When God led Israel to Mount Sinai it was a transformative moment. But they grew tired of waiting for Moses and began to complain. In their impatience, they made their own god to worship. What was it like for Moses when he came down from the mountain to find them partying around the golden calf?
It was a like parent coming home early from a long trip to find their teen throwing an all-school party. Empty beer cans litter the yard and house. Strangers occupy each room and closet. Pictures hang crooked from the pulsating music. Moses was furious. He raised the Ten Commandments engraved by God over his head and shattered them on the ground. It was symbolic of what Israel had done to their special relationship with God.
Exodus 32:20 continues, “And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.” He wanted them always to remember the bitterness of this moment, and to feel the pain God was feeling. He also wanted them to realize how powerless their little god was. It could be ground up, swallowed, and then passed out of their bodies as human waste. Their holy cow wasn’t worth a turd.
Then Moses turned and confronted Aaron, his brother, “How could you lead the people into such sin right here at the foot of God’s mountain?” Too ashamed to take responsibility, he gave the most ingenious but lame excuse, “They gave me their gold. When I threw it in the fire out came this calf.” (Exodus 32:24)
But some were upset Moses had destroyed their cow. It was time to take a stand. He raised his voice and asked the ultimate question, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” It was a moment of decision. For those still defiant and divisive, Moses sent out the Levites with swords. They killed three thousand rebels, and God struck many others with a plague.
Recently, our oldest daughter had a transformational moment. We all gathered in a large arena with hundreds of other families to celebrate their high school graduation. This was the final step in a long journey. After that night they would leave the nest to fly after their dreams. We cheered like raving fans as my daughter walked across the stage to receive her diploma. What if she began to grumble and complain because she didn’t get an award and wasn’t asked to speak? With a sour face she began to fume because they always go in alphabetical order and she was a “W”. What if she got bitter and wandered out into the city streets? What if they called her name and she wasn’t there? God had led Israel into this special moment by Mount Sinai, but they missed it because they refused to be thankful. Again Romans 1:21, “Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.”
What about us? The evidence of God’s grace is everywhere. What happens when we cross our arms and poke out our lips when God is calling us to give thanks?