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  • Writer's pictureHannah Nesher

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;