When Moses is Delayed on the Mountain
"Hope deferred (delayed) makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life." (Proverbs 13:12)
We read in the Book of Exodus that when Moses was delayed in returning from the mountain, the people of Israel grew impatient and turned from God to an idol - 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.” (Exodus 32:1)
This reminds me of infants, who freak out if their mother is out of sight for even a few seconds; if they don’t see her they think she is gone for good. This is the immature faith of some believers - if they don’t ‘see God’ at work in their lives for a little while - if their answers to prayer are delayed - they believe that God has abandoned them.
We are not to remain infants in our understanding of God; but to grow in our faith - to know without a shadow of a doubt that God will never leave or forsake us. His timing is always perfect; but it often requires waiting.... sometimes for a long time....
Like the Israelites said of Moses, we may say during times of delay,, “As of this God… the one who brought us up out of the Kingdom of Darkness, we don’t know what has become of Him.”
We must not think, "Well, I prayed yesterday and still don't see the answer, so maybe God doesn't love me; or maybe He doesn't answer prayer." No, God is faithful; but at times it seems like He is delayed. To live a life of faith we need patience. It is by faith & endurance that we inherit the promises.
Desiring a god we can see
When the Israelites became tired of waiting for Moses to return, when they could no longer see Moses, they demanded that Aaron make them a god they could see (an idol). Do we not do the same at times?
When God is delayed in fulfilling His promises to us; when we don’t see our dreams coming to pass or when our lives seem to be on hold - do we wait in faith and patience? Or do we turn to an idol - putting our trust in something we can see, feel, or touch?
What is an idol? It is a work of our own hands - something tangible that we worship instead of God. “Their land is also full of idols; They worship the work of their own hands, That which their own fingers have made.” (Isaiah 2:8)
When God is delayed in delivering what we have desired, it is easy to fall into worshipping the work of our own hands: our achievements, our work, our careers, our ministries, our relationships, our certificates and degrees - anything that our own fingers - our abilities and talents have made. O God, keep us from worshipping the gods of our own creation.
Israel has a history of spiritual infidelity - of turning to idols and worshipping other gods - instead of the one true God יהוה.
"The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them." (Psalm 135:15-18)
When we redirect our allegiance or misplace our trust on ‘other gods’, not only do we provoke God to anger; but we also hurt ourselves in the process. When we turn away from God, we are rejecting the One who created us, who truly cares for us; and who alone has the power to give us life.
“Those who regard and follow worthless idols turn away from their [living source of] mercy and lovingkindness.” (Jonah 2:8)
Challenging idols to a Duel
Yehovah is the Living God whose arm is not too short to save; while idols remain silent when we look to them for our salvation. When Elijah challenged the prophets of Ba’al to a duel on Mt. Carmel, they called upon their gods, cut themselves and performed all kinds of religious shenanigans but their so called gods remained mute.
“So they prepared one of the young bulls and placed it on the altar; and they called to Baal all morning, shouting, “O Baal, hear us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they began to dance around the altar.
So they shouted louder and, as was their custom, cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out. They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but there was no reply, no voice, no answer. (1 Kings 18:26, 28,29)
Elijah mocked them, saying, “You’ll have to shout louder than that,” he scoffed, “to catch the attention of your god! Perhaps he is talking to someone, or is out sitting on the toilet, or maybe he is away on a trip, or is asleep and needs to be wakened!” (v. 27)
Indeed, when we turn to idols instead of the living God, they will be a vain hope for deliverance in times of trouble. God warned the people that idols will not and cannot deliver us in times of distress.
“They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it;
They set it in its place and it stands there.
It does not move from its place.
Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer;
It cannot deliver him from his distress." (Isaiah 46:7)
Praying to gods who cannot save
If we are not looking to God to save and heal and deliver; then we are looking in the wrong direction. "Woe to those who carry their carved images and pray to a god who cannot save." (Isaiah 45:20).
Money cannot save us; no amount of gold or silver can save us from the wrath of God. Relationships cannot save us; no matter how hard we seek that special someone who will swoop down and rescue us from the pain and trials of this life.
Some people are fools. Even at the very end of time, there will be those who still will not repent and forsake their idols that cannot see or hear: “The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk.” (Revelation 9:20)
But God always hears us when we cry out to Him. He sees trouble & grief. He is a God who cares for His children. We can trust in His goodness.
One of the ten commandments states that we shall have no other gods before Him.
“You shall have no other gods before Me. “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God,...” Exodus 20:3-6
The Word of God prohibits any kind of idolatry, for He is ‘jealous’ for our wholehearted devotion. God warned the prophet Ezekiel, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them?” (Ezekiel 14:3)
We are little children who run to and fro looking for something to fulfill us instead of God; and these things can become idols in our lives. The Word of God tells us to guard ourselves from idols: Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21) When we turn to idols; then we are no longer 'wholehearted' before God; our hearts become 'fractured' and broken. The good news is that Yeshua came to heal the broken-hearted.
Writing the Vision
Of course, not many of us now create actual idols of gold or silver or carved images and bow down to them and worship them; but if we allow anything to take first place in our heart and devotion; then this has, in fact, become an idol.
Instead of turning to idols - the work of our own hands - we need to stay in faith, reminding ourselves that God has a right and perfect timing for everything - and it is not always ‘our time’. The word of God tells us to write the vision and make it plain; to wait for it - even if it tarries (even if it is delayed).
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,” (Habakkuk 2:2-3)
Even if the manifestation of our vision is delayed - when all we see is sand dunes in the wilderness instead of the milk and honey of the Promised Land; we need to stay in faith and trust that it will surely come to pass. But it will happen in God’s timing and not necessarily on our time table.
God's Appointed Times (Moadim)
God has His own ‘Appointed Times’ (called Moadim in Hebrew) - not only for celebrating His feasts and festivals - but also for specific things to happen. The angels told Sarah that she would have a son at the appointed time (mo’ed). Unfortunately, when the promise was delayed, she also turned to her own way - and gave Hagar to Abraham.
Their child of flesh, born out of God's will and timing, was named Ishmael. God said he would be a wild donkey of a man, always in conflict with everyone; and the bloody conflict with the descendants of Ishmael still carries on today in the Middle East - all because Sarah couldn’t wait out the delay. Instead of being patient to wait upon God to fulfil His promises; she turned to the work of her own hands.
Oh, may we never pull a Sarah; but rather wait upon the Lord for His timing.
“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)
The Just Shall Live by Faith
The Israelites looked for a god they could see; instead of trusting in the God they could not see. Do we live by what we see? Or by faith in what we do not see? It is written that the just (righteous) shall live by faith. We do not live by sight (what we see) but by faith in what we do not see.
What we see seems more real; but in fact is only temporary and passing away. We need to fix our eyes on that which we don’t see - the invisible God - who is eternal and unchanging.
"So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)
This is faith -an assurance that what we hope for but do not yet see will surely come to pass. "Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)
In the weakness of our humanity, we tend to look for a god we can see; but God is invisible; no man can see God and live. (Exodus 33:20) But when we see Yeshua, we see the representation of God the Father in His Son.
After Yeshua rose from the dead, his disciples saw Him; but Thomas was not there and said he would not believe it unless he saw it with his own eyes. People say, “I’ll believe it when I see it” This was Thomas. It is natural to want to have tangible proof; but Yeshua said,
"Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
Sometimes I”m a bit ‘jelly’ over those who claim to have ‘seen Yeshua’ - they have visions of him standing by their bed; or they see Him and talk with Him. I have never had that experience - never ‘seen Him’; and yet I believe. We are blessed when we have faith even when we don’t see Him.
Blessed are those who believe and have not seen.
Open the Eyes of my Heart Lord
We need to learn to ‘see’ with the eyes of our heart; even more so that what we see with our natural eyes. When Elisha was surrounded by enemies, his servant was terrified and rightly so. It seemed like all hope was lost; but Elisha prayed that God would open his eyes to see what was invisible.
When the eyes of his understanding were opened, he saw a whole host of angelic beings standing in their defense. There were more with them whom they could not see; than those against them who they could see.
"Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17)
May we never doubt the power of God to save; even when it seems that the odds are against us. Greater is He who is in us; that he who is in the world.
This is your god O Israel!
We are in grave spiritual danger when we lose our faith due to unexpected delays. What did the Israelites do when they lost faith in Moses’ return? They took what they had received from the Egyptians and turned it into a golden idol, making it into a ‘god’.
“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 32:2-4)
We too can take the things we have received from this world system and turn them into an idol - money, fame, relationships - all can become idols, ‘gods’ that have saved us.
Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
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 32:5-6)
This is what happens when we lose hope and faith in the eternal, unseen God, when we think that we have waited long enough and perhaps all hope is gone - we try to enjoy life on a physical level by satisfying our senses. But this is the problem - when life becomes all about eating, drinking, shopping, running errands and partying - these will never bring us any real or lasting satisfaction.
"Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied." (Proverbs 27:20)
Because we are covenant children of the Kingdom of God we will never be content with satisfying our carnal desires; “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17)