“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ Aaron said to them, ‘Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.’ So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.” (Exodus 32:1-6 NASB)
I know what you’re thinking. You want to know how subtle is the construction of a golden calf idol, and I understand what you are saying. But I don’t think it’s at all that easy. Listen, these people, including Aaron, had experienced the very presence of God. They saw His glory take over Mt. Sinai and heard His voice speak to them about not having any other gods but Him. They heard the warning about false gods and graven images. So, how did they move so quickly from understanding all that and swearing obedience to it, to doing just the opposite? When that kind of a thing happens in the Bible I tell you Satan is nearby. Only the Deceiver can lie and manipulate people away from what they know is true.
So, if it happened for them the same way Satan works on me, then it went something like this: Moses went up to be with God for 40 days. No one knew it would be 40 days. In the past it had been only a brief time, hours at most. The children of Israel were excited about their God. They were excited about going to the promised land. They wanted to get moving. After the hours turned to days and the days turned to weeks, they began to fear something had happened to Moses. They began to fear that they might get stuck out there in the desert. They desperately wanted to fulfill God’s plan for them, so that must have meant they should create a plan B. A new plan would have to be created with the assumption that Moses was no longer their leader. So they went to Aaron, not to ask him to be their leader but to ask that he supply them an image of God to be their leader. They didn’t ask Aaron for a man to lead them. They wanted God to lead them. So they sought an image of the God they served. Hence, the move to idolatry was subtle. A lie nonetheless but still subtle.
I believe if we could ask Aaron about that day, he would tell us that he by no means was trying to worship another god besides the One who spoke to them from Sinai. I think this is the same subtle temptation/lie we face when Satan attempts to trick us into idolatry. Things begin to not go according to plan (the way we see the plan) and Satan steps in. So this becomes “Moses is not returning.” Or a trial we are experiencing lasts longer than expected, a prayer continues to go unanswered, and we begin to listen to the whispers of the enemy and start to take things into our own hands. This is how subtle it can be.
Let’s commit ourselves to be true to the Word of God and not our redefinition of it. Let’s not allow Satan to use our eyes of sight to blind our eyes of faith. Let’s not fall into the subtle pitfalls of idolatry.