The real issue is the impatient and fickle people, who would worship a god of their own making. But before that, the ransom price catches my attention. If I’m not mistaken, this is what became known as the temple tax in later years. The idea of paying a tribute to God as ransom for their own lives seems so fitting, and an interesting way of annually reminding Israel how and why they belong to God. It is unfortunate that this eventually became seen as a tax and lost the meaning of its institution. It was used for the temple – much like our practice of tithing today. Would we be more willing and diligent in tithing if we understood it as a ransom price for the freedom and forgiveness we have in Jesus?
Rather, Israel waiting at the foot of the mountain better represents even our own hearts and frail allegiance to God. I can’t blame them for figuring Moses to be lost forever. He disappeared into thunder, clouds and fire on top of the mountain, and was gone for forty days. Of course they thought he had died. I suppose they only knew God through Moses, and he spoke through Moses, so it may make sense that they were at least unsure of their position with God now. But after coming to know the one, true, God Yhwh, I don’t know how anyone could then attempt to fool themselves into replacing him with another mythical god. They did not worship the metal calf, but rather the pretend god whose image he represented. And what a priest Aaron shows himself to be! Jeremiah should never have been surprised at the prophets who “tickled the ear” and proclaimed what was not. The very first priest of Israel was no different! The people wanted new gods and idols, and he granted this with no hesitation or persuasion otherwise. It’s good that Moses interceded for the people. It is good that Christ intercedes for us!