I've been debating on how to do this post and what to say for a good long while this morning. A lot of times, I come into these things thinking, how do I present this to the non-believers who so desperately need to hear it, and I think it might distract me from being able to help those who aren't "seeds cast on the hard path". So bear with me as I ramble a bit.
Despite the fact that we celebrate the Resurrection today, I find myself drawn to the story of the Exodus and its parallels to the life of a Christian. For example: It was only after 400 years of gradually increasing slavery that the Hebrews realized that they should seek God's help. They called out to Him and He answered in HIS TIME- a journey that took 40 years to make Moses a prince of Egypt, 40 years more being humbled. Similar to Jesus, who left one life in the Glory of Heaven for another as a humble, inconspicuous carpenter, before finally assuming His ministry of freeing the people. Somehow, though, Moses does not exactly play Jesus in the allegory- more like a pastor of influence, or the section of the soul that knows instinctively to seek and follow God.
By signs both miraculous and disputed, the people- representing the proto-Christian- work their way to the step of faith needed to cross the Red Sea so that God can slam the door of slavery to sin behind them. From this point on, sin becomes a choice, not an ingrained, hardwired part of one's DNA. But does it prevent sinning? HA!
Time has to go by (again, God's time) as the "old man" (represented by Moses and his generation) is replaced by the "new man" (represented by Joshua and his single-minded pursuit of God's mission). Only once the "new man" is completely in charge is the Christian able to enter the Promised Land. Neat, huh?
But along the way, we hit the golden calf. And that is something I've always struggled to figure out until lately. First, let's look at what is driving the Hebrews at this point, and see how they are things the proto-Christian also faces. One, they are driven by their needs and wants. Instead of going to God for their needs, it was constantly, "We have no water! We have no meat! Moses, you suck!" They were more concerned with the perceived need than trusting in God to deliver, even when God showed them (through the quail that made them sick) that sometimes what we don't get isn't any good for us. Two, they are driven by impatience. God takes time to set things up for our lives- and boy, has my life been a continuing example- and they were not inclined to wait. "Aaron, do something!" And Aaron, like many pastors today, did something- he began to shape the concept of "God" to the demands of the people instead of remaining faithful to WHAT HE KNEW TO BE TRUE. Third, they were driven by incomplete knowledge of the situation. "As for THIS FELLOW MOSES, we don't know what has happened to him" (Exodus 32:1). It was only through their relationship with their leader that they maintained contact with God, and so if the leader falls, the sheep are scattered.
And so, Aaron, led by a misguided emphasis on what the people wanted, designed what they wanted. The calf was not a false idol; he designed them to be an "artist's conception " of God. And it satisfied the demands that people had of God- it was real and tangible; it fit their limited conceptions; and, as the later revelry proved, it allowed them to do what they wanted. How like many of man's religions, including the teachings of some "Christians" (examples: Dove Outreach's insistence on provoking the Muslims, Westboro you-know-who's insistence that God hates people instead of sin, and this new gig about "a loving God would have no need for a Hell".), as well as the atheist mindset that has to have a tangible in front of them, that they can conceive without the dilemma of accepting that some things are beyond their conceptions and always will be, and frees them up to be "free thinkers" who can find random aberrant examples to explain why it is natural to be a homosexual.
But what did Jesus bring us? First, He brought us something that had to be accepted by faith. Despite the fact that He showed them all along what the scriptures said must happen, and explained it to them over and over, they were unable to immediately accept the impossible happening right before them. His resurrection was not a "tangible", not at first. Second, it was beyond their conception, and like the early Hebrews, remained that way in spite of evidence, until the Spirit came to them at Pentecost.
Moses, God bless him, was involved in the politics of the day. Despite his devotion to God, he was dealing with the complaints of the people, the infighting with other "leaders" even the family squabbles with Aaron and Miriam. It was only under the focused on God leadership of Joshua that they moved forward. We too, have to accept the "impossible" on faith, wait on God's timing, and unchain our relationship with God from our ability to "conceive" Him, if we want to move forward.
Here's an example of that. I was tuned into Redeemer radio (the Catholic station) on Good Friday, when I heard a q-and-a show where a lady described that her nephew and his wife had become evangelicals, and had been talking to the couple's daughter about Christ. The lady and her husband were a Catholic/evangelical split, but had formed an agreement not to press the issue. The nephew's evangelism was causing a schism in the family, and she wondered what to do about it. The host told her it was "unfair" for the nephew to do as he was because Jesus came to bring peace and unite us. To which I said, "That is a golden calf; it is man's conception of God." In Luke 12, Jesus says, " Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” And this is PRECISELY the situation for which He said it. Too many Christians want that golden calf, letting them be huggy-feely with sin, and not responsible for doing what they know they ought to (like Aaron). But that was the OTHER thing that Jesus brought with Him out of the grave- the elimination of the ability to say "what do we do now" in the face of your responsiblities.