What happens when people use their best judgment as opposed to the word of God? What happens when they rely on the evidence they have rather than on divine revelation? Disaster happens.
Exodus 32:1 – When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. 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.”
Moses took a long time up on the mountain. That is true. But it still has been less than a month-and-a-half since the people heard the very voice of God speaking his commandments to Moses. They still saw the fire on the mountain. They still knew that God had commanded them not to fashion idols of any kind.
But Moses had been gone for a while. They did not know for sure what had happened to him. So the people go to Aaron, determining that the whole Moses as leader thing did not work out. They demand that Aaron fashion for them gods they can follow. They like following what they can see and understand.
You know the rest. Aaron gives in. The people give their jewelry, some of the very jewelry that the Lord prompted the Egyptians to give them at the exodus from Egypt just a short time ago. And they use that gold to make images of golden calves to worship. And in an even odder practice, they declare the calves to be the Lord, the one who led them out of Egypt.
What happened? The people stopped being led by the word of God and relied on their own best understanding. They stopped obeying the clear command of God—do not make an image to worship—and determined that their particular situation required them to go against that command.
Christians, we have a parallel situation in many ways. WE have the word of God. But, our Lord Jesus, the One who leads us, the One who saves us, he has been physically gone from this world for a long time. Now people say that they do not know about him any longer, as they do not see him with their eyes. And we will have to choose. The world around us says to ignore the command of God and the words of Jesus. The world around us says that the Savior is no longer relevant to our modern thinking and morality. The world around us says that history has moved on to a new standard of right and wrong.
As we see in 2 Peter 3, there are mockers who mock the idea of the return of Jesus and his importance in our day-to-day. But we are not to lose heart. He is not slow in keeping his promises. The Savior will return. So may we not be like the people standing around the mountain. May we not turn our backs on the word of God. May we instead trust the Lord and remain faithful as we await his return.