When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play (Ex. 32:1-6).
It is imperative that an idol cannot speak, for it must be given words by its maker. Note how Aaron twists the first of the Ten Commandments from "I am the Lord your God who brought you up out of the land of Egypt..." to "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up..."
Time and time again when God rebukes His people for their idolatry, He notes the muteness or dumbness of idols...
What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him (Hab. 2:18-20).
An idol's will and thoughts (like its words) arise from human minds and are bestowed. Perhaps this is why God singles out idols' speechlessness: to magnify the human origin of the words and thoughts imposed on them. As if to say, "These cannot speak let alone think. These cannot breathe, let alone breathe life into another."
But an idol made in a man's image with a man's thoughts and words will sanction a feast with debauchery that the living, speaking, eternal Creator would not.
Idols are always built to justify self-indulgence, never to restrict it. Aaron's newly minted deity condones "a feast to Yahweh"––one wherein the people "rose up to play" (innuendo for sexual immorality), and "run wild" (Ex. 32:25).
What a sad commentary on humanity. Having just freed Israel from Pharaoh’s clutches, God warns the people not to enslave themselves...to their own handiwork. It's literally the very. first. command. "You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image... (Ex. 32:3-4).
How do we find them spending their newfound freedom? In defiance and mockery of the very One who freed them. As Stephen says, "rejoicing in the works of their hands" (Acts 7:41).
Israel wished to revise history. Why? Because God's grace makes demands of us: it calls for singular love and loyalty, gratitude, reverence, etc. BUT if Israel can somehow effectively declare that they freed themselves, they could erase all debts to God and Moses and use their freedom to do as THEY pleased, rather than for the purpose which Yahweh said that He freed them:
Let my son go that he may serve Me (Ex. 4:23).
Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness (Ex. 5:1).
Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep my covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel (Ex. 19:5-6).
Having rejected this privileged position--denying God's purpose for themselves (cf. Lk. 7:30), they instead worship their own molten jewelry (representative of their own power). Thus they forfeit blessing and privilege, and not only this, but they suffer disaster. Thousands die in a day as God's wrath sweeps through them.
This is the end for all idolators in all times who refuse to repent and serve the living and true God.
For they themselves report what kind of welcome you gave us, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead—Jesus our deliverer from the coming wrath (1 Thess. 1:9-10).
Idolatry is self-enslavement born out of a desire to be one’s own master. This is why we keep falling for the same old trick, minting and re-minting the same false gods.
There is only One Master, One Creator, One Savior.
Let us be silent before Almighty God, conform to the image of His Son, rather than make gods in our image, and speak for them.