Anger abounds in Exodus 32. First, God is angry with the people. God says they have become corrupt. This is when Moses went up the mountain to be with God. The people got uncomfortable with his absence. So, they convinced Aaron to make the golden calf. Fashioning an idol means they are now giving glory to other gods for their salvation. God wanted to let his anger burn against the people and destroy them.
After Moses convinced God to relent, he went down to see for himself what the people were doing. The same anger that burned within God now “burned hot” within Moses. Imagine everything Moses went through, all he did to lead the people out of slavery. At every point, he directed them to the power of God. To see them drunk and giving praise to other gods probably would have angered you, too.
Ask a regular churchgoer what their congregation’s golden calf is. They’ll know what you’re talking about. They’ll know they have something they hold on to that isn’t all that much about God’s glory. Now, when I point those things out, please know I’m not criticizing you or your faith. I’m trying to strengthen ours.
At some point, preaching to and leading a congregation means you see things others do not. In those moments I’m called to address who we are or what we’ve become. I’ve noticed a lot of people don’t always appreciate that. And I understand why. It feels like you’re being criticized. I recall early on rehashing things people said to me. These were words offered as constructive criticism, but I took them to be something else.
I had to learn to not be so sore. It takes a lot for someone to be willing to tell you what you need to hear. If they could muster the courage to tell me, I could be courageous enough to listen. Slowly, I realized what they saw and what it could mean for me if I reflected on their wisdom.
That said, we understand why Moses destroyed the golden calf. Why would we want to keep that around? But why do you think he destroyed the tablets containing the commandments?
Remember, his anger burned.
So, was it a sudden act of anger? Was it justifiable anger? John Wesley said of this text that, “Those are angry and sin not, that are angry at sin only.”
Do you agree?
Before Moses destroyed the golden calf, he destroyed the tablets. Even in his anger, I take his act to be symbolic. The people had lost their blessing, God’s word, because of their idol worship. They had to realize that first before it made sense to get rid of the idol.
As we reflect on this dramatic scene in Exodus 32, consider a few questions. What’s your church’s golden calf? What’s yours? Is it just one calf? And what blessings do we lose because we aren’t willing to let them go?