Summary: God doesn’t blend well with idols. But he does mix very well with intercession.
Bread and butter. Salt and pepper. Ketchup and mustard. Peanut butter and jelly. Some things seem to just naturally go together. Some things don’t. Vanilla pudding and pork. Strawberries and butter. Cornflakes and salt. Some people have made a living by putting together two things dissimilar. Think of the singer Madonna. Named after the original Madonna, the Virgin Mary. When Madonna first came to fame in the mid – 1980’s, her “trademark” was the cross. But is there any similarity between Madonna and the Virgin Mary? How well do the themes and subjects that Madonna preaches mirror the message of the cross? Not a whole lot. She has taken two very different things, the way of the world, and Christianity, and tried to sandwich them together, with I think we all can agree not very good results.
That’s exactly what Moses’ brother Aaron tried to do. He tried to take the Lord, the only God (the very Jealous God) and sandwich him together with a golden calf. It didn’t work out too well. You see, God doesn’t mix well with some things. You can’t join a jealous God to an idol. But God does mix very well with intercession: fervent, selfless prayer.
Aaron wasn’t trying to make up a new god when he made the golden calf. The Israelites simply wanted a god like everyone else had. A god they could see. The most they could see of the Lord was through Moses, and he had been on that mountain forever, and who knows if he was ever coming back. “So Aaron, make us a god!” Moses’ brother reasoned that he if would make this bull, and call it the god that had taken them out of Egypt, then all sides would be happy! The people who wanted a god they could see and touch would have one! The ones who still wanted to worship the Lord, well, they were worshipping the Lord as they worshipped this calf. And God, well, he was a winner too! Not even Moses could have worked such a spiritual reawakening in Israel.
Just a little problem: God wasn’t too thrilled about sharing his glory with a grass-eating animal. And listen how he distances himself from the sinful Israelites as he speaks to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.” You can sense God’s anger rising as he lays out his argument. “[They] have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt.’” They didn’t give God their gold, but they gladly gave it to make a lifeless statue. They didn’t bow down to their Maker, but happily bowed down to something they had made. They didn’t sacrifice their lives to the Lord who would give his Son’s life for them, but they merrily indulged any sinful pleasure in “worship” to their new god, a god who understood that there shouldn’t be so many rules because they needed to have some fun in life. Finally, they refused to give credit to the Lord for the 10 Plagues that sprung them from being Egyptian slaves. They wouldn’t admit that the Lord had delivered them through the waters of the Red Sea. They didn’t want to accept that the Lord gave them manna in the morning and quail at night, and water from the rock. Instead, they chose to give all this credit to a dumb statue. Is there any surprise that God said to Moses, “now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”