Summary: The Israelites "golden calf" relates to our idol-worship of the graven images of Franklin, Hamilton, and Jackson.
The times they are changing, and I am not really certain I like what they are changing into. It appears the demise of our world economic system is imminent. Job loss throughout this country is at an all time high. Our most desperately needed natural resource, petroleum, is difficult to obtain, and when it is available the expense is extraordinarily high. We are quickly coming into an election where one candidate is touting "radical change" by putting our problems under more control of the government. The other is distancing himself from the sitting president, blaming government for our problems, and promising a different unspecified approach to our country’s woes.
I have listened to the debates and also try to pick out the truthful statements from the obviously biased news media. Yet, so far, I have not heard anyone address what I believe to be the true root of our problems. Now, I will admit, during the last debate both candidates did use the word "greed"; but neither wanted to apply it to themselves or offer a responsible solution to the problem. Greed from the very top level of corporate and governmental America to the very basic entry level in the work force has been the root cause for the unraveling or our economy. And because we are, or should I say perceived as, the strongest economy in the free world, when we fall into trouble we wrench the rest of the world economy down with us.
As I contemplate the state of affairs we have dragged ourselves into, I can not help but be mindful of the Israelites in the desert as they camped around the base of Mount Sinai. GOD has called Moses to come to the top of the mountain for instruction. In the chapters prior to this one we read of all the different topics GOD discusses with Moses; primarily the way the people of Israel are to live their lives and how they are to return their worship to GOD. When I read these chapters I am taken back to a day in our nation’s history when one of our prime purposes was to place GOD before all else. Then we began getting greedy, we wanted to attain more wealth and more power. Our workplaces began operating seven days a week; we willingly seek overtime, so we can make that extra dollar. That overtime often means working on Sundays, unless our work schedule already had us working Sundays. "The LORD said to Moses: "Tell the Israelites: You must observe My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations...Observe the Sabbath, for it is holy to you... If anyone does work on it, that person must be cut off from his people. For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there must be a Sabbath of complete rest, dedicated to the LORD."
Israel became impatient; they wanted more than what GOD had already given them. They went to Aaron and demanded he "make us a god who will go before us." Aaron readily submitted to their requests and demanded from them "the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters;" these were more than likely the very same golden pieces they had plundered from Egypt when they left. Even though Israel had been liberated from slavery in Egypt, been saved from absolute annihilation at the banks of the Red Sea, were fed and watered in their trek across the wilderness, and even witnessed the very presence of YAHWEH their liberator; these golden trinkets still linked them to the idolatry of Egypt. It is difficult for us to release our grasp on similar past indiscretions, unless we believe there is profit in them.
Aaron took their gold and fashioned it into an idol of a golden calf. "Early the next morning they arose, offered burnt offerings, and presented fellowship offerings." Israel worshipped the graven image formed from the gold they had acquired from their former slave barons. They also began presenting it with different forms of offerings. I am thoroughly amazed at what Aaron told Moses about the calf, "I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off,’ and they gave it to me. When I threw it into the fire, out came this calf!" "See Moses, I am just an innocent victim of circumstance here!" America worships the dollar, the graven images of Franklin, Jackson, and Hamilton. We turn from our families and friends in search of this idol, and carelessly "invest" it in order to make more dollars for us to worship; our "burnt offerings" and "fellowship offerings" are stocks, T-bills and mutual funds.
"The people sat down to eat and drink, then got up to revel." Once Israel realized they were no longer under the control of the GOD who really did bring them out of Egypt, they slipped back into their old pagan lifestyles. They had a feast, eating and drinking their fill. After gorging themselves they "got up to revel." Since the calf was a symbol of fertility in Egypt, several commentaries suggest this reveling was probably a self-indulgent orgiastic frenzy. Obesity and the resultant illnesses coming from it has all but overtaken the American public; we eat too much, we eat all of the wrong things, and our health is paying the price. Television shows such as "Swingtown," "Big Brother," or "Desperate Housewives" titillate our desires to fulfill these urges to "revel" as the Israelites did.