Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Golden Calf


Moses Is Missing, So Make Us “a god”


Exodus 32:1-6: Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” And Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Now when Aaron saw this he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast day to the Lord.” So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
In the minds of the people at the foot of Mount Sinai, Moses took too long to return to them from his meeting with God. They were impatient. Impatience leads to grumbling and grumbling often leads to seeking out other grumblers. That’s exactly what happened until enough of them got together to do something about how they felt. They gathered around Aaron and demanded some action. In fact, they even stipulated what that action would be.
They wanted to make for themselves “a god” that would lead them forward. This would indeed have been contrary to God’s Law (Commandment no. 1 out of the 10). However, if I understand the sequence of events correctly, the people had not yet received the tablets that God had given to Moses. So, their error was not in breaking that particular law so much as it was their forgetfulness of Who it was that had led them so far. In fact, they even erred in thinking at this point it was “this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt” rather than the Lord. And now this “man” is missing and they didn’t know what had “become of him.”
How many times have men and women pursued a ‘religion’ based on a man rather than on the God of the universe? Then when that man fails, disappears, or dies, they are left with nothing. Or, as in the case of the Israelites, they fall into sin, building their own god.
Now what is surprising is the reaction of Aaron, whom we think should have known better, given all that he had experienced at the side of Moses, his brother. And remember that Aaron was the “high priest”.  Sometimes, we need to question what our senior clergy do if we know it is not right before God.  Aaron had witnessed God’s mighty power to save through all the plagues that Egypt suffered and through the escape from Egypt including the crossing of the waters and the destruction of their pursuers. Yet, he blows it. Angry crowds have a way of causing even good men to blow it. Robert Jamieson suggests the word ‘about’ in verse 1 should really be thought of as ‘against’. They were arguing with Aaron and he had to act, perhaps even out of fear.  
One of the most memorable teachings of Bill Hybels that I picked up while listening to him and reading his books was that as leaders we need to “stay the course”. That does not mean that you bull-headedly never change your mind or ever realize that you have made an error. But it means that if you have made a decision based on facts, and a biblical principle, then you stick with that, no matter what winds blow at you. And that includes times when other members of your team are saying, “Come on, let’s be nice; let’s be ‘real Christian’ about this and let ‘them have their way’.  There will always be those that find conflict or disagreement difficult and they will appeal to your so-called ‘spiritual’ side to change your mind.  My position in some of these cases is that if God led you to a position in the first place and it’s based on solid biblical teaching, then stick with it. That does not mean you don’t show respect and care and even love for the other person, you do and that’s very important. But you do not condone their action and you do not give in on the biblical principle God has led you to uphold, at any cost.
Aaron was not willing to pay the cost. Nor was another man thousands of years later. Herod, was almost persuaded to believe Christ. God had somehow worked in him to determine that Christ was not guilty of breaking the Roman law and thus should be set free, but he chickened out because of the pressure of the crowd. The real test of a leader, especially a Christian one, is to be able to “stay the course” when the crowd starts to roar.
So well-meaning Aaron comes up with a solution to the demands of the people. He tells them to gather all their jewelry that the Egyptians had given them before they were led out of Egypt and freed from slavery by God. Interesting that it was on God’s instructions (Exodus 11:2) that Moses, His representative, directed them to acquire these items from the Egyptians. Interesting also that the text indicates the jewelry was also worn by ‘sons’. So maybe we need not be so quick to condemn those men (some in our churches) who have chosen to add some jewelry to their ears. With all this gold Aaron had melted down, he personally fashioned a golden calf.
What followed must have been (from a human perspective) a great disappointment to God. His chosen people worshipped this calf idol and made it the god of Israel, giving it credit for bringing them up from (or out) of the land of Egypt. If that is not a slur to the Lord, I don’t know what is. And yet many of us still do that today in the way we live – we give our brains, our creativity, even chance, or hard work credit for any good that has happened in our lives, forgetting that it is God Who allows it all to happen and in many cases, orchestrates it.
You would think that by now Aaron would have realized his mistake, but he did not. Instead, when he saw the celebration and the return to happiness of the people, he encouraged them by building an altar and proclaiming a holiday. But he called the holiday a “feast day to the Lord”. How mistaken could he have been. Perhaps no more so than how mistaken we often are when we mix the things of the world with our worship of God Almighty. And the next day, the people made their offerings and feasted. You can see the fallen ways of man in the closing two phrases of this passage: “. . .  and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.
God does want us to eat, drink, and play but it’s how we get there and why we do so, that I believe is more important to Him. In fairness to Aaron, we may want to consider that in his mind, the people were not breaking off from their belief in Jehovah, but rather simply following a 400-year example that was modelled by the Egyptians. They constructed idols to represent the objects of their worship. So Aaron introduces a “feast day” as had been held by the Israelites in days past – even as late as the Passover Meal they had before escaping from Egypt.


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Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

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