Modern Golden Calves: An Introduction

In Exodus 20, when the Levitical code is given to the children of Israel, God begins the covenant with ten basic commandments that serve as a scaffold upon which the rest of the law would be built. The Ten Commandments open with a warning against worshiping other gods or creating idols. These would be commands Israel and their leaders would have difficulty sustaining. Before leaving Sinai, the people pressure Aaron the high priest into crafting a golden idol for them to worship in Exodus 32. Later, in Numbers 25, Israel would submit to idolatry in Moab; Solomon would yield to idolatry in I Kings 11, and numerous later kings of Israel and Judah would set up and maintain temples at which citizens could pay tribute to the idols of other nations.

The golden calf is their first step in distancing themselves from God and replacing Him. In Exodus 32:4, Aaron says to the people, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt.” This is more than ignoring Jehovah’s role in their freedom – the plagues that break Pharaoh’s will, the Passover night, the delivery at the Red Sea, manna to eat, water to drink. It is replacing God with this physical representation, equating the calf with God’s power. Aaron proclaims that their trust is placed in this calf. During the forty days Moses is upon Mount Sinai receiving God’s guidance, Aaron and the people lose sight of God. This golden calf becomes a replacement for an unseen God. That is what he and the people look to for comfort, guidance, and deliverance.

What are some things in which we place our trust today? How do we relegate God to the sidelines while elevating secular influences to the level of protector and deliverer? What do we look toward for our own comfort, guidance, and deliverance in the place of a God we cannot see or touch? Colossians 3:5 points out that covetousness is a form of idolatry, and we often point to materialism as a modern golden calf. This is valid, but we can covet so much more than our monetary or material blessings.

Over the course of a few posts, I’m going to take a look at some things we Christians seem to have a tendency to place our trust in. The focus of these posts will be strictly internal. This will not be a collection of what I believe “the world” struggles with. we won’t be examining idols of science, intellectualism, rock music, video games, or anything else we point to as idols everyone else struggles with. These posts are not about other people’s struggles but about our own. Instead of looking at the faults in others, I hope these posts encourage fellow Christians to be reflective, to examine self. After all, while I’m here pointing out the motes in others’ eyes, I might as well take care of this beam here.