Ki Tissa & Parah
For the week of March 6, 2010 / 20 Adar 5770
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 30:11 - 34:35 &
Bemidbar / Numbers 19:1-22
Haftarah: Ezekiel 36:16-38
Impatience Breeds Idolatry
So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!" (Shemot / Exodus 32:3,4; ESV)
The incident of the golden calf is one of the most tragic in the Torah. Having been rescued by God from oppressive bondage in Egypt, having witnessed his great acts of power through the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, having known his miraculous provision and protection, having heard the sound of his voice speaking from the mountain, it didn't take the nation of Israel long to fall into great depravity of spiritual darkness and moral perversion.
The situation that led them to their sinful behavior was Moses' extended absence. He had gone up the mountain to receive the details of God's covenant, but the people grew impatient. Notice that in a sense the people didn't really turn to other gods, but rather they fashioned a tangible representation of the true God, who delivered them from Egypt.
There are two kinds of idolatry. One kind is the worship of objects that represent false gods. The other is the worship of objects that represent the true God. The sin of the golden calf is of this second type.
It may seem bizarre to you that the God of Israel could be imaged in this way. How could it be that the Master of the Universe, the uncreated creator of all things, be represented as a cow? And yet how often do we image God as something other than who he really is? We prefer to fashion him into all sorts of forms that appeal to us, that make us comfortable, something we can understand and be proud of.
Idolatry misrepresents God. Idols cannot come close to who and what God really is. It's no wonder that the behavior that stems from idolatry is perverted and destructive. When we don't worship God as he really is, we become something other than what we were intended to be.
Israel's impatience which led to this sin is the very thing that continues to drive us to idolatry in our day. The God of the Bible cannot be represented through our own creative endeavors, tangible or intangible. We are to know him through faith, not by sight or feelings. And like the people of Israel long ago, he often leads us in situations in which he doesn't seem to be anywhere around. He is usually doing far more than anything we can imagine, but to us it may seem as if he doesn't really exist or care. So, in our impatience, we substitute all sorts of things to make ourselves feel better, but in the end bring harm to ourselves and to those around us.
Idolatry is an attempt to relate to God on our own terms. It arises from a desire to take control of our lives rather than submit to God as Lord and King. What might appear to be a humble and sincere adoration of our great Redeemer may actually be a self-centered, arrogant, and disgraceful exhibition of false spirituality. Attaching the name of the one true God to the products of our imaginations will certainly lead us to all sorts of perversions and eventually God's judgment.
We must therefore be careful to relate to God in the way that he has revealed himself in the Scriptures. While true worship is not the most comfortable or self-pleasing form of spirituality, it is the only one that leads to a life of lasting blessing.
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