Well, of course it sounds silly today… I can’t imagine praying to a cow made from melted down jewelry any more than you can. But in the wilderness life gets tricky, and things weren’t so simple for God’s people. Worshipping a golden cow wasn’t as weird to them as it would be to us today. It was similar to things their old friends may have pursued- like so many, they’d do anything that might get them what they wanted. The Egyptians prayed to Apis the bull-god, and others worshipped Baal, who was sometimes portrayed as having a bull’s head. Each promised prosperity in its own way.
As we’ve been studying Exodus, we can see how the Israelites might have strayed from God during this time (chapter 32). The Lord had been so visible, so present before: God had saved them from plagues, brought them from Egypt and parted the sea to rescue them. After all of that, it felt weird to be unaware of exactly what God was doing… God seemed so distant. They knew that the Lord was on the mountain talking to Moses- but down in the valley, it was easy to forget it as they went about their lives. Before Moses even brought down the commandments, one of which was that they should not to worship idols, the people had become frustrated and impatient. And so they chose to ‘forget’ God.
When you feel like you haven’t heard from God in a while, or when you aren’t feeling as close to God as you’d like, what do you put your energy into? When you are having a tough time, where do you turn? Do you ever try to ‘reign in’ your life by mimicking what your friends are doing? You aren’t alone. It was God’s own chosen people who begged Aaron, “Come, make us gods who will go before us” (Exodus 32:1).
What is your golden calf? On what or who do you lean? Do you dive into your career, social distractions, team fandom, or the perfect looking world on TV? Does it really sustain you, or are you left feeling emptier than before?
Golden calves look different today than they did back then. In the wilderness in which we wander, things are tricky and complicated too. The Israelites would have thought us crazy to lust after other people’s lives, or lose ourselves in our children’s activities, or to ignore our God in the quest for what we imagine is the ‘ultimate’ success. But aren’t we?
Consider your golden calf… we’ve all got one.
How can change your focus back to God?