This sermon was based on Exodus 32.
The Golden Calf
1When 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.” 2So 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.” 3So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4And 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!” 5When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” 6And 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.
7And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8They 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!'” 9And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10Now 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.”
11But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.'” 14And the Lordrelented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
15Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written. 16The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets. 17When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” 18But he said, “It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear.” 19And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it.
21And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?” 22And Aaron said, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23For they said to me, ‘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.’ 24So I said to them, ‘Let any who have gold take it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”
25And when Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies), 26then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, “Who is on the Lord‘s side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him. 27And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Put your sword on your side each of you, and go to and fro from gate to gate throughout the camp, and each of you kill his brother and his companion and his neighbor.'” 28And the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And that day about three thousand men of the people fell. 29And Moses said, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord, each one at the cost of his son and of his brother, so that he might bestow a blessing upon you this day.”
30The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” 33But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”
35Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.
Putting God in a Box
- The Israelites quickly seem to feel the need or something tangible to put their faith in, something they can see and touch. They try to put God in a box they can understand by creating an idol.
- The idols we have in ur lives are often good things or necessary things, friends, a job, a spouse, a passtime.
- We know something is an idol when we bow down to it – we sacrifice for it. What do you give up time and money for? What do you spend time thinking and talking about?
Why is Idolatry an Issue?
- The reason God makes such a big deal of idolatry is that it is the root of every other sin. Putting anything other than God first leads to sin. Idolatry is the cause of every other sin in our lives, and God is crying out to us all the way through scripture to tell us that, to tell us that when we turn away from him it all starts going wrong.
- The Israelites use the treasures which God gave them to build their idol! They have completely forgotten what God has done for them, and where all they have has come from.
- They’ve stopped focussing on God, what he’s done for them, where he’s taken them, how he’s delivered them. And they’ve just focussed on what they want, something they can worship, something to give them control.
So What do we do?
- God is so protective of you and your heart and he wants what’s best for you and so he does all he can to keep your eyes fixed on him, because sin is serious and has consequence.
- Our challenge is to put God first, to live a life of contentment in all things, through him who gives us strength, rather than going it our own way. Why? Because God knows that’s what is best for us, to focus on him and say to the pain, the mess and the hurt of this world you no longer have power over me.
- There’s only one solid ground we can build on, only one story that won’t end or fail. That’s him. And he’s crying out to every person in this room to put him first, put him at the centre. Every day to turn away from your story, the idols we think will keep us secure and trust in him.