I was recently reading a section of Acts where Stephen recounts what we now call the Old Testament. Stephen summed up all the major plot points and kept it short. I was marveling at what appeared his natural ability to give a summary when something stopped me. It was one line about the Israelites and that golden calf:
“They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made.” Acts
What their hands had made…
Wow. They’d just been freed from over 400 years of captivity. And not just freed but witness to some of the most amazing miracles God has ever performed. Like parting an entire sea.
Once they left Egypt, they actually saw God’s glory…it led them in a cloud by day and fire by night. His presence was visible.
And He dropped manna from the sky. And quail. And made water come from a rock.
Yet in their first instance of waiting without the visible, they turned back to themselves.
See, God called Moses up to Mount Sinai, and Moses was God’s mouthpiece for them. They knew he would come back with a Word from God. What they didn’t know was how long it would take—because God didn’t tell them.
In the end, Moses was gone forty days. Forty days. That was all it took to shake their faith.
For forty days they were at the base of the mountain, and while they could see the cloud covering the mountain top, they couldn’t see or hear God at work. They had no clue what God was doing. And it was taking longer than they’d thought it should (don’t you love how we put time limits on a timeless God? He’s not bound by time…yet we constantly try to tie Him to it). So in the absence of God’s visible and tangible presence, they took matters into their own hands and made something they could see and touch.
Oh, I am so an Israelite. I mean, how easy is it to follow God when He’s moving and we can see results? When we haven’t even finished our prayer and the answer is delivered? I love those days when my manna falls from the sky. When God’s presence is blowing me over, and He’s parting my Red Sea. But when He’s up Mount Sinai and I'm down below? Not to mention I’ve waited way past my forty-day limit.
My hands itch to take things into my control. To make my own golden calf—just so I have my answer. Waiting is so hard…and what if He’s not working? What if He’s not coming back?
Here’s the kicker. Faith has nothing to do with what we see, hear, feel, taste, or even smell. It’s what we know. What we believe. What we cling to when our senses scream at us to give up hope. Because faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)
Whatever mountain you’re sitting at the base of today, have faith. He is there, working. You may have waited much longer than forty days, but know this…He hasn’t abandoned you. Take those hands reaching to take control, throw them in the air, and begin to praise Him—and trust Him to finish the work He’s started in you.
Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)