Christianity 201

February 12, 2019

Aaron’s Golden Calf Today

by Russell Young

For those who think that Aaron’s golden calf was an historical event in Israel’s past, they should think again. The problem is that the calf is being worshipped so much that people do not recognize it as an idol.

I have been admonished by people because my words are not often seen as uplifting, not affirming the assurance of their eternal hope. Over the years I have been told to present a word more supportive and encouraging concerning their spiritual state. Like Balak, they seek a blessing even though their living may be in defiance of truth.

Moses had gone up Mt Sinai to meet with God (Ex 31:18) concerning his people. While absent, the Israelites felt it safe to vent their anger to Aaron, the priest. They had yearned for Egypt and the desirable offerings of that land and had grumbled about Moses’ leadership. “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” (Num 11:5) “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” (Ex 32:1)

Aaron should have known better. His claim was that because they were “prone to evil” he had fashioned the calf. There is no evidence that he had tried to resist. The people had wanted the idol, so he had complied with their wishes. He did not defend God or righteousness but had submitted to their wickedness. He asked for their gold and fashioned a calf. This practice is certainly prevalent with many televangelists today. Give them your gold and they will fashion a god to your liking. They assure their audience that this (their created god) god is the one who will bless them. Unfortunately, many teachers and spiritual leaders are also of this faction. When fear of man supersedes fear of God, the line has been crossed and the golden calf is being shaped.

Aaron did not hesitate to encourage their delusion. He pronounced, “’These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt.’ And when Aaron saw this (probably that it pleased them), he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, ‘Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord’.” (Ex 32: 4−5) He tried to restore them to God, but he did not destroy their idol. Consequently, after presenting their fellowship offerings they ate and drank and indulged in revelry. Fear of God had left them.

The Exodus of Israel was not pleasant. They had been taken into the desert for testing by God, so that he would know what was in their hearts, whether they would keep his commands. (Deut 8:2) The Old Testament reveals God’s history with the Israelites as he tried to forge attitudes of obedience and righteousness in their relationship with him. Because of their weakened, “sinful nature” (Rom 8:3) he could never accomplish it; he was unable to overcome their love for other gods and the rule and accommodation of their flesh.

There are many “Aarons” who have taken and are taking the gold of the people and are fashioning an idol that pleases the people. The sinful nature thrives on approval and on being appeased. When even false blessings are promised, people will gather to enjoy the hope given by the idol that has been fashioned. They do not want to hear about God’s righteous judgment, of the need for the obedient living that restricts their life choices. They want a god who is accepting of their right to self-rule and who offers encouragement concerning their practices, and who even promises an eternal hope despite their disobedience. They want good news as they see it. “For a time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Tim 4:3) These teachers will suffer the destruction that is promised to those who present “destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them.” (2 Pet 2:1) “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly.” (1 Thess 5:3) It may do well to remember that while God loved Moses, most of the people did not, and only one of the first generation who had been redeemed from Egypt (the world) entered the Promised Land; the rest died in the wilderness without passing the test.

While Moses was meeting with God the people had “become corrupt” in God’s sight. (Ex 32:7) Aaron had let the people get out of control and they had become a laughingstock to their enemies. (Ex 32:25). Many were put to death (Ex 32:27) and the rest who had sinned were struck with a plague. (Ex 32:25)

The journey of the Israelites was filled with trials and hardships, even death and destruction for disobedience. Their plight should be understood and taken seriously. The same one and only God is sovereign and rules today despite the gods that are being proffered. He is seeking a holy nation, a people who will honor his sovereignty and who will live in obedience to his commands. (Mt 7:21, 19:17, 28:20; Lk11:28; Jn 14:23; Rom 6:16; Heb 5:9; 1 Jn 2:3, 3:24; Rev 14:12) Those Israelites who disobeyed the LORD while in the wilderness found their hope dashed (Heb 3:18), and those who display lack of faith through disobedience today will also find disappointment. “[Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9)

Believers are destined for trials. “You know quite well that we were destined for them (trials). (1 Thess: 3:3) The Lord said on the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kind of evil against you. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.” (Mt 5:11) He did not call his servants to distort his truths to appease their listeners and to gain their gold. James taught that trials should be joyfully accepted because they produce faith that matures the believer. (Jas 1:2−4)

The gospel is a gospel of hope, but it is an eternal hope not one that promises peace and enjoyment from this world. There are many cautions that need to be realized and personal issues to be overcome if a person is to become an acceptable offering to God and to gain his kingdom. Those who seek a “golden calf” to provide comfort in this world, like the rebellious Israelites, will only reap destruction. (Gal 6:7) When God returns who will he find worshipping him in truth and obedience, and through trials? Who will you be found bowing to a golden calf?



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also a feature-length article at this link.

Other book promotions posted at C201 do not originate with us.

December 2, 2018

The Other, Wrong Type of Worship

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:06 pm
Tags: , , ,

“Two kinds of religion exist in our world: Religion A and Religion B. The first is “faith” in name only (2 Timothy 3:5). It’s the outward practice of Christianity without genuine faith in the living Lord.

Religion B, on the other hand, is a life-transforming, destiny-changing experience. It’s a definite commitment to the crucified and risen Savior, which establishes an ongoing personal relationship between a forgiven sinner and a gracious God.

Are you bogged down in the empty ritual of Religion A? If so, you must receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Then make sure your relationship with Christ is growing deeper and more vital every day.” – Vernon C. Grounds.

Due to an unforeseen hospital trip, this item arrived online about 90 minutes late. Nothing had been scheduled so I went to the one website that is always a rich storehouse of material, DailyEncouragement.net by Stephen and Brooksyne Weber. Click the title below to read at source and then, if your unfamiliar with the work, click on some current devotionals. This was originally published on their site in 2013 and is appearing here for the first time.

Serving The Living And True God

You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9,10).

We often visit a blog that chronicles the persecution scores of Christians presently face, especially in the Muslim countries. It keeps before us the reality of hardship that many live with as they hold on to their Christian faith. It’s a powerful antidote to keep us from whining about those matters which are often rather miniscule problems and also provides perspective about the importance of religious freedom.

The Thessalonian believers had “turned to God from idols.” Likely the idols that Paul referred to are our stereotype image of idols; figures fashioned with wood, metal or stone. But in turning to God the Thessalonian believers turned from worthless, lifeless and powerless idols “to serve a living and true God”. That’s the healthy norm in genuine conversion!

Essentially an idol is an object of worship, or that which we attribute worth to. Worship is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something.

The Apostle John ended his first epistle by calling on his readers to “keep yourselves from idols.” Today in our modern western world idols may be fashioned differently than the idols mentioned in the Bible but they’re still very much present. We have them in abundance and in such variety that, should I begin to list them, it would result in too lengthy a message. In addition, an object that might be an idol to me may not be so for you, and vice versa.

An article on worship states: “In modern society and sociology, some writers have commented on the ways that people no longer simply worship organized religions, but many now also worship consumer brands, sports teams, and other people (celebrities).” (I would add; some worship political figures.)

Genuine conversion involves turning away from any idol that competes with or robs our heart’s affections from the one true and living God. We make this turn “to serve the living and true God.” Everybody is serving someone or something.  Genuine conversion involves devoting ourselves fully to the living and true God consistently and faithfully.  Are you doing so?

And to wait for His Son from heaven.” Clearly at the heart of Paul’s preaching was a reminder that, as we serve God during our earthly journey, we wait expectantly for the return of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Precept commentary states,

“To wait for the Lord’s return is a sure characteristic of a true believer. The present tense can be rendered ‘keep on waiting’. Waiting for the return of their Lord and King was their lifestyle, the habit of their life, the truth that colored all their daily activities and afflictions.”

Whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus.” In our daily encouragement messages this week we are studying texts that reference the resurrection of Jesus Christ. A careful reading of the entire New Testament following Christ’s resurrection reveals how often the Scripture writers refer to the resurrection thus teaching and reinforcing it. On the whole we may not consider the focus of our daily Scripture portion to be on the resurrection but it certainly is foundational.

Who rescues us from the wrath to come” I am giving a lot of consideration to this phrase “the wrath to come”. Some commentators feel it is the general wrath in the sense of eternal punishment, others consider it a specific period of wrath in the tribulation period. As I watch events taking place right before my eyes I really wonder if we are entering into a period known as the Great Apostasy as expressed in 2 Thessalonians 2. There is such a rapid hastening in discarding time honored Biblical teaching.

Genuine conversion involves expectant waiting for Christ’s return as our heart’s affections are heightened to things above instead of being bound to things below. Are you looking up expectantly as you live out your Christian life down here below?

Daily prayerFather, we’re reminded through the writings of the Apostle Paul that our lives are observed by those who see us day in and day out. What a wonderful change comes into our lives as we surrender our hearts to You, the living and true God. And yet we must be on guard so that worthless idols do not win our affections; otherwise the light of Your Son Jesus will be diminished in our hearts and thereby, our witness. No person or object is of greater worth than that of Your Holy Spirit Who resides in our hearts and prompts us to lift our eyes toward our heavenly redemption that is drawing closer every hour. Thank You for saving us from the coming wrath when Your judgment is poured out on those who do not believe. In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

 


 

July 11, 2013

Not Gonna Bow To Your Idols

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:12 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Have you ever visited another country’s houses of worship, or been a guest in a religious building that was of a different faith system than your own?  Did they ask you to take your shoes off?  Or remain quiet in a certain area? What if they asked you to politely bow to a statue as you walked in the room?  Most of us would not do the latter, but my wife and I found ourselves in this position and certainly acquiesced to the first two requests. Maybe that’s why I found this blog post so interesting.  But first…

Daniel 3 (NLT) : 7 So at the sound of the musical instruments,[d] all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

But some of the astrologers[e] went to the king and informed on the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “Long live the king! 10 You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments. 11 That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.”

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments.[f] But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

This is from Brandie at Everyday Bible Blog where it appeared under the title We Must Not Bow Before Anyone but the Lord.   I added the above scripture to two passages she had already listed for this reading. Be sure to take the time to read them all.

Today’s Reading:

Psalms 80 & 81

These two psalms are psalms of Asaph.  In the first psalm, Asaph implores the Lord to turn back to his people.  Asaph vows that his people will never abandon the Lord again once they are rescued.

I can’t imagine what life would be like if the Lord abandoned me.  The thought of living without the Lord is simply devastating.  As someone who falls far from grace, I should pay more attention to showing the Lord how much I love him.  Being more righteous.  Obeying God’s laws.  I thank you, Lord, for embracing me even through all my faults, through all the things that separate myself from you.  All I can say is thank you, Lord.  Amen.

In Psalm 81, the people were told what they need to do when the Lord does turn back to them.  The people would need to stay away from foreign gods and not bow down to worship a false god.

The statement that the people shall not bow before a false god really has me thinking.  Is it okay to bow (as in a bend of the knee, not an upper body nod) before anyone at all?  I recall reading a verse in Exodus, and I think I shrugged it off at the time because I was writing about all the ten commandments, so I was trying to do an overview.  Here is the verse:

Exodus 20:4-5  You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.  You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.

This verse says you must not bow down OR worship them.  It seems that the two are mutually exclusive and that bowing, even if not intended for worship, is a sin.  It’s funny how little I’ve ever thought about topics like bowing, yet all it takes is a random bible verse to spark an interest in me.  Something that was insignificant before suddenly became entirely relevant, and I was forced to form an instant stance on the subject.  That’s the bible for you – the most phenomenal book of all time!

Here’s a song from the past that I thought of while reading this from veteran Christian recording artist Russ Taff:  (static image; video will load on low speed connections)