The People Make a Golden Calf to Worship

The scene was San Diego Superior Court. Two men were on trial for armed robbery. An eyewitness took the stand, and the prosecutor moved carefully: “So, you say you were at the scene when the robbery took place?” “Yes.” “And you saw a vehicle leave at a hi … More


Even though the Israelites had seen the invisible God in action, they still wanted the familiar gods they could see and shape into whatever image they desired (vv. 1-10). It was not long after the Israelites had agreed to be the Lord’s covenant people that they asked Aaron to make them a false image and he agreed by melting the wife’s earrings into an idol in the shape of a young bull (vv. 1-4).  No doubt the Israelites, fresh from Egypt found it quite natural to make a golden calf to represent the God that has just delivered them from their oppressors. They were not interested in a god without a face. Aaron built an altar in front of the idol, the people sacrificed animals there and they got drunk and acted like wild animals (vv. 5-6). We tend to be just like them. Our great temptation is to make God someone convenient to obey or ignore.

God told Moses to hurry back down the mountain and check on the people because they were acting like fools (v. 7), by building themselves an idol and making sacrifices to it (v. 8). He went on to tell Moses that these are a stubborn people and that He is angry enough to destroy them so don’t try to destroy them (vv. 9-10). God had made it very plain; “You shall not make for yourself a carved image... any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Ex. 20:4).


Even if I do not make idols, I am often guilty of trying to make God fit my image, molding him to fit my expectations, desires, and circumstances. When I do this I end up worshiping myself rather than the God who created me. When I am tempted to do this I need to change my thinking in order to worship the powerful God who delivered me from the bondage of sin?

Exodus 32:1-10 (English Standard Version)

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, "Up, make us gods 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." So Aaron said to them, "Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD." And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. And the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'" And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you."

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