Traditionally, the story of the golden calf that we read this morning has been used to teach Jewish and Christians believers that they should not make images of God and that no idols should be worshipped. The evidence for such teaching is supported in the Ten commandments. Creating images and idols had consequences such that we have to be especially concerned, because God is going to punish the children of such command breakers down to their fourth generation.
This is very serious matter. Don’t you think?
A similar understanding is put forward by the Encyclopedia Judaica: the golden calf is in essence an unauthorized means of securing divine presence. In addition, in the Encyclopedia Judaica reference is made to the Ten Commandments as well. Indeed, this is a powerful threat to one's well being and his or her children.
Let me present to you a different approach to interpret the Exodus story of the golden calf. And it is this: there is an apparent reason as to why the people were acting in such disarray.
1) Moses had delayed his descending of the Mountain.
2) The people were afraid that Moses had possibly died.
3) As a result, people demanded Aaron to make them a god who shall go before them.
4) Aaron gave in the demand made to him.
When we examine the story from this point of view, we find that people under confusion feel that they are lost. For the Israelites, there is no one who can lead them on their journey.
It is important to note that Aaron also built an altar before the golden calf. So, the Israelites worshiped the god that they demanded.
Have you ever been under pressure by people who wants you to do something that you know deep in your heart that is not right?
You see, the happenings in the story of the golden calf can teach us many things. For example, people can buckle, give up, under pressure.
Morally, we are responsible for our actions even when pressure by other people. It does not matter if you are a kid or an adult. Under pressure sometimes we give in. Therefore, we have to be on our guard to protect ourselves of such situations.
When God tells Moses about what is going on with the Israelites, Moses pleads with God for the Israelites. He said, "O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
Why should the Egyptians say, `It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?'
Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, `I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'"
Moses used all that he had in order to convinced God to change His mind and not destroy the Israelites.
Moses showed leadership skills to protected his people. Moses was concerned with the well-being of this people including his own family because the wrath of God was going to come to all of them.
This leadership style is was is missing in some of our politicians and business leaders. If we look at the state of our economy, people are suffering yet there is no new job creation initiatives that could put people to work.
The golden calf story in the Bible reveals to us that God forgives people even when they break the commandments. In Philippians, we are also reminded that:
The Lord is near. That we should not worry about anything, but that we should come to God in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving and that we let your requests be made known to God.
As a result of our prayers and supplication, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We have to trust God that even when the situation is difficult, God can help us. This is what faith is all about: Trusting in God.