There is a very cute video circulating on social media that shows twin toddlers making a decision about whether or not to eat a treat left on a table by their father. He gives them instructions to wait until he comes back to eat the fruit snacks. After dumping the snacks out in front of them, he goes off camera and immediately they look at each other with that “He’s gone! Let’s do it!” look. They giggle at each other and reach for the snacks, shoving them in their mouths and rocking side to side in fruit-snack glee. It is hilarious, especially for this Nana who has two sets of twin grandchildren. They definitely conspire together!
We are those kids.
We have always been those kids. The minute God has his back turned for a just a hot second, we go off the rails and chaos ensues. Think I am overstating it? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the golden calf:
Exodus 32 (Common English Bible)
7 The Lord spoke to Moses: “Hurry up and go down! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, are ruining everything! 8 They’ve already abandoned the path that I commanded. They have made a metal bull calf for themselves. They’ve bowed down to it and offered sacrifices to it and declared, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 The Lord said to Moses, “I’ve been watching these people, and I’ve seen how stubborn they are. 10 Now leave me alone! Let my fury burn and devour them. Then I’ll make a great nation out of you.”
This is the worst thing that the redeemed and rescued Israelites could have done. God delivered them from Pharaoh’s enslavement, brought them through the Red Sea, obliterated Pharaoh’s army, and then just at the moment that God was delivering the Law to Moses on the top of Mt. Sinai, the rabble rousers below immediately make a false idol to worship.
What is your false idol? Do you bow down before your screens, your anger, your petty vengeance, your need to be right, your political ideology, your cheating, your arrogance … where have you turned your back on God? What shiny, golden thing has captured your attention?
Worship that thing at your peril, warns the Lord.
But Moses was able to intervene and pleaded with God for mercy. Luckily, God is full of mercy for his people.
11 But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God, “Lord, why does your fury burn against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and amazing force? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘He had an evil plan to take the people out and kill them in the mountains and so wipe them off the earth’? Calm down your fierce anger. Change your mind about doing terrible things to your own people.
Moses reminds God of his covenant with Abraham, and it worked. God’s anger was cooled and his compassion for his children was reignited.
13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, whom you yourself promised, ‘I’ll make your descendants as many as the stars in the sky. And I’ve promised to give your descendants this whole land to possess for all time.’” 14 Then the Lord changed his mind about the terrible things he said he would do to his people.
But did he deserve to be treated that way, after all he had done for Israel? Certainly not. Neither does he deserve our apostasy when we put things or people on the throne in his place.
Consider what you idolize and let go of it so that you might return to God. His mercy is new every morning.