There is a clear connection between our refusal to be thankful and idolatry. An idol can be anything we set on throne of our hearts – a job, our family, power, possessions, a relationship, or a self-engineered belief system. We give our attention, affection, and devotion to things we create and control.
Notice how Aaron called the golden calf, “the Lord.” In Exodus 32:5, Aaron announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” We do the same when we create our own preferred modes of worship and give it the label “God.”
It’s hard to believe they made a holy cow in the shadow of God’s mountain. But even more shocking is where it all led. When Moses found them, they were naked and deep in sexual sin. Just a few days earlier they had proclaimed, “All the Lord has said we will do!”
Our little gods have no power to save. They can’t see, hear, act, or meet our deepest needs. When we follow them it’s like the blind leading the blind. We end up lost. Left to ourselves the human heart is capable of doing great acts of wickedness. If we persist in our ingratitude and idolatry God will remove his restraining grace from our lives. Romans 1:22-24 shows us the outcome, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.”
In all of this, I feel sad for Moses. He had to lead this bunch of whiners. I’m also sad for Israel because they never embraced and followed their gifted spiritual leader. Here was one who wanted to climb the mountain to be with God so he could come down and be a blessing.
We all want the perfect pastor. Young and energetic, but with 40 years of life experience. Creative and spontaneous, but planned and task oriented. A leader who smiles and laughs a lot, but is always really serious. One who makes home visits every night, but has a strong family and healthy marriage. A leader who will work for cheap, but drives a nice car, and lives in a lovely home.
Our spiritual leaders are out front, leading the charge against the enemy. Let’s not lag behind and shoot them in the back. If we have a pastor who wants to go up to the mountain to be with Jesus let’s gratefully follow. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you
All of this was written for our instruction. Instead of refusing, let’s choose thankfulness. We have not come to Mount Sinai in our journey through the wilderness. In grace we have come to the base of a different mountain. We are looking up at the foot of Mount Zion, the city of the living God, our heavenly home. It’s filled with thousands of angels in joyful assembly. The church, the saints of who have gone on before, are there. God is ready to welcome us because of what Jesus has done for us in his death and resurrection. We stand forever forgiven and righteous in Christ. As Moses was called to go up, one day we will all go up this great mountain. Right now we are camped out at the base, waiting for that day. While we wait in the shadow of this glorious future let’s not grumble and complain. As Moses came down, one day Christ will come down with a shout and take us up to forever be with the Lord.