I posted this blog a few months back, but considering that I taught on the passage last night at Awaken, I thought it would be a good re-post. If you’d like to hear last night’s message, you can download it in our teaching archive HERE or get it on iTunes HERE.
If you think the Bible is a strict, serious book with no humor, Exodus 32 must have fallen out of your Bible. Get some tape or some glue and fix that, if that’s the case.
I have to laugh every time I read about Aaron, God’s chosen spokesman to the king of Egypt, and his leadership (or lack thereof) while Moses is gone. The people tell Aaron to make them a golden calf since they don’t know what happened to Moses. Aaron obliges, but then gets caught when Moses comes back down the mountain. His reply to Moses’ righteous indignation:
I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out. (Exodus 32:24)
I don’t know if my 3-year old daughter would attempt to pull one like that over on me! Of course Moses isn’t fooled. Bad things happen when Moses AND God are angry! Read the rest of Exodus 32 to find out how they were punished.
Here’s the lesson, though. As crazy as it sounds for God’s people to worship a golden calf after God led them through the Red Sea and killed the Egyptian army behind them, you need to put yourself in their shoes sandals for a moment. Worshiping things they made was what they knew – it was comfortable. Their fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers had grown up in Egypt where idol worship was everywhere. The Egyptians had gods for everything: the sun, the moon, the river, etc. Now think of where the Israelites found themselves: in the wilderness, hundreds of miles from where they had all been living their lives since they were born. And now, to top it all off, their leader, Moses, had just walked up onto a mountain that was full of fire and lightning.
Cut them some slack. They didn’t give up immediately. They waited a week…two weeks….a month…and finally at the 40 day mark, they’d had enough. Moses was obviously dead. He couldn’t survive that long on a fiery mountain with no food! So, what did they know? What was comfortable? What made them feel like they had a little bit of control? Making a god to worship.
Now, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you’ve never sculpted a cow out of a pair of earrings and began bowing down to it. I haven’t either. We’re not off the hook though, because our idolatry and doubt come in different forms. Let me explain.
Maybe you’ve been a Christian for a while but you’re suffering. You’ve prayed and prayed for God to help but it seems that He doesn’t hear. So, you go back to what you know: drugs, sex, living for the world, or (fill in the blank) _______________. Those things have become your golden calf. It doesn’t make sense, in light of all that God has done, for you to turn back to those things, but they’re what you know, they’re comfortable, they’re manageable.
Maybe you’re a new Christian and you were hoping that this “God thing” would take all your problems away. It hasn’t. In fact, it seems that life is harder now than it was before. So, what do you do? Go back to what you were doing before you realized Jesus was everything you needed. Whatever that was – whatever you’re relying on now instead of Jesus – is your golden calf. God is all you need, but you can’t see Him, so you live for what you can see.
I’ve struggled with this recently. Not that I’ve wanted to go back to drugs or anything like that, but the struggles and criticism I’ve faced with planting a church has made me question at times whether or not I’m in the right place. It’s easy to remember how great I had it back in Albuquerque and be drawn away from where I know God has called me. For me, the easy life back there is my golden calf. Although it’s not sinful in itself, if it were to draw me away from where God has called me to be, it would be sin. I would be worshiping the easy life over the obedient life.
You could be in any number of situations, but here’s the lesson: just because you can’t see the way out doesn’t mean you should revert back to what you know. Let the times of questioning and suffering be times of drawing nearer and nearer to God. Seek Him out. He’s there. He always has been. You’ve allowed yourself to lose sight of Him though.
Don’t go back to your calf. It’s not real. It won’t satisfy. It’s not what you’re looking for. It will disappoint.
Oh yeah, and it’s a COW!