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Summary: God doesn’t blend well with idols. But he does mix very well with intercession.

Pentecost 17

Exodus 32:7-14

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.

Part I

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.”

God came this close to wiping out the Israelites because they tried to connect him to an idol. Watch out for the times we do the very same thing. I don’t think that any of you have made a statue and danced around it. But there are plenty of things out there that we dance around and act as if they are our gods. These hurricanes have a way of exposing what is so important to us and what can become our gods. Imagine going without power for a whole week –hell! Go without TV and internet for a week –awful! Go without hot water and air conditioning for a week –unpleasant! Go without church for a week –no big deal. Always next week or the week after that if I miss. Some things are so hard to live without. Sometimes we make God easy to live without. Like Israel, we make trivial things so important and necessary, and we complain when we don’t have them, while God, the most important and most necessary thing, becomes an afterthought, something we might even enjoy a little break from. A job is a blessing that can turn into a false god. It isn’t that uncommon for any of us to put in a few extra hours at work. We do it all the time. But if the Lord is more important to you than your profession, how often do you give God a few extra hours each week? Or doesn’t he always seem to get only the “left-over” time (that is, little or no time). After I put in all my time at work, and after I do the things for the family, and after I take care of the house, and after I rest, and after I watch the game I’ve been waiting all week to see, then I’ll see how much time I have for the Lord. We dance around idols and serve the false gods of vacations, money, little teeny-weeny pet sins that are no big deal, houses, cars, and we would like to believe that God is ok with us splitting our reverence for him with these things. And we so easily forget that God is the owner of all our time. He is the owner of all our money and things. And it should all be used to his glory. But there’s that little part in each of us that wants to be like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), and keep back a little of that for ourselves. God just doesn’t mix very well with any false god – even the 2004 models.

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