Exodus 31:18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.
Exodus 32:1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. 2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.
Here, we go from the possibilities of Bezaleel’s mastery to Aaron’s misery.
There surely cannot be a juxtaposition of more contrast than these two back-to-back events in the Bible, or could there be? Israel's wilderness experience provides us with several of these head-scratchers which beg the question, “What’s wrong with these people? On one page, victory, on the next, disaster!”
One moment they are singing and dancing in victorious celebration after their Red Sea victory, the next they are griping about their living conditions. It's embarrassing to repeatedly read these huge read these mood swings.
One moment they are chowing down on roast quail, the next they are choking on the bones.
But this one! Moses is communing with God about a glorious tabernacle replete with lavish furnishings, to be fashioned by the master craftsman Bezaleel, and less than one rotation of the planet later, Aaron (yes, that Aaron, the supposed high priest of God) is succumbing to the murmurings of these ingrates and is somewhat less than masterfully engraving a bull calf to be venerated by the multitude.
"Up, make us gods" they demanded, while Moses was up, recording the demands God.
They hadn't seen Moses for forty days since he’d hiked up into the God cloud, so hey, “Outta sight, outta mind, right? Let's do a drastic culture change, make a cow, call it god, get naked and boogie down!"
Aaron, the second in command, supposed to be a man of God, allows his brains to leak out of the hole in his head and says, "Uh, yeah, bring me the jewelry of Jewry and lemme see what I can come up with."
Later, when he's trying to justify the unjustifiable, he says to Moses, "I threw the gold into the fire and, boom! out comes this calf!"
I said all that to say this, as I shake my head at the mercurial nature of these wilderness wanderers, I think of all the grand victories granted me by the Almighty, and then find myself the very next day worshiping at the altar of worthless idols.
The difference between the children of Israel in the Sinai and me is that I'm not in the Sinai. They were in dire straits. They literally didn't know where the next meal was coming from, where they'd get a drink, where they were to pillow their heads or what they were going to wear. I've got all those boxes checked. They lived from hand to mouth, God's hand to their mouth. I live from God's hand to my bank account, to Walmart and the grocery to my mouth. They lived with a question mark over their heads, I live with an exclamation point over mine.
I am saying, it should be much easier for me to stay true to God than it was for them, and yet my story parallels theirs in disturbing ways. Aaron's silly explanation that didn't hold water, "Boom, there came out this calf!" really isn't as far-fetched as some of the measly excuses I offer when convicted of my idolatry.
It goes back to Adam and the sinful nature we inherited from him.
"Adam, where are you?"
"Over here, we are hiding because we are naked and afraid, like those people on A&E."
"Adam, what did you do?"
"It's the woman you gave me, she shoved that pomegranate at me and forced me to eat it, so it's really her fault."
(Pardon the paraphrase)
Well, as the problem repeats itself and infinite number of times, the answer remains the same. We are guilty of doing stupid stuff, even though God is so good to us. He reproves and corrects us, forgives us, and restores us in His love and compassion.
But do we learn our lessons and grow or we ignorantly (or willfully) re-offend and relapse?
It's part of these wilderness wanderings on the way to the Promised Land. Today, I vote for the tabernacle with the mercy seat over a bunch of bull. God, grant that my resolve and your grace allow it to be so tomorrow also.