The children of Israel that we encounter in Exodus 32 are an…interesting…slightly hilarious…and terribly impatient group of people. By the time we get to c32, they’ve crossed (and shouted across) the Red Sea, received a covenant (promise…special treatment) from God, and received manna from heaven DAILY. They’ve seen miracles (plural….like…more than one) with their own eyes….and now turn away from God because Moses goes missing for 40 days (makes you wonder who they actually trusted, huh?). It’s not like Moses was off wandering in a random place, he was with God getting direction for their next level; but because the children of Israel couldn’t SEE him, they lost faith in all that they had seen. Now, it’s easy to talk down on the children of Israel….until we realize how much we have in common with them.
Here’s the Valencia Version of Exodus 32 (well, the relevant portion, so Ex. 32: 1-24): Moses is in the mountain with God, chatting it up about how and where he should lead the children of Israel while God is writing the rules of life down on 2 tablets. This is going on for about 40 days. Meanwhile, the children of Israel are a little ways from Moses (let’s say the bottom of the mountain, k?), and a group of them run up to Aaron saying “Hey! Brother Aaron! Make us a god that we can worship, because um er uhhhh we don’t know where Bishop “Moses” (if that was ever his name) is. He’s apparently dipped, so we need to take things into our own hands.” Aaron responds saying, “Um, ok….sure…give me all the gold that y’all have, and I’ll get right on it.” They give Aaron the gold, and he goes to work making a calf. The calf is finished, the children of Israel say that this god (the god Aaron literally just formed with his own hands) is what delivered them out of Egypt (like Aaron wasn’t Moses’ speaker in front of the Egyptians…ok), and they declare that the next day is a day of celebration for this newly formed gold god. They go all kinds of out. Built alters, did God knows what with God knows who, ate, slept, and repeated until Moses returned. While they’re acting like fools, God is getting mad (like MAD mad). Moses manages to calm God down (“remember your promise to Abraham! You can’t lie!”)….then gets so mad when he returns that he smashes the tablets God just wrote on. Moses turns to Aaron and asks him what on earth happened to these people, and where this calf came from, and Aaron says “uhhh…I don’t know, man! They ran up on me like ‘ahhhh! Make us a goooooood!’, and handed me a bunch of gold. I put the gold in the fire, & this calf came out! Imagine my surprise!” Moses then has to go through the process of getting the children of Israel together, returning them to their senses, and getting tablets 2.0 together.
This all occurred because the children of Israel got impatient. God got mad, Aaron told a terrible lie, and the children of Israel looked like savages all because they couldn’t handle the wait. God is literally in the mountains, writing out instructions for Moses (and watching them fall apart), and because they didn’t feel God like they used to, because nothing magical was happening….they turned to a backup plan. What do you do while you’re waiting? What do you do when your worship doesn’t feel like it used to? How do you act when you think God has moved to the mountains…and left you in the valley? How do you respond when your pastor or favorite speaker isn’t in the pulpit for a couple of weeks? What do you do when your deadline has passed? I’m asking because the children of Israel “waited” for 40 days, and I can’t help but wonder if those 40 days played a part in them having to wait and wander for 40 years before they got to the promise land.
Impatience with God can be expensive. It can cause extra heartbreak, pain, and tears. It may play a part in your delay. It also tends to produce something subpar to what we would've received if we'd just held on for a liiiiitle while longer. Think about it, what have you really done that beat God's power? Many times, when we move due to impatience, we convince ourselves that we’re doing what’s best. I mean, forward movement is all that matters right? Clearly, my handy dandy shortcut (or kinda sorta not really relationship, or shady move, etc) is what God wanted me to do all along! He hasn’t said anything. His silence must be a yes…especially now…..because clearly the creator of time doesn’t understand that I’m running out of it. See how that sounds? Yeah…me too, but I believe that’s how the children of Israel felt, and that may be how some of you are feeling today.
I think we’ve all had a point where we’ve felt like God deserted us. Like the children of Israel, we’ve all thought that God brought us out, but didn’t care (or didn't have enough power…or desire) enough to bring us to the next level. Like them, you may be thinking ‘He brought me out of my bondage and my history….and left me in the wilderness’, or that ‘He brought me out of captivity on Sunday….and left me in pure confusion by Wednesday’. However, this would not be a great time to follow the example that the children of Israel set. See, they eventually used their gold, the gold that God had given them in Egypt….the gold that God had given them in Egypt to make His tabernacles …to make a cow. Why is the cow a relevant decision? The cow was a god in Egypt. So they literally started worshipping the god of what was as a result of their impatience. In Acts 7:39, Stephen said that “in their (children of Israel) hearts they turned to Egypt.” So, they didn’t go back and resume their slavery. They didn’t physically turn and face Egypt, but their hearts turned towards captivity because they were impatient with destiny. They went back to their history instead of believing in their promised future.
That being said I have two (wrap up) questions:
First, where’s your heart? What has your heart? I know you go to church every Sunday. I know you’re on the praise team, in the choir, and a backup usher on the usher board, but what has your heart? I know you preached on Sunday, and people got saved, but what have you turned your heart to? I know you sang, you spoke, you danced, etc. on Sunday, & people felt God, but….is your heart turned to your Egypt? Are you still looking back wishing for the “good ol days”? Or are you making today a great day? Are you believing that the best days are behind you? Or are you still believing that the best is yet to come? Has your impatience, your lack of faith, your pride, etc. caused you to turn your heart to what you used to do or what God used to do?
Finally, what are you doing with what God gave you? Are you using it for Him? Or are you using it to enable your backup? God doesn’t give you His resources to fund your lack of faith or your lovely backup plan; He gave it to you to fund and further His purpose for your life. If you’re not careful, you’ll trade what God gave you for God himself. The low moments don’t mean that He can’t see you or be touched by your infirmity. Don’t get desperate; be determined to reach the purpose that God has for you….IN HIS TIMING.
You can sit through this for 40 days….or wander aimlessly for 40 years. The choice (and the consequence) belongs to you, suga. Trust me, I’m not trying to paint the picture that waiting is the easiest thing to do, but I know that it’s the best thing to do. Waiting has its share of pain. It definitely has a dose of frustration, but one thing I’ve learned over the past few decades is that God’s timing is never off. He knows what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and how it needs to be done. He knows what you need before you know it exists. He’s got you, and what He’ll have for you when this waiting period is over is better than anything your ‘shortcuts’ can give you. He waited on you, can you wait on Him?
Background Music: Wait - Marvin Sapp & I Won’t Go Back - William McDowell
Words from the Author
At the end of the day, these posts are the thoughts that run through my mind. These are the lessons I've learned. The doors that I've walked through. The path I've chosen. This is part of what it means to be me. Hopefully, it'll help you be...you. Let's grow together, kay?
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