DayBreaks for 02/27/12 – Builders of Golden Calves
From the DayBreaks archive, dated 1/17/2002:
Exodus 32:1-4 – “1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” 2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
This passage is one of the saddest passages in Scripture. It hadn’t been all that long since God delivered His people from the clutches of pharaoh through a series of miraculous interventions. You’d think that for a while, they would have been faithful. But therein is the lesson for us: as humans, we are fickle creatures, prone to wander into sin as fast as our feet and hearts can take us. We are not really all that different from the Israelites after all.
But what is interesting to me is that it was Aaron, the man who was to be first high priest, that made the golden calf. The people wondered about the fate of Moses. He’d been gone longer than anyone had anticipated. I’m sure he hadn’t taken much food or extra luggage when he went up the side of the mountain, and the Israelites knew it, too. Perhaps he’d frozen. Perhaps he’d starved. Perhaps he’d died of thirst, or been torn to pieces by a wild animal. If any of those things had happened, the people would probably have concluded that the “God” they’d been following wasn’t all that powerful after all (in spite of all they’d witnessed in Egypt). Or, perhaps, just perhaps, Moses had been guilty of sin and God had decided to strike him dead. So, it was time for a new god. This one would be golden – from a human perspective, a vast improvement on one that couldn’t even be seen.
In his book, Into the Depths of God, Calvin Miller had this to say about those who build golden calves: “Golden calves are the glitzy work of those Aarons who have not traversed the upper slopes of Sinai. Those who have, meet that God who is the only food that can appease their hunger.”
Moses would never have built the calf after he’d encountered God in the burning bush, nor after he’d come down from Sinai. He’d “seen” the real thing – who would need a cheap, golden imitation? Miller also noted about the gods in our own lives: “Making Christ in our image avoids the painful work of being conformed to his.”
Once we have encountered God in the truest and purest way, we will have no hunger for cheap imitations, and nothing else will even come close to the experience of the real thing.
PRAYER: Father, keep us from building golden calves and following false gods to avoid the pain of being conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2012 by Galen C. Dalrymple.
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