Eugene Peterson’s book “Eat this Book” teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. This well -known story of the golden calf has something to teach us during the hot presidential campaign of 2016.
Exodus 32: 1-14 (MSG) – Making our Own gods
“When the people realized that Moses was taking forever in coming down off the mountain, they rallied around Aaron and said, “Do something. Make gods for us who will lead us. That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what’s happened to him?” So Aaron told them, “Take off the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters and bring them to me.” They all did it; they removed the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from their hands and cast it in the form of a calf, shaping it with an engraving tool.
The people responded with enthusiasm: “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up from Egypt!” Aaron, taking in the situation, built an altar before the calf. Aaron then announced, “Tomorrow is a feast day to God!”
Early the next morning, the people got up and offered Whole-Burnt-Offerings and brought Peace-Offerings. The people sat down to eat and drink and then began to party. It turned into a wild party!
God spoke to Moses, “Go! Get down there! Your people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt have fallen to pieces. In no time at all they’ve turned away from the way I commanded them: They made a molten calf and worshiped it. They’ve sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are the gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.
God said to Moses, “I look at this people—oh! what a stubborn, hard-headed people! Let me alone now, give my anger free rein to burst into flames and incinerate them. But I’ll make a great nation out of you.”
The story of the Israelites abandoning God comes a very short time after they agreed three times to obey the ten commandments (Ex. 19:8, Ex. 24:3, and 24: 7). Three times they said, “We will do everything God has said.” The first thing God had said in those commandments prohibited the worship of other gods and the making of idols. How quickly they (we) forgot!
In this story, Moses treks to the mountain to learn about building the tabernacle and stays away longer than the people expected. They became impatient. They demanded that Aaron (one of two men that Moses had delegated to handle issues while he was gone) make new gods to lead them. Aaron, being the consummate people-pleaser, obeyed them, created a golden calf, and then declared a feast day. During the feast, the people not only credited the golden calf for getting them out of Egypt but also turned the feast day into a “wild party.”
How did the Israelites move from surrender to this power play so quickly? It seems that the principle “out of sight, out of mind” came into play here. When Moses, God’s representative, went missing, so did God. So they looked for a new god – and promptly left behind all the moral teachings they had been given. Perhaps their “we will do everything God has said” never really came from their hearts. We can’t be certain about the Israelites’ motivation, but if we look deeply enough we can find our own motivations for shoving God out-of-the-way and making our own gods.
I see huge signs of idolatry in the Donald Trump campaign for the presidency. Some of us are giving our golden rings to support it. Trump advises keeping America free from the “other.” He exemplifies manipulating the truth for our own purposes. Speaking with hate and vitriol, he then declares that he will promote Christian values more than anyone else ever has. He brags about his business accomplishments that one by one are being proven to be risky or even fraudulent.
This rhetoric seems to thrill his supporters. Will this feast turn into a “wild party?” Are Americans so far from God that we want/need to replace God with a man who implies that he is god? A man who says he is “the only one who can save us?” We need to be careful about replacing God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit with a golden calf.
We can get in big trouble if we lose or misplace our intimate connection with God. Here are some prayer suggestions to help you stay close and in touch with God.
♥ Pray a prayer of Adoration – praise God for being a God of grace in your life and in the lives of others. Specifically thank God for the times in life when God’s “pure grace” was evident
♥ Pray a prayer of Confession – think of times when you acted as if God didn’t exist, when you showed anger and blamed others for your mistakes, when you were afraid to answer God’s call, when you put other things you are attached to in place of God. Confess and claim your forgiveness.
♥ Pray a prayer of Commitment – Read the Ten Commandments (Exodus 10: 1-17). After each commandment say, “With God’s help I will obey this commandment today.”
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“The book of Exodus makes one thing clear. The Israelites were not chosen because of their bravery or impressiveness or even faithfulness. Their selection was an act of God’s pure grace; no one else can take the credit” (The Student Bible, p. 99).
Watch for Part 2 of this discussion on Exodus 31: 1 -10 coming soon