Background Scripture Exodus 32. Devotional Reading: John 5:39-47.
How could the Israelites have worshipped the image of a golden calf instead of the Lord who helped them escape Egypt and sustained them through the terrible Sinai Desert? They probably regarded Yahweh as one god among others and had not yet realized that he wanted to be exclusively their God, as they were to be exclusively his people – and that they could not worship both God and a golden calf.
After all, idols of calves were frequent objects of worship in Egypt, from which the Israelites had come, as well as the Philistine and Canaanite cities. A 1990 archaeological excavation in Israel discovered an exquisite silver calf associated with the worship of El or Baal in Canaan and later with the Israelite God, Yahweh.
The ease with which the Israelites defected from their God is told simply and effectively. When Moses seems delayed in his return, the people become restless. “Come, make gods for us, 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”
(32:1). How surprising to find them bringing their complaint to Moses’ brother Aaron and even more surprising that he gave in so quickly: “Take off the gold rings
that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your
daughters, and bring them to me”
(32:2). GOD OR THE CALF
Apparently, they did not realize to be in covenant with Yahweh meant that they could not serve both Him and the calf. But they should have known it, just as almost two millennia later Jesus should not have had to say: “You cannot serve God and mammon”
(Mt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13.). Exodus 20:5 and 34:14 say much the same in different terms: “I the Lord your God am a jealous God.”
So, it is loyalty to God alone, or not God at all!
This may seem an ancient issue, but it is something that we are just as likely to misunderstand. A little bit of Christianity mixed with a big batch of materialistic culture and, like the Israelites, we fail to realize that we too have violated his covenant.
An example. Increasingly our society looks to an almighty, all-knowing, all-perfect power called “The Market,” based on a kind of religious faith that when we set out solely to enrich ourselves, society will benefit in the long run. We are told that “The Market” can operate beneficially only if we refrain from placing moral expectations upon it. Some speak of the Market’s “Invisible Hand” that governs economic affairs without human intrusion. In short: when God and The Market are in conflict, forget God! SIN AND ‘THE MARKET’
Communism failed because it failed to acknowledge and account for human fallibility – the Christian concept of Sin. The Free Enterprise system is probably the best-ever system of economics, but this good system is subject to actions and inactions of fallible, sinful human beings. An unregulated, “Market” championed by fallible human beings dedicated to the conviction that personal selfishness will best produce public prosperity, that personal and corporate dedication to profit alone will bring our nation the highest benefit. It is a good theory only if it acknowledges human sin and refuses to glorify selfishness. Without morality it is just another god that failed.
So, on the basis of that economic idolatry that is based on institutionalized covetousness, we ship millions of jobs abroad for the sake of cheaper, often slavelevel, costs and prices. We are no longer a manufacturing nation providing jobs for an ever-growing population. We are witnessing the erosion of our middle class and the constant widening of the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
It is time for us to admit that this is not good economics and it is contrary to the Ten Commandments and the teachings of the Christ so many of us claim to follow. When God and Mammon conflict, Christians owe their allegiance to God alone.