Read Exodus 32:1-4
1 When the people realized that Moses was taking forever in coming down off the mountain, they rallied around Aaron and said, “Do something. Make gods for us who will lead us. That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what’s happened to him?”
2-4 So Aaron told them, “Take off the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters and bring them to me.” They all did it; they removed the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from their hands and cast it in the form of a calf, shaping it with an engraving tool. The people responded with enthusiasm: “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up from Egypt!” (THE MESSAGE)
This all seems rather silly. A whole lot of people surrendering gold jewellery in order to make a golden calf which they could worship as their god. Moses, who led them out of Egypt, was up a mountain having a dialogue with God about the plans he had for the Israelites. But these same Israelites were losing patience. Nothing was happening.
They didn’t just want to march off without Moses. They had enough sense to realise they needed divine help. Moses didn’t seem able to provide it. Whichever deity was up that mountain wasn’t doing them any good. So they had to have some god to lead them. A calf made of gold would do the trick.
We can shake our heads at such folly but also realise that many people today, including some who sit in church buildings, are not content with the God of the Bible but seek to create some substitute gods. The god of wealth or property; the god of popularity or fame; the god of success and power. If the God of the Bible doesn’t come good for us, it may be we go off in search of a substitute.
Such a substitute may be something tangible and visible, or it could be a product of our imagination, or a projection of our wishes. But whatever substitute we come up with, it won’t be the true God. We are to worship our creator and not something we have created.