I wouldn’t consider myself a naturally patient person. Anyone who has spent ten minutes in the car with me would probably agree. I have only one speed when driving: get there fast. My mom jokes that I’m just speeding from one red light to the next, accelerating immediately after it turns green only to slam on the breaks at the next light a few hundred yards away. We won’t even talk about what happens when I get stuck in traffic.
My destination is always my goal and I have little patience for any obstacle that would hinder my progress along the way.
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
The Israelites have seen the Lord deliver them from Egypt, they walked on dry ground through the Red Sea. They have every reason to trust Him and no reason to doubt his faithfulness and, yet, at the end of 39 days of waiting on Moses, they decide they’ve waited long enough. They exchanged the untamed reality of God’s presence and glory for the tangible falsehood of a golden calf. They traded the sweetness of what they could not control for the emptiness of what they could, and bowed down before a god fashioned out of their own device.
Moses was “so long” in coming down the mountain and the Israelites were weary of waiting. Their one request for this god was that he would “go before them”, to close the gap between themselves and the promised land. And so they turned their jewelry into a god, fashioning it in the form of a cow. They expected it to become their leader, ushering them closer to the canaan land.
A cow. An animal that is herded by human hands. An animal that is steered to till the soil. An animal that is led by plow and reins and an animal that is controlled by man.
The Israelites weren’t just looking for an object worthy of their worship, they didn’t need a statue to bow before. They were looking for a god they could control, for an escape from their standing still. And it is no coincidence that the god they designed was in the form of an animal whose direction relies on human command.
Because they wanted a god they could throw their reins around, a god they could steer and direct at will. A god they could convince themselves was leading them, though they had already determined their goal. Ironically, we form idols of our own escape, or at the very least of company along our wilderness way; “leaders” we must pick up and carry that become baggage in our own hands.
The foot of the mountain is wrought with temptation to take matters into our own hands. Our drive towards the promise entices us to seek out the fastest route, to ignore God’s timing along the way. And so we turn our “jewelry”, our possessions, our gifts and opportunities into something we can serve, something that makes us feel like we’re making progress. We trade the wild, glorious reality of God’s presence and timing for a safe, tangible object where we can fix our eyes and control our progress.
But it’s in the moments where it seems like the least movement is happening where our hearts are most drawn to worship, to press in to a leader worth following. It is in the stillness, in the waiting where we are free to rest in His presence, nothing to pull our attention away. In these moments, the Cloud beckons us deeper asking, “Will you take your eyes off the destination and fix them solely on me? I have promised you the land and I will not go back on my word. But the land is only one expression of my goodness and, in me, you have access to the very goodness source.” Regardless of where we are in our seasons of waiting, it is Him, not the promise, that is ultimately our goal.
This post is part of 31 days of truth from the wilderness. Click here to see all blogs in this series.
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