Remember how Aaron led the people to sin, while his brother Moses was up on the mountain with the Lord? Remember how Moses came down from the mountain and in anger, he smashed the tablets—“These tables were God’s work; the words on them were written by God Himself” (Exodus 32:16 NLT) God had called Moses to come on the mountain and remain so He could give him “the tablets of stone on which… inscribed the instruction and commands so (Moses could) teach the people” (Exodus 24:12).
When you read about the tablets, you will note that God provided the tablets. “When the LORD finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, He gave him the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, written by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18 NLT). Something changes. The people sin. The people surround Aaron and he asks for their gold to make a golden calf to worship.
Moses found out and broke the tablets and things are different. God tells Moses to chisel out the tablets. No longer does He provide the tablets. The Bible doesn’t say why God had Moses chisel out the tablets instead of providing the tablets like the first time. Many scholars believe it has something to do with repentance. Last time Moses was handed the tablets; this time the people would need to repent to receive tablets from the Lord. Today, consider what God is calling you to chisel out, how God is calling you to repentance.
“Then the LORD told Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones. I will write on them the same words that were on the tablets you smashed.’” – Exodus 34:1 [NLT]
Remember the gold calves that were created? Jeroboam made two gold calves and said it was “too much trouble” for them to go to Jerusalem to worship. The gold calves he said were to represent “the gods who brought you out of Egypt.” He wanted the people to believe they could worship these two gold calves rather than travel to Jerusalem and worship the one true God. It was a shorter trip.
But the gold calves were not about God at all. If you read the text, he was not making these two gold calves to save them a longer trip to worship in Jerusalem. The king was fearful about both his position and his life. God was not first in his life—he was first. He feared that if the people would go to Jerusalem to worship they would return to King Rehoboam and they would eventually kill him as well.
There are moments in our lives when we make gold calves. We have a great excuse for them—and our reasoning makes it sound legitimate. But often, if we evaluate things closer, if we strip down the pieces, we find that there is something else at the surface. Today, look at your own life. Are there any gold calves lying around?
“So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people, ‘It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!’” – 1 Kings 12:28 [NLT]
In 1 Samuel 4, the people were just defeated in battle. They retreated back to camp and could not understand why the Lord allowed their defeat. Since they did not get the result they desired, the elders of Israel suggested that the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord be carried into battle with the Israelites. The thought was with the Presence of God being with the Ark of the Covenant, they could not lose the battle. He would HAVE to save them then.
The elders of Israel would have done better to consider why the battle was lost instead of attempting to figure out a way to win. Why did the Lord let them lose? There had to be a reason. But instead of looking for a reason, instead of asking the Lord for guidance, the Israelites decided it would work best to use the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord to help them win the battle. They took something holy and attempted to control God. The Ark held the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod, and a jar of manna. The Ark was used to communicate with God. They used it as a lucky rabbit’s foot rather than treating it as holy. Their actions surely make it clear that their previous loss was likely justified. They wanted to win, no matter what. Their eyes were off of God.
The Ark of the Covenant would end up getting captured and causing some chaos to other people. Eli the priest, his sons, and his daughter-in-law all would die as well—each death connected to this unwise decision. Oh, and the battle was lost—the Israelites were taught a lesson first hand: you cannot control God.
“After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, ‘Why did the LORD allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?’ Then they said, ‘Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.’” – 1 Samuel 4:3 [NLT]