Thus saith the LORD, by the pen of Moses, in the Second Book of the Law, the Book of Exodus, the Thirty-Second Chapter, First Verse:
Exodus 32:1 And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
"And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount ..."
Note how the people missed Moses. Moses had become for many of the people the mouthpiece of God. They turned to Moses for advice, for counsel, for guidance and encouragement. To them, Moses was a visual reminder of God's presence.
And consider why Moses delayed to come down: God was giving Moses the law, instructing Moses in how to obey. He had explained the moral law to Moses, and described the creation of the earth in six days. God was providing revelation not so much for Moses' benefit but for the benefit of the people.
Yet the people grew impatient - they wanted a leader.
"... the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron ..."
Notice what happened: the crowd gathered, the mob assembled. The mechanism is not stated: did a few riot leaders sound the horns or did murmurs travel from tent to tent throughout the camp? We do not know. All we know is that Aaron did not call the people, yet the people came to Aaron. Aaron was the good speaker: the man who talked for Moses, though the people knew who was behind the scenes.
The people came to him as the sort of ceremonial head: they recognized his role was ritualistic, not substantive. He did not speak of himself, but reported what Moses told him. Nevertheless, the people - the enormous crowd of work-hardened Egyptian slaves came to Aaron.
" ... and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us ..."
Note the way they phrase their statement, not as a request: "would you please make us gods," but a demand "Up! Make!" The people did not come to Aaron with respect and reverence, but with an order: with a pretty clear implication: do something, or else.
It's worth noting that "gods" here is Elohim: a name of God. It is not "Elohims" (plural) but Elohim itself is already a plural noun. The English translators here followed the custom of providing a literal translation "gods" despite the ambiguity.
Note the purpose of these "gods": to go before the people. That is to say, these "gods" were to provide a visible leadership.
" ... for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt ..."
Notice who the "gods" are supposed to replace: Moses. The people, you see, viewed Moses the miracle-worker as their visible leader. With him out of sight, they were weak. Unable to rely on faith, the evidence of the unseen, they sought an idol: something visible and tangible.
" ... we wot not what is become of him."
For those born in the last 20 years, "wot" means "know." In other words, the people claimed that they did not know what happened to Moses. They seem to be suggesting that Moses is dead, or lost. They are afraid to set foot on the mount to go searching, for a fence has been put up, and it is a capital crime for anyone to set foot on Sinai. But the people are impatient - they want a visible leader, and they want one now.
The underlying problem is significant: we are to walk by faith, not sight. Thomas and the other Apostles were blessed with the tangible presence of Christ. We are not. We must walk by faith in the unseen. We must eschew the error of trying to make God after the image of man: for no painting can represent God. Even a true photograph or hologram of Christ would not suffice, for God is a Spirit, and they who worship Him must do so in Spirit and Truth, just as Moses commanded.
Which is what makes this so interesting as a metaphor:
Those who lose sight of Scripture make Icons and Images.
Do you want to see Christ? Look at Genesis! Look at the Psalms! Look at John's Gospel! But don't look at a painted board, or a piece of glazed ceramic, for God is not to be worshiped with the works of men's hands.
Praise be to the Living and True God!