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.

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