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Archive for November 18th, 2019


Exodus 32: The Golden Calf

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Golden Calf

Even as a child I was impressed with how quickly Aaron slid from one role to another: loyal brother, facilitator of the making of the Golden Calf, loyal brother once again.  He appears to get by unscathed and I remember thinking that he must not be very bright, and this is why God let him off so easily.

Some scholars say that Aaron went along with the crowd because it would have been impossible to go against the unhappy throng.  Others point out that Aaron presents an argument we hear often even today; You know how prone the people are to evil.  They said to me, “Make us a god to be our leader; as for Moses . . . we do not know what has happened to him”.  He further argues, “They gave [the gold jewelry] to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out”.  I was amazed, when I first heard this story, that there seemed to be no consequence.  Yet Aaron rallies, aligns himself with Moses and the others who want to stand with him rather than against him, and he escapes the violent death that awaits those who remain against Moses.  A coup takes place, blood is spilled, the Hebrews muddle on through the desert.

I am thinking of the many golden calves I have seen erupt from the fires of anger and jealous, fear and anxiety.  I am also thinking of how many times I have been asked if I am for or against and how I have answered.  I am also thinking of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:30, Mark 9:40 or Luke 11:23: He who is not with me is against me, and he who does gather with me scatters.  And I am grateful for God’s generous mercy.

As a child I knew I lived in the black and white world my parents had created for our family.  In that world the most frequent – and most dreaded – punishment for infractions of rules was the dreaded three word sentence, “We will talk”.  Sometimes we waited days or even weeks until Dad or Mother would nod and say, “Now”.  We would have worried and gnawed over all of the arguments we might present for our innocence and we had thrown out all that were false.  We ended up with the unvarnished truth.  During the waiting time we would have sorted through the varied outcomes of the impending conversation.  And in the end we were so eager to unload our conscience and to confess to our waywardness that we provided our own best castigation.  We came to see that we had been wrong.  We admitted openly how we had strayed. And we were anxious to enter into and complete any penalty we were to suffer.  It was a wonderful form of coming to terms with what it was we had done, why we had done it, and how we ought to be dealt with.  My husband and I used similar strategies with our own children when golden calves appeared in our home and we met with the same success in raising ethical, thoughtful, merciful children.  God’s generosity and mercy cannot be outdone.  God’s love and patience cannot be matched.  And for this we ought to give thanks.

Each time I see the adulation that surrounds a golden calf in my family, community or workplace, I pray for the kind of patience my parents taught us.  I ask God to bring me wisdom, good timing, and the fortitude to witness to falsehood in a way that will be effective.  And I pray for the good counsel and right thinking of the Holy Spirit.  When I allow God’s waiting time to pass, I find I have more success than if I lunge forward on my first impulse with my first reaction.

The people we read about today become unhappy about their circumstances and so they create an immediate world of superficial happiness as they revel and play around an idol of their own making.  They quickly learn that there is a price to pay for self-centered thinking . . . and that golden calves often leave us standing against our God.


a re-post from October 28, 2012.

Image from: http://abwbibleperiod8.wikispaces.com/Ch8A+The+Golden+Calf

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