Before the onset of each new year, my husband & I participate with our church in choosing a word or phrase to become our focus for the next 365 days. Our word for 2020 was “priority”. And our sincere intent for this year was to make our relationship with God a priority in our lives, above all else… thoughts, desires, beliefs, schedules, demands of our time and resources. I did great, for about 13 days… And then? I got distracted by doubt, and followed the “overcommitment rabbit” down the unending hole of constant striving but going nowhere. I let my priorities get completely blurred. Why? Because I was afraid. Afraid I wasn’t doing enough. Afraid that I wasn’t enough.
And it’s in this light, I see myself in poor Aaron, through the recollection of Exodus 32. At this point in his life, he’s seen more signs and wonders performed by the one and only God of the heavens than any of us can imagine. Not to exclude the most recent colossal escape from slavery by means of God literally parting the Red Sea for his people; a way out of absolutely no way. He’d been his brother Moses’ right-hand man through all of this, a respected servant of the Lord, a repeat vessel of God’s phenomenal miracles.
But yet… a moment of feeling alone and afraid had the power to convince him to turn his back on all he’d experienced. Seems so far off when we read about stories like this, doesn’t it? “Come on, Aaron. You had ONE job!” Right?
It amazes me how often we initially perceive stories in the Bible as completely ancient and irrelevant to any of our lives today. But there’s so much relevance, still, and I so wish we could always see the similarities and lessons beforehand. I wish we could see the confusion for what it is, in the midst of the same mistakes we continue to repeat. For instance, in the text of Exodus 32, we see how the voices of doubt become louder than God’s voice, a struggle many of us deal with daily. If I had to guess, when Aaron caved to the voices and cries of the Israelites, I don’t think it was because he didn’t know God was still God. That he believed somehow God decided to give up on them and relinquish his almighty power. It wasn’t that Aaron didn’t think God was enough.
I don’t think he believed he was enough, for God to use.
Can you relate? Isn’t that what we do sometimes (or honestly, all the time)? Sometimes God makes us wait for an answer Or… it’s not the answer we’re looking for. And we start panicking.
We mistake his silence for absence, and launch an immediate mission to fill the assumed void.
Case in point (the frantic Israelites):
“Moses was on the mountain for a very long time. So the Israelites went to Aaron. They said, ‘Get up! Make some gods for us who will lead us. This man, Moses, brought us up out of Egypt. But we do not know where he is now. We do not know what has happened to him.’” (Exodus 32:1).
We get tired of waiting. And fear takes priority over faith.
Fear provokes us to take our own actions. We don’t want to lose control. Then we rationalize, and fabricate evidence to support our rationalizations.
“Then Aaron answered them, ‘Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives, your sons and your daughters. Then bring the rings to me.’“ (v. 2).
We fall prey to the pressure, and begin to take direction from the lies being shouted at us.
“So all the Israelites removed the rings from their ears and they brought them to Aaron. Aaron took the rings and he made a false god from the gold. He used a tool to make the false god in the shape of a young cow.” (v. 3-4).
The shouting fears and lies of the enemy convince us they are on our side. He willingly provides whatever tools and resources we need to continue to dig ourselves into a deeper and deeper hole of regret.
And.. the big finale…
“Then the Israelites said, ‘This is your god, Israel. He brought you up out of Egypt!’ When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the young cow. He shouted, ‘Tomorrow, there will be a feast to worship the Lord.’ So, on the next day, the Israelites got up early. They offered gifts of dead animals on the altar and they also brought other gifts. After this they sat down to eat a meal and they drank wine. After that, they danced to worship the cow.”
A cow? Seems a little out of left field, eh? But is it really that far fetched though? The “cow” (or calf or young bull) that the Israelites constructed to worship was an idol that could’ve been a representation of any of the bull cults familiar to them (this was very prevalent in Egypt and other areas at the time). For comparison, let’s look at Apis, a very highly honored and regarded bull god in Egyptian history. When we look at the belief system they created in worshipping this animal, we find it eerily similar to the story of Jesus.
“Apis was the most important of all the sacred animals in Egypt, and, as with the others, its importance increased as time went on. Greek and Roman authors have much to say about Apis, the marks by which the black bull-calf was recognized, the manner of his conception by a ray from heaven, his house at Memphis with court for disporting himself, the mode of prognostication from his actions, the mourning at his death, his costly burial, and the rejoicings throughout the country when a new Apis was found.” (https://www.bible-history.com/archaeology/egypt/apis-the-bull-god.html).
So, let’s think about this for a moment. When we can’t hear or see what God is doing, do we sometimes latch onto something else (a substitute) and expect it to put us at ease? Anything in God’s place is technically an idol. That could be work, pleasure, people, and certainly fear. Could any of us unintentionally let fear and anxiety take the reins of our judgment, and cause us to take matters into our own hands? “If God won’t answer me, I’m going to find the next best substitute (idol) to solve my problems.” I mean, it feels like a good idea because it satisfies my addiction to instant gratification. Only trouble is… when this bull dies, I must find a new one. And when that one dies, a new one. And a new one.
Whatever we idolize above our creator is not a sufficient answer to our questions. It never will be.
Here’s the bottom line: We won’t always have answers, but what God wants from us is to be still in our waiting. Not avoiding action or what we truly think is the right path. But he wants our hearts to be in the right place so that no other idol takes his position. My beautiful friends, he loves us so much that he is jealous for the throne of our hearts.
He doesn’t want to come in second to anything or anyone. He doesn’t want to come in second to lies that we’re not enough. He doesn’t want to come in second to anyone else’s opinions or beliefs. He wants to be our number one priority, because we are his. ❤️