Pastor Tom’s Note
August 9th, 2017
How to deal with setbacks on the freedom trail
On their own freedom trail, the Israelites have already faced significant setbacks (Exodus 16-17). However, what happens at the foot of Mount Sinai in Exodus 32 defines ‘epic fail.’ In fact, this building of the “golden calf” becomes THE symbol of idolatry in the Bible. Yahweh has a zero-tolerance policy for the worship of other gods (see Exodus 22:20). Ezekiel gets extremely graphic about it (Ezekiel 16). John warns us, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).
In the West, we might take comfort in that we don’t have big idols on every street corners. In fact, idolatry is not even about the cultural icons we revere (our sports team or cultural traditions). A look at what happens with this ‘golden calf’ episode reveals that idols of the heart are the real issues.
First, it was the people’s impatience that got them into huge trouble. Moses delayed in coming down, so they “quickly” (Exodus 32:8) took matters into their own hands. Recount the times you and I have gotten into trouble because of our impatience. We just couldn’t wait for God’s “way” so we manufactured our own. Dr. Donna Petter boils it down to an issue of who do you trust for guidance: “we don’t have what we need, so let’s build our own means for guidance and instructions.” Our impatience becomes the soil into which the idols of the heart are planted.
Second, idolatry thrives in the secret places. Moses is not around so let’s build this calf and deceive ourselves into thinking it liberated and guided us. (“the gods who brought you up out of Egypt” Exodus 32:4).
So what is our answer to these catastrophic failures in our lives? When Jesus says, I am the way, the truth and the life (John 14:8), He addresses the problem head on. He alone has walked the walk. When tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8-10), He didn’t ‘turn aside quickly out of the way’ (see Exodus 32:8) and He didn’t worship other gods. When Jesus says He is the truth, He refused to “exchange the truth about God for a lie” (Romans 1:25). Unlike idols who cannot do anything because they are lifeless (Ps 115), Jesus is the Life. When we put our trust in Him (His Way!), He alone is able to overcome our own catastrophic failures (as well as our ‘bumps’ along the way). In these struggles, we are never left alone! He is always with us (Matthew 28:20) and He provides the way back to the Love of the Father. Just as Yahweh’s ‘relented’ from destroying the Israelites based on Moses’ intercession (Exodus 32:14), Jesus has provided a safe passage to the Father through His perfect sacrifice on the Cross.