In the previous chapters, Moses communed with God on Mount Sinai. God was instituting a new covenant with the people, and He wanted to make sure the people were ready to make such a commitment. Numerous times, God sent Moses down the mountain to give an update about what He expected. It wasn't much--just love and loyalty. He told them that if they obeyed Him, He would take care of them. "Follow my lead, and all will be well with thee." And, on at least three different occasions, the people's response was, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do.
Sadly, what they said and what they did didn't match up, and if we read the first verse of chapter 32, we find out why. 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.
In this one verse, I see three reasons why the people were ready and willing to forsake their promise to God, and I'm afraid, they are the same reasons we often allow our loyalty to the Lord to slide as well.
1) They were tired of waiting. - Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days, and the people were tired of sitting at the base of the mountain waiting. They were ready to move on. They were eager to receive the land that God had promised them. They were ready to act instead of wait. Sound familiar? Have you ever grown tired of waiting for God to work in the way you expected Him to work? Weary of waiting for Him to answer a prayer? Tired of waiting for all things to work together for good as He promised? Yes, waiting is hard, but if we're not careful, we fall into the same trap the children of Israel did and take matters into our own hands instead of waiting on God's perfect timing.
2) Their faith was weak. - At this point, from what the Scripture indicates, the cloud by day and fire by night was absent from the people. The smoke and cloud and fire were all present on the top of Mount Sinai, so while they could see it from afar, the visible presence of God wasn't in their midst. Out of sight, out of mind. They wanted some other new form of "god" that they could see and follow into the Promised Land. How easily was the true God cast aside for some sorry substitute! But again, we're guilty of the same. We allow other things in life to get our eyes off of God, and in doing so, we tend to allow those things to guide our lives. We begin to place our trust in what we can see instead of what we can't.
3) They were dealing with uncertainty. - From what I can gather from the Scripture, Moses had never been up on the mountain for that long of a stretch. Instead, in the previous chapters, you see him constantly going back and forth between God and the people. But, after forty days, the people became uncertain. Where's Moses? What if something has happened to him? What should we do now? So, in their uncertainty, they decided to act. The problem is that they didn't have all the facts, hence the uncertainty, and acting on instinct when we don't have all the facts can be devastating. We live in a world of uncertainty, and we must be careful not to try to control things that we have no control over. It only leads to trouble!
When you consider the situation and all that took place, one thing becomes evident to me: the children of Israel didn't really love God. They accepted Him. They obeyed Him when it suited them. They waited on Him only with great whines and complaints. So, when they said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do, what they meant was All that the Lord has said we will do as long as it's convenient and works out the way we want. And as soon as things didn't look the way they wanted, they cut their losses and moved on to another "god." That's not love! That's using God for their own selfish gain, and if we're not wary, we'll do the same thing.
My challenge for you today is to examine your heart and determine what's lurking there. Is it a true love and passion for God? Is it a willingness to honor and obey God no matter how long it takes or how uncertain things may seem? Or is it a love of convenience that's only willing to go along with God when it works out in our best interest (or what we think is our best interest)? These are tough questions, but we need to discover the answers.
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. - Matthew 22:37