I read the story of the children of Israel and the golden calf the other day, preparing a lesson I was writing for my publisher.
It’s pretty incredible. Just a few weeks before, they’d been enslaved in Egypt. Forever. And yet, God performed miracles and signs and wonders–and they escaped to freedom. At the Red Sea, when it appeared that the end was near, God performed another miracle and opened the water so they could walk across on dry land. Amazing.
And yet, here they are, a little bored because Moses is taking too long talking to God up there on Mt. Sinai, and they start to wonder if maybe they could get a distraction.
So they get Aaron to make them an idol. A calf of gold. And they start worshipping it.
We think that’s pretty weird from our view here in the 21st century. It’s weird that they start dancing around and singing and praying and worshipping an idol. But it really got me thinking–God’s commandment about idols is still pretty relevant. Our idols may not look like golden calves, but our society still places the emphasis on the wrong thing. Even people who say they love God can let their priorities get out of whack.
We’ve all seen it. It’s just not a golden calf.
It’s the Beatles.
It’s Frank Sinatra.
It’s fandom. In whatever form.
It’s your favorite vacation spot.
It’s your phone of choice.
An idol can be anything–anything–that causes you to place its importance higher on your priorities than your relationship with God. This isn’t easy. I have several things on this list that I look at and say, “Wait a minute! That’s not an idol! That’s just a place I really love…” But if I spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on any of those things (cough*DISNEYLAND*cough), then it’s an idol.
The thing itself isn’t bad. What makes it an idol is how I treat it.
So the story of the golden calf isn’t God’s way of telling us in the 21st century to avoid melting our gold into statues of livestock, it’s a reminder that no one, nobody, and nothing deserves a higher place in our lives than Him. And if you have something that you think about–read about–dream about–search the internet about–more than Him, well, it’s your idol.
As I researched my article, I ran across this video. It reminded me that idol worship is alive and well today.
And it’s not just about golden calves anymore.