Not too long ago we mentioned how Israel, assembled at the foot of Mt. Sinai, grew impatient at Moses’ delayed return from the top of the mountain. They eventually coerced Aaron into taking their gold and using it to fashion a Golden Calf.
“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, ‘Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.” (Exodus 32:1-4)
There is something very interesting about this chapter that isn’t found in the text, but in the heading above the text. The events involving the Golden Calf are recorded in Exodus Chapter 32. The Hebrew version of the Bible doesn’t use Arabic numerals like 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc but Hebrew characters, each of which has a numerical equivalent. As it is written in Hebrew, 32 is lamed, beit. לב. These two Hebrew letters representing 32 also form the Hebrew word lev which means “heart.” The Bible explains why this is important. When Aaron had finished crafting the Golden Calf, the people said:
“This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.” Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. (Exodus 32:4-6)
There are two main points that need to be highlighted here. The first one is inferred in their declaration, “This is your God O Israel.” It seems that they attempted to mix what they were familiar with in Egypt with what was happening on the mountain top. In other words, its not that they were opting to worship an Egyptian idol as much as using the image of an Egyptian god to represent the one true God. Put simply, they mixed the holy with the profane to satisfy a need to have something they could touch, feel and see. They wanted something they could understand to represent God, rather than trusting in this invisible God that Moses was speaking to.
The second point we should note underscores the first one. Aaron had built an altar and announced there would be a feast to the One and only God. Yet the people said of the Golden Calf, “This is your God, oh Israel” in direct defiance of what God had told them and what they had agreed to accept. From the midst of the thick darkness He had said, “I am the LORD you God, who brought you up, out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” and, therefore, they were not to make images of foreign gods, or images intended to represent Him. Put simply, they did exactly what they had promised not to do.
They had committed that, “Whatever the LORD God says, that is what we will hear and that is what we will do.” Yet, even as they uttered those words, the Creator already knew what was truly in their heart. He responded to this statement by saying this:
“Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29)
Because He already knew, He acknowledged what they had said wasn’t really in their heart. Eventually, their actions demonstrated what was truly in their heart – they needed something they could understand and relate to. They weren’t willing to trust a God they couldn’t see or comprehend. I don’t think it is accidental that this story is recorded in a chapter that, written in Hebrew, forms the word for “heart.”
When they said they were willing to do whatever the LORD instructed, at that particular moment, they probably meant it – at least they thought they meant it. Likewise, most of us have said things that, at that moment, we really meant, or at least we thought we did. But God knows what’s in our heart and will, at times, orchestrate events that are intended to reveal our hearts. He will allow for circumstances that are designed to see if what’s in our heart matches what’s coming out of our mouths.
Considering the times in which we live, better that He should prove us now, that things, both good and bad, might rise to the surface and be dealt with. All the things our hearts harbor that must be altered or purged should be addressed today, rather than waiting for a crisis to expose what’s in our heart, later. All of us should strive to make sure that what we say is a true expression of what’s in our heart. If we’re not where we need to be, we should desire that God would do what He has to do in order to reveal what’s really in us. If we submit to His reproof today, we can be empowered by His Spirit to overcome our weaknesses that we might one day, stand before Him blameless.