The golden calf, part one

The next thing I want to look at in this Moses Moments series is Exodus chapter 32. At this point in the life of Moses he’s taking care of some extremely important business. Moses is up on the mountain with the Lord, receiving the commandments and laws of the Lord. Exodus chapter 24 indicates that he was up on the mountain with the Lord for forty days and forty nights.

So what were the people of Israel doing during this time? Well, nothing good. Chapter 32 shows us a restless people who have all but written Moses off. They talk to Aaron, telling him they need a god. Here’s how it plays out.

Exodus 32:1-6 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 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.” 2 So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” 6 And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

As I was reading this section of Exodus I got two major things out of it. Today I’m going to talk about the first thing, which is just how weak and stupid we can be. And yes, I’m saying that about us as modern people. For a while when I was reading Exodus I kept shaking my head at the people of Israel. I couldn’t believe how dumb they were, how weak their faith was, how easily distracted they were, how quick they were to stray from God. At some point in my studies, God nudged me and reminded me that just as those people are, so are we the modern believers. Allow me to explain.

Have you ever missed church for a few weeks in a row? I can tell you from experience, you can get lost ridiculously fast in that situation. All of a sudden your prayer life isn’t what it was, you’re not in the Bible as much (or at all), you’re disconnected from fellow believers, and usually things start getting messed up. So as much as I want to sit in judgment over the people of Israel here and scoff at how fast they lost sight of God, I’m going to bite my tongue on it a little bit. While I’ve never worshiped a golden calf, I think I’d be a fool not to recognize that at times I’ve gotten my priorities out of whack and elevated my computer, my television, or my video games above God. I think if most people are being honest, they’d admit the same, that at times they’ve allowed something other than the Lord to become their top priority in life.

I can’t completely speak for others but I can speak for myself. So here’s the ugly truth. At times, I have been a man of shallow faith. I have put other things above God. Especially in the years when I was out of the church. God was a barely acknowledged part of my life. I knew Him, appreciated Him, but I was not making Him the Lord of my life. Since last summer, I’ve been working hard to change this. If I’m being totally honest, my faith is still not as deep as I wish it was. But it deepens daily. Jesus sits upon the throne of my life now, in the rightful place He should’ve been all along. I am not a perfect subject in His kingdom, and some days I’m downright useless to Him. Thankfully, as I continue to stay in His word and stay connected to my church, I find that those days are fewer and fewer. God’s done a supernatural work in me, He’s rebuilt me from the inside. It’s a continuing work, one that brings me so much joy and comfort.

But as much progress as I’ve made, I still find it really important to remember that we can be a weak people of shallow faith at times. I don’t say that to run myself down or to downplay the might of the God who lives within me, I say it to remind myself to stay vigilant. To remind myself just how quickly I can go from on fire for the Lord to lost in the woods. When I first read this chapter of Exodus I was actually angry at the people of Israel. I wondered, how stupid could they be? How can they be this weak after all that they’ve seen God do? And then God reminded me of just who I am, of just how far I still have to go. He reminded me of the times when I’ve spent entire days lost in front of the TV, giving next to no thoughts of Him. He reminded me of the days I’ve spent lost in video games, not reading my Bible or even praying. He reminded me that the Bible isn’t just a history book, it’s a living book, one that often acts as a mirror to show us our true selves. Exodus isn’t just the incredible history of Moses leading a troublesome group of people around for forty years. It’s a story of how weak the people of God can be, then and now. It’s a story of how self centered we are, how quick to complain we are, how quick to go astray we are, how quick to appoint things other than God as our main priority we are.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the people of Israel getting lead around the wilderness to be the people of the Bible I have the most in common with. I really do see a shocking and saddening number of similarities between them and modern believers. The good news? God’s not done with me yet, and He’s not done with you yet either. Faith can deepen, faith can grow, obedience can increase, priorities can remain steadfast. We can do better. We can grow. But that won’t happen if we’re quick to go astray. We have to stay vigilant, we have to remind ourselves daily how truly narrow the God path is. We have to be willing to make hard decisions, to turn off the entertainment and spend time with God in prayer and in his Bible. We have to want it bad, and be willing to go after it hard. I’d have to imagine that God’s had his fill of wilderness wanderers. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a wilderness wanderer. I don’t want that to be where I’m at in my pursuit of God. I want to grow daily, in faith and in spirit and in character, and the only way I can do that is through Him and with Him as the lord of my life.

PRAYER AND CLOSING

Father God, today I bring a simple cry to you.  I don’t want to be lost in the wilderness.  I don’t want my time on earth to be defined by my years of confusion, of disobedience, of self centered behavior.  Take a deep look into my heart, God, and please show me the ways in which I can improve.  Make clear to me my shortcomings, not to shame me, but to help me grow into greater faith.  You dealt with your people in that wilderness for forty years, I can only imagine the frustration you felt watching them falter and stray from you.  I hate to think that modern believers like myself continue to stray and falter, but I know it’s true.  Today I want to thank you for your patience with us, for the way you lead with love, the way you teach us to grow and do better.  I want to be a shining representative for you in this world, please help me achieve that.  Give me the wisdom to make godly choices, give me the wisdom to stay aware of your path and to keep my feet firmly planted on it.  Lastly, Lord, today I pray on behalf of myself and everyone I know that you would cast down any idols in our lives.  Anything we’ve built up as being as important as you, anything that tries to take the number one spot in our lives, I’d ask that you remove it from us.  Keep us aware of our priorities, give us a spiritual alarm that triggers when we start to stray.  Empower me, Lord, strengthen me and grow me, give me more of you and your ways, and help me rid myself of a lifetime of bad habits and self centered behavior.  I love you, God, I’m so thankful that you are the Lord and King of my life.  Thank you for being a loving leader, someone that it is a joy and an honor to follow.  I pray all this in the precious name of Jesus, amen.

That’s it for this week, friends.  I hope you all have a great weekend full of fun and love.  Stay safe and honor God in all that you do.

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