God delivered the Jews out of slavery in Egypt, destroyed the Egyptian army, and carried the people through the Red Sea. He spoke to them. He brought them to Himself. He was not only their God, but their King (Exodus 19:1-8).
At Mount Sinai, God told the people that He would reveal Himself to them and speak with them. When He descended on the mountain, the people were terrified (Exodus 20:18) and demanded that God give them a leader they could see and touch, someone like Moses to speak through (Exodus 20:19).
God consented and Moses went up onto Mount Sinai to receive the Law. Moses wasn’t gone long when in his absence, the people demanded that his brother give them a god they could see and touch. Aaron gave them a golden calf like the Egyptians worshiped (Exodus 31:1-4).
Many years later, the people again cried for a leader like the other nations around them (1 Samuel 8:5). God’s presence and leadership was insufficient; they demanded a king they could see and touch.
As Christians, we think of ourselves as so much more spiritual than the Israelites of the Old Testament. We wonder how they could reject the presence of God for a golden calf or a human king.
There’s a strange thing about Christian people in times of trouble: like Israel of old, they want someone to see and touch. When there is turmoil or sickness, they insist a priest stand between them and God to pray, comfort, advise, and direct. They want a preacher to read the Bible to them and set their minds to ease. The God who never leaves nor forsakes isn’t sufficient (Hebrews 13:5) and most priests and pastors are eager to oblige.
Years ago, a new parishioner told about a family problem which arose. Her usual method of problem-solving was to call the pastor to pray. She picked up the phone, then remembered hearing me preach on the sufficiency of Christ. Deciding that God would hear her without me as mediator, she bowed her knees and prayed. And guess what? God answered her. I was never so delighted that she had not sought an idol replacement of the One true God.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).