It is very difficult maintain a consistent testimony for Christ in American culture today. It is all the more difficult to help others do the same. A person can put much time and effort into people and be rewarded with very little.
Our Lord used Moses as an instrument to lead the enslaved Israelite people out of Egypt. He descended upon Mount Sinai with thunder and lightning to give His Law. His holy presence was awesome in the truest sense of the word. He filled people with fear and wonder.
Yet when Moses spent much time with our Lord, set apart from the people he served, those people grew impatient. Aaron allowed them to practice idolatry in the interim. While Moses received the command that the people should not make for themselves any graven image, the people were fashioning a golden calf under the inept and weak leadership of Aaron.
The LORD knew what the people were doing. He spoke to Moses about it. He sent Moses down the mountain so that he could see it unfold with his own eyes. Moses came into the camp after spending a lot of time with the LORD. He was filled with anger and indignation because they were behaving so wickedly. He smashed God’s commands against the surface of the mountain. Those command would have to be given to him a second time (Deuteronomy – second law).
American idolatry is much more sophisticated than the idolatry in Exodus 32. Our country, the American dream of houses, lands, and things, positions of power, and a love for money are the new form of idolatry. Covetousness is idolatry after all (Colossians 3.5). And we are certainly bullish about these things. Sometimes our god is our belly (Philippians 3.19) or our god is our preferences (Romans 14). We believe in the so-called American ideal to have the freedom to do whatever we want. Americans want no restrictions …nothing to weigh them down.
Exodus 32.19-20 records the reaction of a leader zealous for God:
So it was, as soon as [Moses] came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it.
It is all too easy for us to go with the flow of the country. Aaron should have stopped the idolatry when Moses was with God, but he ended up sanctioning it. The pressure of the people was Aaron’s feeble excuse for failing to lead. He merely through gold into the fire, and out came the calf. That pretty weak. We give the same feeble excuses today. Instead of close communion with unfruitful works of darkness, we should expose those works (Ephesians 5.11).
Moses and Aaron form quite a contrast in Exodus 32. Aaron, pressed by the people to give them what they wanted, led them to forge an idolatrous golden calf. Moses was filled with indignation against the sin destroying those same people. He pitied the people and prayed for them. He destroyed their idolatrous calf. He fasted for them. Yet he was constantly despised by these same people. But who truly loved them? Was it Moses or Aaron? We see Moses’ heart for the people in this companion text:
And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you committed in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the Lord was angry with you, to destroy you. But the Lord listened to me at that time also (Deuteronomy 9.18-19).
Psalm 106.23 says that “had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath,” the LORD would have destroyed them. The people owed their lives to Moses and His compassion for them. So those who would lead people to Christ must prevail in prayer and patiently lead them. Someone must stand in the gap or breach before the LORD on the behalf of idolaters today. Will the Lord find someone to do that?