Greed, sex, arrogance, power. These are all examples of idolatry that are as true today as they were in biblical times, said Christopher J. H. Wright. The author of “Here Are Your Gods”: Faithful Discipleship in Idolatrous Times added: “Idolatry often involves the perversion of something good in itself, like family, work, beauty, or sex.”
Moses confronted idolatry and other sins many times during the Exodus, but the golden calf episode was the most significant. The covenant had just been affirmed by the nation (Exodus 19). Moses had communicated the Law, including the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). The initial instructions for the tabernacle had even been given. Nonetheless, the people made and worshiped an idol, including the “revelry” of sexual immorality (Ex. 32:6).
Moses was on top of Mount Sinai for 40 days. The people had grown impatient, and their already weak faith dried up. Instead of standing his ground, Aaron, the new high priest (Exodus 29), went along with their idolatry. When Moses confronted him later, he offered the ridiculous excuse seen in Exodus 32:24. The golden calf may have represented the Egyptian bull god Apis. In any case, the people had flagrantly broken the second commandment. Moses conveyed God’s righteous anger by literally breaking the two tablets of the Law (v. 19). He also enacted a beautiful piece of poetic justice by grinding up the idol into powder, sprinkling it in the water, and forcing the Israelites to drink it (v. 20).
Yet the sin continued and the people were “running wild” (v. 25). So Moses called out, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me” (v. 26). The Levites answered and went through the camp, killing the idolaters. Their zeal helped consecrate or set them apart for special service (v. 29).
>> While we may not bow down to a golden calf, the temptation to idolatry is very much alive in our day! Do we serve the three Ps—personal freedom, political power, and prosperity—or the Lord?