While Moses is on Mount Sinai talking with God and receiving the law, the people grow restless and make a terrible decision.
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!”
Two popular Egyptian gods, Hapi and Hathor, were depicted as a bull and a heifer. No doubt the Israelites, fresh from Egypt, found it quite natural to make a gold calf to represent the God who had just delivered them from their oppressors. They longed for a god with a face. Even though Israel had seen the invisible God in action, they still wanted something familiar that they could see and shape into whatever image they desired. In doing so, they were ignoring the command he had just given them: “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea” (Exodus 20:4). They may even have thought they were worshiping God. Their apparent sincerity was no substitute for obedience and no excuse for disobedience.
Our great temptation still is to shape a god to our liking, to make him convenient to obey or ignore. Even if we do not make idols, we are often guilty of trying to make God in our image, molding him to fit our expectations, desires, and circumstances. When we do this, we end up worshiping ourselves rather than the God who created us—and self-worship leads to all kinds of immorality. The gods we create blind us to the love that God wants to shower on us.
What gods in your life are standing in front of the true God? What is your favorite image of God? Is it biblical? Consider the idols you need to destroy in order to worship the immeasurably powerful God who delivered you from bondage to sin.