What Leads to Golden Calves?

What Leads to Golden Calves?

By Jonathan Molengraf

I just finished teaching my tenth graders the classic novel, The Great Gatsby. In chapter two, a married woman named Myrtle details the reason why she started an affair with a married man named Tom. As Tom pressed her, Myrtle kept thinking, “You can't live forever; you can’t live forever” (Fitzgerald, 36). In Myrtle’s head, she felt as if she deserved to start an adulterous relationship. Eternity was not a reality for her so her justification for sin was rooted in serving her own desires. Myrtle had no trust in God. Consequently she sinned. As Christians, we must be aware of how our lack of trust in God can lead us to sin, which is seen perfectly in Israel’s attempt to create their own god.

In order to examine Israel's disobedience, we must understand the reason they disobeyed in the first place. Moses was speaking to the Lord on top of mount Sinai when God’s people grew impatient:

“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”  (Exodus 32:1)

They lost their faith in God and believed he would not deliver. So in response, they created their own god in the form of a golden calf- breaking the first commandment of not having any gods before the one and true God. Ultimately, we create our own “golden calf” when we lose our patience with God or do not fully trust that he will come through.
Israel justified their sin because God was delayed. They believed God would not have a sweet future for them, thus they attempted to make their own. Oftentimes, we can justify our own sin because we believe our own ways are better than His. We could have a similar thought as Myrtle and make ourselves believe that God does not have our future in mind so we should do what pleases us now.

In Israel's case, they were quick to forget how God led them out of slavery and promised them a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:17). Therefore, let us not forget how God freed us from slavery through the death and resurrection of His son Jesus and the eternal life promised for us. As we trust in God and kill the “golden calves” in our lives, keep in mind the imperishable wreath promised to us (1 Corinthians 9:25).

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