God is still hurt and angry at Israel’s behavior but He is faithful even when man is not. He will keep His promise to Abraham but there need to be some changes along the way.
When I first started thinking about today’s reading I was angry with Israel for being so prideful. The main reason I was thinking them prideful was because God told them to take off their “ornaments.” I’m assuming this was jewelry. God’s direction spoke to me of humbling the people but I wonder if I’m attributing my cultural ways to this story.
In the American culture, wearing jewels is a status symbol. A lot of people think the more jewels you have the wealthier or more important you are. If Israel had this same attitude then stripping them of their “ornaments” would be humbling them.
But what if their “ornaments” demonstrated something else. When Aaron had them bring their earrings, I proposed that those earrings symbolized being a free person instead of a slave. Could their ornaments symbolize “ownership” or “ranking”? My wedding ring symbolizes my bond with my husband. Did their ornaments serve that kind of purpose?
Another thing I was thinking about was WHY they asked for another god. If they were prideful and felt they could conquer anything on their own, they wouldn’t have “needed” a god. I believe they were scared when they went to Aaron. We are not told how long they were alone at the base of the mountain but it was apparently for some extended time. They began to worry. They didn’t have Moses to lead them anymore. They didn’t have him interceding on their behalf with God. THEY didn’t know how to get in touch with God, or so they believed. They had just recently had to defend themselves in battle. I believe they felt helpless and abandoned. They wanted help they could lay their hands on.
We know that they weren’t abandoned. They continued to gather mana every morning. They drank water that flowed from the rock all day. Their enemies were too scared to come near them. They were in a safe place. But they couldn’t see their blessings. All they saw was their fears.
So they did what they always did in times of uncertainty; they looked for someone or something to protect them. Israel wasn’t arrogant enough to think they could take the Promised Land on their own. They knew they needed help. And they were willing to do whatever was needed to secure help. Egypt had taught them to make their own gods. Household gods had been around since before Abraham left his homeland and they had made their way back into the tents of Abraham’s descendants along the way.
I wonder if anyone in the camp bothered to point out the fact that, being they were still receiving God’s gifts every day, that He had not abandoned them. Did they try counting their “blessings” instead of “worries”? It all boils down to the fact that they didn’t trust God to keep them safe. They thought He wasn’t looking anymore.
But look what they traded for! Instead of being still and waiting on their Creator, they created something instead. They created something that had no heart, no mind, no will, no thoughts, no breath, and NO POWER to protect them. They created a piece of “art” and nothing more. Yet they endowed it with praise as if it had all those attributes. They expected IT to save them from their problems.
THAT trade and spoiled faith is what hurt God SO deeply. They were ready to follow an inanimate object anywhere yet they dragged their feet when He said for them to go with Him. They threw God’s love, protection, and mercy back in His face. They would rather place their faith in a carved image than in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
I’m wondering if their “ornaments” were how they made themselves up to be “worthy” to enter into their new god’s “presence.” Was this part of their costume or uniform of service? Was it like their “wedding ring” for union with this god? If so, no wonder God would allow them to continue wearing them.
What did they wear in allegiance to God? At the end of today’s story their uniform was sorrow. God had removed every reminder of their HUGE SIN. No affiliation with the calf; no affiliation with wealth; no affiliation with ANY metals that could be used to create another abomination. Only bear arms, hands, heads, and necks were on display. Nothing to hide behind or to shield them.
Father God, Your heart was broken by Israel’s choice. Not simply because they chose something different but because they chose something WORTHLESS! How could they be so blind!? How could I? Because I know I’ve made the wrong choices before too. I’m SO grateful that You didn’t walk away from me when I made stupid choices or choices out of fear. You didn’t fully leave Israel either, but You definitely stepped back in the relationship. I’m SO glad it wasn’t forever!
Help me to remember to count my “blessings” every day and to put worry in its place. You are in control, no matter what the world throws at me. Thank You for that assurance. Help me strip off everything that distracts my focus from You or that would draw me to the world. NOTHING is worth breaking Your heart for!