“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!
‘And I have personally appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to be his assistant. Moreover, I have given special skill to all the gifted craftsmen so they can make all the things I have commanded you to make…'”
Exodus 31:1-6 NLT
“When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. ‘Come on,’ they said, ‘make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.’
So Aaron said, ‘Take the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.’
All the people took the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, ‘O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’
Aaron saw how excited the people were, so he built an altar in front of the calf. Then he announced, ‘Tomorrow will be a festival to the LORD!’
The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.”
Exodus 32:1-6 NLT*
Reading through Exodus, particularly these passages, I’ve been struck by God’s foresight and creativity, as well as the common inclination of God’s people to grow impatient and insecure while waiting on God’s timing.
At this point in the Bible story, God has brought His people out of slavery in Egypt, where they’ve been serving the Egyptians for 400 years. Their time of slavery in Egypt was not a wasted experience, though. God used that to prepare his people. During that time, they were settled in one place and grew to immense numbers; they became a nation of people, not just a tribe. They learned skills from the Egyptians; where they had once been nomadic, now they knew farming and cultivation practices. God now has a nation of master craftsmen who have spent their lifetimes building beautiful cities and temples for the Egyptians.
So, God is acutely aware of where they’ve been and who they are. He doesn’t just take what they have to offer and throw it out; he doesn’t say it’s worthless. He reclaims it as His and wants to use it for His glory. He fashions his instructions and plans for them based on what they have to offer. God loves beauty and order and design and he wants His people to use their creative skills for His glory. He wants to teach them how to use their training and abilities in ways that direct their attention toward Him, though.
All eyes on God
God has freed His people from their bondage and subjugation—but now, He also wants them free from their reliance upon the Egyptians to define who they are. Maybe I’m reading too much into it here, but I imagine they have residual feelings of subjection and are used to getting their sense of worth from their service to the Egyptians. At any rate, through His instructions for the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle, God redirects their attention to Him. He shows them how to use their skills and experiences to honor Him and to understand who he is and how different he is from the Egyptian gods they’re used to.
He wants them to understand who they are by understanding who He is. He leads them out into the wilderness (where they have nothing at their disposal, nothing they are familiar with) to teach them about who He is and convince them that He can reliably provide for their every need. He reveals Himself to them in a deeper, fuller, more intimate way than He does to any other people in the world at that time.
But they get worried and restless. Just as God is providing Moses with detailed instructions on the work He wants them to do, the people at the bottom of the mountain get tired of waiting. They think that Moses, their leader, must surely be dead by now. They don’t know what to do with themselves or which way to turn.
So, in their fear and impatience, they turn to Aaron, who offers this solution: let’s make a golden calf. It’s a way to pass the time, to use our skills. It will be our representation of God; we can rally around this calf and feel once again like we have purpose and direction. What a relief. We’ll worship God in the form of this golden calf and we won’t just be sitting here anxiously waiting and trusting that we won’t just be left here with no direction, no plan, and our skills lying wasted and unused.
God is laying out His plan to use them, with all the training and talents they have, in greater ways than they could ever have imagined, for God’s glory and the good of all the world…and at the exact same moment they grow tired of waiting and decide to use their skills in a way that dishonors and rejects God.
Do you see that? Put this way, it makes the story of the golden calf much more relatable and understandable to me. Egregious and sinful, yes.
But I’ve felt that pull before.
How often I find myself in times of waiting, fearful that my skills—my passions, education, and experience—will be wasted and unused! Worried that everything is leading to a dead end; anxious that I need to act and move and make something happen. It’s such a temptation to think I see how it all needs to fit together; I see how it should be. Instead, God calls me to surrender my agenda and plans and trust Him.
Waiting and trusting is hard work. But still, just like the Israelites at Mount Sinai, I’m called to give God control, to trust His timing, and to trust that He knows, much better than I do, how best to use my talents and skills for His greater glory.”Give control to God and trust His timing; He knows best how to use our talents and skills for… Click To Tweet
What are some areas where you feel impatient and unsure in the waiting? What’s a “golden calf” that we turn to today—something that we see everyone in the culture around us turn to for direction and purpose? What helps you to trust and wait on God instead of looking away and dishonoring Him?