Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Have You Created A Golden Calf?

I was reading a very familiar story today in Exodus 32, where the Israelites fashioned a golden calf to worship while Moses was ‘delayed’ coming down the mountain. I’ve often read that with the assumption that the Israelites were attributing their salvation from Egypt to some ‘mad-made’ god. But I believe they were, instead, just trying to make an image of THE God that saved them. So they resorted to making a golden image of that ‘god’, similar to what other cultures around them worshipped.
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him."
Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me." So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."
When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD."
(Exodus 32:1-5)
It is amazing to me how quickly the people forgot God’s commands and how constantly they needed to be reminded that God is real and actual even when not visible. He had been leading them by a pillar of cloud or of fire; He had visibly descended upon the mountain in a cloud; He had audibly spoken to the people (The LORD said to Moses, "I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you." Exodus 19:9, emphasis added)
Yet, they wanted a visible, touchable ‘god’ to lead them.
That reminds me of a statement by the philosopher Voltaire: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.”
Even though the Israelites had experienced and witnessed the existence of God, they felt the need to ‘re-invent’ Him in an image that was more tangible. And we are no less guilty of that, even if we don’t fashion golden calves. Instead, we tend to reflect another of Voltaire’s philosophies: “If God made us in his image, we have certainly returned the compliment.”
No, we haven’t created golden calves, but we do tend to make God into a God that we can get our minds around. We turn God into a much better version of us. He is more loving than we are, more powerful than we are, holier than we are – We’ve made Him the ‘super-sized’, turbo-charged version of us.
Instead of accepting a God that can’t even be imagined, we try to imagine a God that can be accepted.
That is really no better than making a golden calf as the image of our omniscient, all powerful, eternal, perfect, indescribable God.
But it doesn’t work.
He is too big; He is too much; He is too . . . ‘other’.
There is just no way we can understand, comprehend, explain, or grasp what and Who God really is.
Yet that same incomprehensible, uncontainable, indescribable, transcendent, awesome God has reached out to us. He has reached out to us because – for some unimaginable reason – He wants to have a relationship with us.
He has done everything necessary to make that possible. We can try to figure that out; we can dilute and distort His image into something understandable; we can try to make ourselves ‘worthy’ of His affections.
Or - we can embrace the offer and step into the eternal.
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. (1 John 4:13-16)

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