When we worship impatience
The story of the golden calf is one of the most famous in the whole Bible. It speaks to our human tendency to make gods out of the things we can physically see and touch, out of the things we prefer, rather than letting the Lord be our God.
Scripture: Exodus 32:1-14 (NLT)
When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.” So Aaron said, “Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.” All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” Aaron saw how excited the people were, so he built an altar in front of the calf. Then he announced, “Tomorrow will be a festival to the Lord!” The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry. The Lord told Moses, “Quick! Go down the mountain! Your people whom you brought from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. How quickly they have turned away from the way I commanded them to live! They have melted down gold and made a calf, and they have bowed down and sacrificed to it. They are saying, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” Then the Lord said, “I have seen how stubborn and rebellious these people are. Now leave me alone so my fierce anger can blaze against them, and I will destroy them. Then I will make you, Moses, into a great nation.” But Moses tried to pacify the Lord his God. “O Lord!” he said. “Why are you so angry with your own people whom you brought from the land of Egypt with such great power and such a strong hand? Why let the Egyptians say, ‘Their God rescued them with the evil intention of slaughtering them in the mountains and wiping them from the face of the earth’? Turn away from your fierce anger. Change your mind about this terrible disaster you have threatened against your people! Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You bound yourself with an oath to them, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven. And I will give them all of this land that I have promised to your descendants, and they will possess it forever.’”
So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.
God was ready to destroy his people Israel because God was angry about their disobedience and idolatry. Moses pleaded for their lives, reminding God that this might ruin God’s reputation among the Egyptians and “prove them right” in the negative things they assumed about Israel’s God. And so, God relented. God forgave. God gave Israel another chance.
But notice what led to their idolatry in the first place: “When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us.” Impatience – they were simply tired of waiting!
How much of our improper worship is the direct result of our impatience!? We really do believe in God, and we know God can and does act, but we are tired of waiting on God’s timing. So we create our own solutions that are pleasing to us, falsely believing that we can save ourselves.
But it is better to wait on the Lord, as long as that may take.
Forgiving God, who relented from punishing your people though they disobeyed you and made false gods for themselves, forgive us when we are tempted by and give in to idolatry. Make us faithful to you, even as you are faithful to us. And give us patience so that, when you do not appear as soon as we would like, we can wait for you. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.