“Come make us a god that shall go before us” (Exodus 32:1)
One of the things we must always be on guard against is making God in our image or according to our imagination. History has shown that it is innate in the sin nature to do this and so we need to be watchful lest we too follow Israel’s example.
Moses had been up on the mountain with God for a long while and the people had no idea whether he would return to them or not (v 1). Like us, they were impatient and also like us they would prefer to have a God they can see. It would appear that the contingent that approached Aaron was a vocal minority (cf. v 28) who may have been as intimidating to others as they were to Aaron.
It is difficult to see from logic just why they wanted an image of God since they had the cloud by day, the fire by night, the manna daily and the memory of their miraculous deliverance from Egypt but such is the nature of sin.
Why did they claim that Moses brought them out of Egypt? Could a man do those great signs? No! It was God who brought them out so why did they say Moses brought them out?
The reason is the same as is used by us today and the clue is in their request. They knew they had made a covenant not to make an image of God. If that covenant was with God they would not be able to entice Aaron to do as they asked and not expect any sympathy from the people. However, by suggesting that the covenant was with Moses and with Moses’ words then it was just opinion against opinion.
Aaron then tried to make their abominable act appear spiritual by making sacrifices and a feast of celebration. How far from reality they were and did not know it.
Few people in our churches take time to really study God’s Word. It is easier to read or hear what others say and choose cafeteria style what we will accept. That way we avoid and sense of guilt when we do the abominable thing.
The consequences for this act of foolishness were not light. God disowned them (v 7) and condemned them to death (v 10) and the tabernacle would be outside the camp instead of in the midst (33:7). Moses intervention spread the execution of the sentence over a period of 40 years.
Like Aaron and Israel we are all too ready to minimise our sin and claim ignorance when we have made no attempt to discern the truth. We do so to our condemnation and the Lord’s just judgment.