Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” Exodus 32:4
The other day I was watching Fireplace for the Home on Netflix. Apparently someone positioned a stationary camera to record the sights and sounds of a real fireplace. The purpose of this nearly hour long “show” is to imagine what it would be like to experience a fireplace in your house.
On my TV the fireplace certainly looks a real, glowing flames and ashen bricks.
The scene certainly sounds real, crackling wood and wasps of smoke.
All of the pretending in the world would could not make the fire on the TV real. The movie would never have the ability to keep me warm or help me roast marshmallows. If I want to experience real flames, real crackling wood and real roasted marshmallows, I need a real fire.
Moses was taking too long. What was he doing up there anyway. I still think Egypt was better than this. Thoughts like these probably ran rampant in the camp as Moses talked with God at Sinai. The impatient people had quickly forgotten their miraculous past. We join them in selective amnesia. The gushing rock, defeated Amalekites, parted Red Sea all seem to be fleeting memories.
Then someone got an idea. They decided to make a replacement to go before them. Their discontentment with how and when God was working prompted them to pick a substitute. They brought their treasures to Aaron and according to Aaron the act of throwing gold into fire produces idols. The band was struck up and the party was on.
I’ve always wondered at what point in the story did someone conclude that this whole thing was dumb. No amount of dancing, drinking, or offering was going to make that golden cow do anything. Part of me wants to laugh at their foolishness. That’s probably the part that refuses to see myself in that Israelite crowd.
The temporary fixes are just that, temporary. They’re not meant to last long. Sooner or later the relationship loses its luster, the car gets dented, the traveling becomes uneventful and the partying turns stale. The more things we try, the less satisfied we become. When we’ve reached our limit old memories return. Again we are reminded of what God has done in our lives. We reflect on His promises for our future. God extends yet another opportunity for us to live like we know that He’s real. Not only does serving God bring fulfillment, it allows us to regain the dignity we lost while parading in front of the calf.