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." 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."So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 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!" 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." 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. And the Lord said to Moses, "Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'"And the Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you."- Exodus 32: 1-10 (ESV)
Man has been recreating God in his own image since he first existed. Rebellion is in our nature. It is part of our sin nature. Yes, sin has become a dirty word in modern theologies but let God be true and every man a liar. We are sinners by nature, regardless of whether we are saved or not. To deny this is to ignore swaths of Scriptures about sin and the need to confess. It is to discount Romans 7, where the Apostle Paul goes into great detail about the struggle we all face, post salvation, between sin and righteousness. Beloved, resist the urge to gravitate to teachings that claim we are no longer sinners. To think we have arrived, even if our lips give credit to Jesus, is nothing more than the pride of life residing in our wicked hearts. Remember the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Who was it that was full of pride? The one who thought he had arrived in his own righteousness. Who went away justified? The one who was humble before the Lord. Today we will begin looking at the story of the Golden Calf and what the text reveals to us about the current state of our faith.
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."
We know the backdrop of the story. Moses had gone up to meet with the Lord and was gone for a short while. The first thing we need to realize today is that we are an impatient people with an easily crumbled loyalty. We want what we want and when we want it. Moses had led them out of slavery and Egypt yet they easily discarded him. More importantly, God had led them out of slavery and Egypt and yet they were easily discarding Him as well. Do not lose sight of the fact that Moses had gone up the mountain before and come back down with the commandments from God. Here is a staggering correlation and truth for the church today. We do not want to hear what God says either. Sure we are better at disguising it but the facts remain. If someone comes at us with the truth, we often times will quickly move on from that fellow and chase after our own golden calf.
The "make us gods who shall go before us" is also quite telling. First of all they still turned to leadership. They still wanted to be led. As believers we do not seek anarchy at all. We simply seek leaders who will be willing to craft god into the image we want. Something we can dance around and follow. Something that is a cheap knock off of the real thing. Something that gives us the appearance of godliness and piety without all the "thou shall nots." So it is not that we do not want God. It is that we do not want the real God. We want a god of our own crafting. We see it every day across Christendom. We craft gods that do not care about sin. We craft gods that exist only for our material blessings. We craft gods that allow our prejudices, biases and hate. That Moses fellow? He can keep those stone tablets - make us our own god to follow. Eve wanted to follow a god that allowed her to eat from the tree. King Saul wanted to follow a god that did not care about pride. King David wanted to follow a god that did not care about adultery. King Solomon wanted to follow a god who did not care about sharing his glory. Comedian Dennis Miller once quipped when asked about the irreverence of some of his jokes, "I happen to believe that my god, finds me incredibly funny. Which of course is why I chose him as my god." Humorous or not, Miller is not saved, so we can expect such logic but is this not what so many of us in the church do today as well? Back to the key verses:
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."So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf.
We do not just create false gods to follow - we fund them. We have invested skin in the game. We take God and cheapen Him down to carnal measurements. This way we own the rights to the god we serve. We fashioned him. We paid for him. As long as he satisfies us, we will dance around him and sing songs as if we worship him. The second he places a demand upon us though, we can trade him in. Upgrade him for a new and improved god. This is what happens when you do not wait for the Word of the one true God. When an informal poll was conducted by a pastor online recently as to what is the most important thing about a church that would draw you the answers were confounding. The respondents, all Christian by claim, gave the most carnal answers imaginable. Of the 100 respondents, only two, and I was one of them, responded "sound doctrine." The rest was a mish mash of good children's ministries, to ample parking, to dynamic musicians. The truth is we do not want a church as much as we want a Burger King religiosity because we want it our way. Continuing in the key verses:
And they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" 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."
The next thing we see is that we quickly assign the true works of the real God to our newly created one. We are quick to religiousize the whole thing. We are good at building altars beloved. Good at celebrating around those altars. But who exactly is it an altar to? Is it the God of the Bible or the god of our own creation? Look at this declaration from Aaron! Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord! Seriously? He just took all of the gold jewelry from the people and created this golden calf and now there will be a religious festival to honor this new God? Sound ridiculous? Think about modern churchianity beloved. Think about the pomp and circumstance we have turned it into. Think about the show. We have a feast to our gods every Sunday and dupe ourselves into believing it is the same God that delivered us from the land of Egypt. That delivered us from our sin. The problem of course is it is not the real God who delivers us. It never was if we were "saved" in that church. Beloved, the golden calves we dance around cannot truly save us. Reaching as many for Christ as possible is only relevant if we are reaching them with the real Jesus Christ. Declaring tomorrow a feast day for the Lord is for our benefit; not God's. Tomorrow is our prayer meeting! Tomorrow is our Cantata! Tomorrow is our youth rally! Tomorrow is our neighborhood outreach! None of it matters if you are dancing around a golden calf instead of waiting for the Word of the real God. The machinery of modern evangelicalism is more concerned with their systems and theories of church growth than they are with protecting their doctrine. The problem is the systems do not save anyone. The golden calves do not save anyone. Only staying true to doctrine allows us to present the whole Gospel, whereby some might be saved. We were not the originators of this system of theology perspective. The Pharisees did it too and Jesus had some choice words for them:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. - Matthew 23: 15 (ESV)
Beloved, the issue is not how many people go up for a canned altar call. I see it all the time. Bold declarations from well meaning pastors declaring 100 people came to the Lord or 50 here made decisions for Christ. What are you reaching them with? For whom are they making a decision? Narrow is the way and few find it. Many will say "Lord Lord" on the last day. I do not even like math but I can figure this equation out. Recently, I saw a well intended pastor say that a congregant told him that he noticed he never heard a hard word about sin in his church yet he has never felt as close to Jesus. The question of course is - what Jesus? The Jesus of the Bible saves us from our sins. The golden calf however does not have to. Joseph Prince's golden calf doesn't care about sin at all and says god is never upset with us, no matter what we do. Joel Osteen's golden calf says that we already know what we do wrong so god just wants to hold you and prosper you and make this your best life now. It begs the question, what golden calf are we dancing around today? The feast we have declared for tomorrow is serving what god? Are we in the business of bringing the Gospel so that Christ might save some or growing a church with people discovering their "purpose." The key verses continue:
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.
We play the part and we play it well. We have all the line rehearsed. We know just when to say amen solemnly and when to shout out hallelujah! We are blessed and highly favored! We know just enough Scripture out of context to be dangerous. We come every week and we make our offerings. We sacrifice too. We give up time and money to further the work of the church but again, what is the calf we are making those offerings to? If the doctrine is flawed then the sacrifices are irrelevant. Here is how the NLT version translates this verse:
The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.
There's a tough word but far too many of our churches and Christian busyness is nothing more than pagan revelry. While the word pagan has many uses over the millennia, today one of the foremost definitions from a Christian standpoint is someone who is caught up in any religious ceremony. Beloved we have got to come back to the real God. Stop dancing around the calf we paid for and come back to the one who saved us. The key verses conclude: