Summary: We are not necessarily interested in who God is; We are interested in who God is, for us. The Hebrews create an image and call it the Lord God, they believe they are still serving the true God, but it is a lie of their imagination.
So, I’m waiting in line at that high end culinary experience, Taco Bell, and I get into a conversation with this woman. The conversation starts off with how crazy it is that Taco Bell can make fifty menu items out of only about seven ingredients and then moves on to Christianity. At one point this woman makes her statement to me about who she envisions Jesus to be, saying, “I think that Jesus can help us become more focused and successful in business, he is a good person to have on your side”. Then, a little later she went on to state her belief about prayer, “When I’m sick and I pray, I get better faster. It helps the body heal faster”. Finally, she summed things up with her philosophy of life, “As long as we don’t hurt others, everything is ok, that’s what Jesus would want us to do”.
She picked up her order and went on her way and I thought: “I just had another golden calf experience”.
I had another person give their version of who Jesus is and what Christianity was all about, and it was completely irrelevant that none of the facts added up.
Here in America we value our right to have an opinion about anything, and everything. This right to our own opinion permeates everything from how we feel about the presidency of Jimmy Carter, who should be eliminated and who should stay on, whatever reality show, to who Jesus is and how can Jesus help us out.
We are not necessarily interested in who God is; We are interested in who God is, for us.
This is exactly the kind of thing we see happening in our Scripture today. The Hebrews take what they highly value and create their version of who God is, and to them, it is completely irrelevant that the facts about who God is don’t add up. This, it turns out, does not please God.
We make the same mistake that the Hebrews did, and we do it over and over, we mold God into who we want Him to be, rather than seeking out who he truly is. I don’t know about you, but that is not where I want to be. I want to know who God is, and worship and serve the true God rather than something I have pieced together, a conglomeration of ideas about God that I like and feel comfortable with – No, I want reality, not a happy self creation! How do we avoid falling into the same trap that the Hebrews fell into? Let’s look at our Scripture and see what took place and how it applies to us today.
Looking at the beginning of chapter 32 in Exodus it appears that first glance the Hebrews have given up on the Lord God and are worshiping another God. It appears that they have simply created an idol shaped like a calf to replace the true God and are determined to worship it - But that is not exactly true. In their minds, the Hebrews are not replacing God, in their minds they are still following God, just in a different way.
Take a look at verse five, what does it say? Ex. 32:5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” The word “LORD” there that you see in your bible is the name “Yahweh” in Hebrew. What this is, is the proper name of God in the Old Testament, it means succinctly, “I Am”.
This whole deal. This golden calf, this festival, isn’t about some other god, no, everything they are doing is for the Lord God, Yahweh. These people are not against God. They are not trying to offend God, they are all about serving God….in their own way. Is that so bad? Apparently so.
As we start off here, I want to emphasize that these Hebrews are not attempting to change religions, or walk away from God – They are only attempting to reinterpret things a bit.
How did they get to this point? Everything was going so well in their relationship with God, and now, this mess. We saw back in chapter 20 that the whole nation was at the foot of mount Sinai and the voice of God spoke from the mountain, giving the people the Ten Commandments. The people hear the voice of God speak and they are terrified out of their minds. So, they all have heard the Ten Commandments, but they are not written down, and now Moses heads back up the mountain to receive the tablets from God.
A note about the tablets what the Ten Commandments were written on. We have stuck in our minds an image of the Ten Commandments as these two large pieces of stone with the Ten Commandments written on the front of each tablet, but this is most likely not the case at all. First, there was writing on both sides of the stones, see that in verse 15? There it says there was writing on both sides. Second, inscribing on tablets of stone was quite common at the time. The Egyptians would take flakes of stone chipped from rock and use the flakes for inscribing on. These stone flakes were usually about the size of your blackberry or iphone and could easily contain about 15-20 lines on each side. So, most likely, the Ten Commandments could fit right in your pocket. The Ten Commandments are meant to be mobile, they are meant to be taken with you at all times.