It’s been 42 days since New Year. Does that seem like a long time to you? Were there people you were with on New Year’s Day that you haven’t seen since? Are there promises you made then that you have forgotten? If you answer yes to any of those questions then, like me, you can identify with the Israelites.
32 When the people realized Moses was taking a long time to return from his trek up the mountain, they got together and approached Aaron.
People: We have no idea what happened to this fellow Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt. He left you in charge, so get up and make us gods who will lead us from here.
Aaron doesn’t seem to think twice. He bends to the will of the people and makes them a golden calf. The whole sorry story can be found in Exodus 32. It is another part of the tragedy that will see an entire generation perish while wandering for 40 years in a desert they could have crossed in 11 days. That’s a scary thought – a lifetime spent wandering in grumbling, complaining, rebellious outrage instead of moving directly in obedience.
Aaron should have known better, he’d been alongside Moses during the Exodus, right there with him during the plagues. But when the moment for him to shine came he buckled under pressure and then made the most incredible excuse.
Moses (to Aaron): 21 How could you lead these people into such a heinous sin? What did they do to you?
Aaron: 22 …You know these people. You know how evil they can be…” 24 So I told them, “If you are wearing any gold, take it off.” So they gave me all their gold and I just tossed it into the fire, and out came this calf!
It just made itself… The calf just jumped out of the fire… It wasn’t my fault…. I didn’t do it… They made me do it.
Before we get too judgemental or self-righteous let’s take another look at those excuses and be sure we never said any of them. There’s only one person who has never given in to temptation and He died for our sins. He gave His life to make amends for the times we give in.
That’s not a green light to keep on giving in. I want to learn from the Israelites wandering: learn to listen, learn to obey. I want to be like Joshua who lingered at the tent where Moses met with God long after Moses went back to work and we know how Joshua turned out.
40 days isn’t that long but, just like the Israelites, we let ourselves forget by not staying close to God. We can drift away just a tiny bit each day until we look up and we’re miles from shore and the waves are rising. Then we look for something to grab hold of and a calf pops out of the water telling us to trust it.
The answer is to linger in God’s presence like Joshua. The answer is to keep our eyes on the place where God spoke to us. The answer is to close our ears to things that would distract us from Him.
The answer is to trust Him all the time no matter what is going on around us.