We love our golden calves. As soon as Moses leaves his people for some alone time with God, the people turn away to other gods. Yahweh, who freed them from generations of slavery, who performed miracle after miracle in their sight, who passed over their houses yet struck dead the firstborn of their enemies, who guided them with a pillar of fire and cloud, who parted the Red Sea, was forgotten after a month. And Moses, who had led these people to plunder one of the greatest empires of the world is abandoned along with the God he served. In Moses’ place, they placed Aaron, the spokesman. In Yahweh’s place, they formed yet another golden calf. Made of the gold they had plundered from Egypt, this idol was now declared to be the god who led them to freedom.
We love our golden calves. When we begin to doubt God, to forget the miracles He has performed, to close our eyes to the leaders He has placed before us, we quickly turn to other sources of comfort and authority. Maybe our golden calves take the form of political parties, or world governments, or philosophical systems, or wealth and power. Whatever idol we turn to when we turn away from God, we can be sure they didn’t just pop out of the fire fully formed. We have taken time to form these gods ourselves.
We love our golden calves. But God doesn’t. God declares to Moses His intention to wipe the people away and begin again with Moses (remember Noah?) as the father of the Jews. But with Moses standing for his people, God relents and simply refuses to go with them. “I’ll go ahead and prepare the way but I won’t travel with you or I might just wipe you out anyway,” God declares.
If we want God walking with us, if we want to be spared His wrath or at least His absence, we need to follow Him and only Him. Follow another idol and you might just find yourself alone. God will never leave us nor forsake us, but He will allow us to walk away from Him. That’s called free will. Use it wisely.