February 20, 2023

The Sin Of The Golden Calf

The story of the Israelites from the point where Moses is introduced to when they enter into the promise land is a wild ride. It’s a roller coaster of emotions and spectacle of events that at times can feel very overwhelming and hard to grasp. There’s swarms of locust, columns of fire and smoke, a water fountain rock, a mountain, among other events that probably don’t really fit into our personal experience of life to say the least. Among these chapters in Israel’s story is that of the golden calf.

Author
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David Terry

Executive Worship Pastor

“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for 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.” 2 And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” 5 So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.“” - Exodus 32:1-5 (NKJV)

At the surface it seems simple, Moses is up on the mountain for 40 days (which I remind you is covered in smoke and lightning and glory described as “all consuming fire”), and the people of Israel assume He is dead. So, they take matters into their own hands recruit Aaron to make their own god to worship, thus violating the first commandment “to have no other gods before Him” and the second commandment to “not make for yourselves a carved image”. Easy, simple, done. But . . . maybe not? Let’s look closely at what happens with the calf.

Verse 4-5 “Then they said [about the golden calf], “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” 5 So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.“” A couple of things to note, they aren’t trying to worship a new god or give credit to some new idol, they are doing this in the Lord’s own name. In verse 5 Aaron uses the name of the Lord Yahweh and in verse 4 they say that this calf is the representation of the same God that brought them out of Egypt. They aren’t forsaking God, they are shrinking him down to a level they can grasp and manage and wield in their hand. This begs the question, do we do this still today?

Look at this quote from A.W. Tozer in his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, “The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us… The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them.”

How is your view of God? Do you see him as all loving yet all powerful and sovereign? Or do you see him as a force in which to leverage into working for you like the Israelites did with the calf? Is He made up in your mind just of characteristics that you think he should be? Or have you allowed the glory of God’s presence and encounters in His word to define Him in your heart?

I love the clarity Exodus 20:23-25. “23 You shall not make anything to be with Me—gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves. 24 An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. 25 And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.” (NKJV) There’s so much in there but what I want us to grasp is the heart of God shown in verse 24, “In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you.” God want us to know him by his presence and he wants us to know Him personally, not through man made depictions or explanations of him, but through personal encounters with His glory. In that, we will know God as He is and not how we think He should be, and fall more in love and focus with Him than before!

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