show their gratitude?

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us.  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.”  -Ex. 32:1

The idol that came out of this collaborative construction project was a golden calf.  It either served as:

  1. An addition to worship by including a throwback adoration to the Egyptian cow-headed goddess Hathor who encouraged worldly pleasures, or
  2. An idolatrous attempt at syncretism in order to reach Israel’s God on their own terms since many gods of the day were often depicted as sitting or standing upon livestock.

Either way, these people are breaking the second commandment.

The people didn’t sin by creating a replacement for God but a representation of God.  

They are using God’s name, but they are trying to recreate God in an image they prefer.  In their efforts, they are trying to “baptize” worldly practices.  They are trying to spiritualize what is sinful.

Since God was taking too long to give them his best, they decided to take matters into their own hands to create their best.

They settled for what a golden calf could provide because they refused to wait on what God would provide.

I really would like to criticize them, but we do the same thing.  God promises us good, meaningful, purposeful things in life, and we settle for things much less.

  • We long for love, yet we settle for lust.
  • We long for treasures, yet we settle for trinkets.
  • We long for purpose, yet we settle for promotion.
  • We long for achievement, yet we settle for acknowledgment.
  • We long for relational intimacy, yet we settle for regulated information.
  • We long for a relationship with Jesus, yet we settle for a religion about Jesus.

Why?  All these better things take too long.  They require work and patience.  And often, God is taking too long to deliver on his promises.  So we take matters into our own hands.

After they made the golden calf, they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (Ex. 32:4).  They ascribed deliverance to something they created.  They ascribed worth to something that was unworthy.

Our impatient idolatry tends to give glory to anyone or anything for what God has clearly done himself.

Once again, we are not too far out of pace with them.

We find “salvation” in many different types of ways:

  • My trusted companion saved me from loneliness (I “couldn’t live” without…).
  • My new possessions bring about an air of superiority.
  • My child provides me another chance at missed opportunities.
  • My chiseled body saved me from obesity.
  • My expensive wardrobe saved me from unkemptness.
  • My promoted vocation saved me from mediocrity.

We prescribe worth and ascribe salvation to things we made with our own hands.

So, what do we do?  It’s really simple.

  1. Don’t rush God’s timing.
  2. Don’t settle for less than God’s best.
  3. Don’t recreate God in your image.
  4. Don’t rob God of his glory.

Put down the idols of your hands and trust that something far better is coming at just the right time.

[For more info on this topic, check out the sermon, “Impatient Idolatry.”]