“Do You Worship A Golden Calf?”
This message started out as something that I had the honor and privilege of sharing with a group of kids and young adults recently. Please take the time to read all of Exodus 32:1-35 in your Bible before beginning this message so pause here and come back after you are finished reading. Interestingly, the messages intended for younger audiences usually end up impacting the adults just as much if not more than the youth. You can decide for yourself by the end of this message if this is true or not!
We read in Exodus 32:1, “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 (or a god) 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.”‘
What do you think caused or led to the people thinking about and deciding to have idols or an idol created representing gods or a god for them to worship? And how were the people behaving at this point and why were they behaving this way prior to Aaron creating the golden calf?
The people had just left Egypt and were familiar with a style of pagan worship that involved worshipping gods through manmade idols and as is common with all people they were most likely comfortable with this type of worship and we can all become comfortable with that which is familiar to us or all that we know. The term that comes to mind to describe this type of comfort due to familiarity is “tradition”. It was their tradition to worship god or gods this way. Also, I believe the people had become impatient and fearful. The impatience we can see in their words regarding Moses’ delay in returning but where can we see that they were also acting out of fear?
Let’s imagine being in the place of Aaron who Moses left in charge along with Hur (Exodus 24:13-14), Aaron also being the High Priest meant he was the one that was able to draw closest to God (besides Moses) in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle and all the people knew this. This made Aaron the head honcho in the eyes of the people. Take note that in Exodus 32:1 that the people did not go to Aaron to ask him a question or to plead with him out of reverence of his role of authority but instead they gave him a command! What they were really saying according to our modern cultural terminology is “Hey Aaron, get your butt up and make us mighty ones or a mighty one who will go before us“, or in other words to prepare the way and fill the role of an intercessor as they wanted to bring about their own salvation! They were trying to create their own Messiah based on their own understanding, comfort and desires! The people were fearing that Moses had perished or abandoned them, or was that what they were truly fearing most? I believe what the people were fearing most was that God had abandoned them and that He wasn’t going to be keeping His promise of leading them to the good land flowing with milk and honey and that He wasn’t going to protect them from enemy armies so they needed to take matters into their own hands, literally. We read that “the people gathered themselves together to Aaron” and said to him, “UP”! Can you imagine being Aaron in the midst of a large multitude of people that have become impatient and fearful? Impatience mixed with fear leads to a certain strong emotion that Aaron most likely witnessed first hand, that emotion being ANGER! We also see a witness to Aaron’s fear of the people due to their behavior in Exodus 32:21-22 which says “21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22 And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil.”
Impatience is evidence of being in our flesh and when you mix that with fear you have the strongest emotional force that can lead to the most severe kind of rebellion, God calls this rebellion idolatry! When we are in this place of impatience and fear like Israel was here what do you think we are fearful of?
When we are in our flesh and being led by our flesh by the emotional pull of impatience and fear what we are truly fearful of is that God isn’t going to really keep His promises because if He was going to wouldn’t it have happened by now and the way I think it should have happened?
This situation can be similar to when we are REALLY looking forward to something that we REALLY want and we will even say we NEED it because it is SO important to us and we will just die if we can’t have it! Ok, that last part may have been an exaggeration but we can convince ourselves of the desperate need that we have of something or someone. Have you ever REALLY wanted something and it never seems like it is going to happen or that it will take FOREVER before it happens? How does it affect your behavior when this is happening and all these thoughts are going through your mind? Are you a loving, unselfish and patient person during this time? What if you start to believe you will never get what you strongly desire? I believe we all have the same answers to these questions! This is an example of impatience being mixed with fear.
We can desire something that is good thing starting out but then become impatient and fearful that it won’t happen and then try to make it happen the way we want it to happen and when we want it to happen based on our thoughts, desires and comfort, can’t we? In the process of all this how do we treat those who God has given authority to or put in place over us? Like parents for example, or any authority that God has placed over us? Do we become angry with them and try to find ways to get them to do what we want and if they don’t do it then we might even have stronger emotions against them? What do we call this behavior? It is called manipulation! It is a type of rebellion and brings to mind the verse in 1 Samuel 15:23 that says “For rebellion is as the sin of divination (witchcraft), And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.”
I remember a time when I actually said (under my breath) “I hate you” to my parents or even times when I just thought it. Why do you think I felt that way? Have you ever felt this way and if so why? I felt this way because I wasn’t getting something I strongly desired and most likely I feared it was never going to happen or at least not when or how I wanted it to happen. I probably even felt like my parents were mistreating me and had failed me because of this situation. I didn’t like what was happening as I believed it was not right as I desired better than this!
What I later learned from my impatient and fearful behavior was that there was a golden calf in my life! Do you know what that golden calf was? It wasn’t a gold, silver or wooden statue, nor was it a material object that I desired at the time. It was myself! I was worshipping the god of self! I knew what was best, what was right and when & how things should happen to benefit myself, what I wanted and when I wanted it and “I” would make sure it was going to happen, I would “take the (golden) bull by the horns” (pun intended!) and get’er dun! “I” was the one to make sure that everything that I wanted would happen so who was my faith in and who was I really worshipping when I did these things? I was worshipping myself but I probably still “claimed” to be a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob as I was doing these things. Does this sound familiar to the Israelites here in Exodus chapter 32?
This also brings to mind Isaiah 29:13 which says “Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote (mindless or habitual repetition)” and Yeshua (Jesus) quoted this passage in Isaiah in Matthew 15:7-9 which says “1 Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” 3 He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” 6 he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” Yeshua was revealing the severe error of those in authority (just like Moses did to Aaron), as they taught the people to worship God according to man’s traditions & commandments (just like the Israelites had commanded Aaron to do!) thereby rebelling against the Word of God and worshipping God their own way and idolizing the thoughts & desires of man (themselves) over the instructions of God. Yeshua was revealing to them that their worship was in vain and in defiance of God’s Word.
The spiritual picture that we should see in and from this physical act of idolatry of the golden calf by Israel in the wilderness is that any time that we knowingly defy the instructions (law) of God according to His Word in order to satisfy the desires of our flesh we are worshipping a golden calf. Which is why we must put to death our flesh and learn to walk according to His Spirit which will lead us into all truth and how to worship God His way and not our way as He writes His law on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34 & Hebrews 8:8-12).
We read in Romans 12:1-2, “1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world (traditions of man), but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Amen!
Can you imagine being caught up in a golden calf incident like Israel did in Exodus chapter 32 or like I did before I truly surrendered & submitted my life to God by and through His Word and only intercessor (Yeshua/Jesus!)? You don’t have to answer this question but just ponder on it for a bit and see if maybe you have a golden calf in your life at times just like I did. This golden calf can pop his ugly head back into our lives at any point that we lose our focus on and in God and start to slide back into our flesh and become impatient and fearful. We can make anything in life an idol but our idolatry will never end if we do not deal with the true root of our idolatry, our flesh! We all have to guard ourselves to make sure our worship is truly according to His Word and not according to the traditions and commandments created by man or according to our thoughts, desires and comfortability! If we will keep our focus on our relationship with God by and through His Word made flesh and only mediator, Yeshua (Jesus) our Master and Messiah then He will guide us away from our golden calf (our flesh), give us rest and lead us to the promised land! May it be so!
Until next time, the Lord bless you and guard you.
“13 So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. 14 And he (Moses) said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever has a dispute, let him go to them.” (Exodus 24:13-14)
“31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”‘ (Jeremiah 31-34)
“8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:8-12)