It's a sad, sad scene in Exodus 32. We're not at all far removed from the Passover night and Israel's deliverance from Egypt (chapter 12) or God's drowning of Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea (chapter 14) or the water out of the rock or Israel's first victory in battle (chapter 17) or the people's covenant with God to obey the law God gave them (chapter 24). And here they're about to make a golden calf and worship it by dancing naked! How depraved is the human heart! How corrupt is man's sinful nature! How weak his determination!
Exodus 32:1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
Here's their first error. They credit Moses with bringing them out of the land of Egypt. And they're tired of waiting for him to come down from Mt. Sinai, not knowing what has become of him. So Aaron has them break off their earrings, and he makes a golden calf for them to worship. Wait a second. Why not pray for direction from the Lord? Why not wait a little longer for Moses to come down? Why not continue to follow the Lord even if Moses is dead? Don't you remember your promise! Guess not.
Exodus 32:4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
Now they've taken it a step further. They credit this idol with bringing them out of the land of Egypt. Which was a pretty good trick since they're already out and Aaron just made it. How deceived is the human heart! How blind and ignorant is man's sinful nature! How stupid!
Exodus 32:7 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:
The Lord's response. He is ready to disclaim them. He calls them Moses' people and, like the Hebrews did, gives him the credit for their deliverance. In v. 10 announces His plan to wipe them out and start over with Moses.
But Moses intercedes on behalf of the people (and this wouldn't be the last time he does so).
Exodus 32:11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?
Notice what Moses says in his prayer – that it was God Who brought His people out of the land of Egypt.
To me it was interesting to watch in that chapter how Moses and the golden calf and the Lord were all given credit for Israel's deliverance. And of course we know Whose power and mighty hand was behind it all.
The practical lesson and the challenge for us is not to follow in Israel's footsteps. Their problem? They failed to recognize and remember and thank God for what HE had done for them. Deuteronomy 32:15, 18 Jeshurun…lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation…Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.
Christ has redeemed us (Galatians 3:13), freed us (John 8:36), delivered us (Hebrews 2:14-15), saved us (Romans 10:13)! Let's not let a day go by that we don't thank Him for it and render Him service from a thankful heart.