How many times have I heard the story of Aaron making the Golden calf? Not sure, but I bet over a hundred. Growing up in church you hear the story a lot, it’s one of those classic narratives reminding believers how we get off track fast.
Despite the story’s familiarity, I cannot recall anybody stressing to me what Moses and God were doing while the Children of Israel rebelled. Check that. Most preachers do stress that Moses received a personalized copy of the Ten Commandments. However, I do not recall much emphasis on the other thing God and Moses were discussing as the fires of gold churned – the proper way to worship YHWH.
Starting in Exodus 25, God outlined for Moses a whole set of instructions for worship. Including, but not limited to:
- Tabernacle Furnishing
- Building and Purpose of the Ark
- Structure and Function of the Table
- Construction and Use of the Lampstand
- Building and Utilization of the Tabernacle
- Design of the Tabernacle: Inner Curtains, Protective Curtains, Weather Coverings, Uprights Supporting Curtains, Crossbars Supporting Uprights, Curtain Vail, Main Alter, Courtyard, Lamps,
- Design of Priests Clothes: Ephod, Breastplate, Robe, Forehead Plate, Tunic, Turban, Sash
- Ordination of Priests
- Sin Offerings
- Construction and Purpose of Incense Altar
- Anointing Oil
No doubt, the rebellion of God’s people at Sinai is heart rending for various reasons. First, all the Hebrews needed to do was patiently wait for Moses’ return. There was no compelling justification for their actions. Sadly, they were like us – impatient.
Second, the rebellion marred the Israelite’s testimony. Up to this point the people’s testimony before the nations was strong. While the Hebrews were already complainers, one can still imagine the campfire chatter throughout the Asiatic tribes as the nation of slaves successfully: fled Egyptian bondage, escaped recapture by Pharaoh’s army, managed to find watering holes at the necessary times, maintained a food supply impossible in the dessert, and somehow defeated a warring band of Amalekites. However, even after all God accomplished, Exodus 32 says the Hebrews heaped shame on their calling as they danced before a false god.
Impatience and a poor testimony are disappointing, but what sticks out most to me is the timing of the whole affair. Just as God discloses his revealed will for worship, the people conjure up their best attempts at religion. What a contrast to see God’s plan for the tabernacle and the created golden calf. One represents God’s heart; the other represents the depravity of humanity’s best efforts.
This week my church will gather for a business meeting and go over goals accomplished in the last ten months. We will also lay out a set of goals for the year(s) to come. We’ve seen some great things this past year, and I am excited about projects already being planted that will soon blossom. Yet, as we lay goals and visions out, I hope we are faithful enough to catch anything that might be our own version of the golden calf. I also hope we are wise enough to never forget its Christ’s Church, not ours. I pray the same for you and your Church as well.