Fashioning a Golden Calf

Reading the many ridiculous things that the Israelites said and done throughout their journey towards the Promised Land, I cannot help myself from exclaiming “What is wrong with these people?!” Never had I heard of a larger group suffering from short-term memory loss.

A few hours of hunger, thirst, or exhaustion had already made them forget that their food came through a flock of birds and a layer of morning dew [Exodus 16:13]; that water suddenly gushed out of a rock for them to drink [Exo. 17:6]; that they were literally followed by a pillar of cloud by day which turns to a pillar of fire by night [Exo. 13:21]. A few days without their leader and they had already forgotten that they were led to freedom from slavery by a mighty God who, through ten deadly (really deadly) plagues, crushed every single god the nation of Egypt worshipped [Ex. 7-12]. Confronted by little inconveniences, and the memory that the most spectacular miracle in the history of the world [Exo. 14] unfolded right before their eyes was beyond their recollection.

The LORD answered the complaints and cries of the Israelites in the most dramatic ways possible. It seems that subtlety was out of God’s choices in dealing with these people. He made His presence known through fire, smoke, thundering, and lightning [Exo. 19:16-18, 20:18]; yet, His people forget. They had no scruples in creating out of gold a molded calf and attribute to it what God had done for them.

But my pointed contempt ricocheted off the Scriptures towards me. In Exodus 32:7-8 we read:

And the Lord said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’

God made me take an honest look into my heart and revealed to me that I, too, find it easy to rip God off the glory due to Him. By thinking, even subconsciously, that I performed well at work, was kinder, more generous, more patient this week because I took time for prayer and devotion—as if all of these can be credited to anything that is natural to me—I have already fashioned in my heart a molded calf known as pride and say to myself “This is your god, that brought you out of the land of Egypt.

Also, am I not guilty as well of turning aside quickly out of the way which God commanded me? How swift I am to highlight the “good” things I think I have done, and swift to forget all of my thoughts, words, and actions that directly assaulted the Holiness of the LORD.

Are we not all guilty of making idols for ourselves? Are we not a nation of stiff-necked people [Ex. 32:9]? Don’t we all have the inclination to bury in oblivion the great and mighty things God worked for us and through us? Our hearts, after all, as John Calvin rightly observed, are factories of idols.

Out of His grace and mercy, God reminds us through the writings of the apostle Paul in I Corinthians 1:30-31:

It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Faith is not a provision for us to brag [Ephesians 2:8]. God knows the weakness of our souls and our tendency to forget, and so He admonishes us to look daily unto the cross [Galatians 6:14]; to behold the goodness of God as displayed through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ—the paragon of His kindness. God instructs us to preach the Gospel to ourselves all day every day that we may be reminded that we have received pardon for our sins solely because Christ had lived the life we can never live, and died the death we fully deserve.

Let us preach the Gospel to ourselves all day every day as a means of mortifying our spiritual arrogance, of turning down and destroying every idol our heart could create that tries to raise itself higher than the Sovereign King. Let us preach the Gospel to ourselves all day every day that it may bring us to our knees and throw us at the feet of the cross. Let the cross remind you to look unto Christ, the author, and finisher of our faith.

Cover photo by falco from

Published by Jam Brun

I am only a sinner saved by grace.

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