“This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!The Israelites truly believed that the golden calf was God. They attributed God's works to the calf, and they offered it sacrifices. Their impatience and unwillingness for God to determine the terms of their relationship lead them to worship their creation of who they imagined God was. How short they fell!
Rewind to about 40 days earlier. Do you remember the reaction of the Israelites to the ten commandments?
"they trembled and stood afar off"As if they were unwilling and fearful to accept God for who he had presented Himself to be. In this willingful ignorance was born the idea for a Golden Calf.
How did they worship this calf?
"the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play"Never had God prescribed such worship, but because the Israelites had a false view of God, it reflected in their worship. They had traded the thunderous, dangerous, and powerful almighty God, for a malleable calf. A calf was an animal to be sacrificed for sin. They had glorified the very thing that was meant to be sacrificed, and made it to be God.
Ironically enough, the second commandment prohibited the creation of a graven image to worship God.
Fast forward to a few hundred years in the future. King Solomon has died, and his son, Rehoboam had just taken the throne. Rehoboam was planning to increase taxes, and be harsh ruler over the Israelites, and Jeroboam lead a revolt. There was no violence, but Rehoboam ended up in control of the tribe Judah, and Jeroboam took control the rest of Israel. Now Israel was split in two kingdoms. Naturally, the Israelites from non-Judah wanted to worship God in the new temple that Solomon had built, but there was one problem. The temple was in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was in Judah. There was a barrier between Judah, and the rest of Israel.
Notice now what Jeroboam does to fix this problem.
1 Kings 12:28
Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!”The same words as Aaron. A repetition of sin. Jeroboam placed these two calves of gold in two very convenient places in Israel. Now the Israelites didn't have to worship and sacrifice to God on His terms, but rather at any of the two calves that Jeroboam had set up. Jerusalem was "too much."
It was inconvenient for the Israelites to cross borders to worship God on His terms, so they traded the thunderous, dangerous, and powerful almighty God, for a pair of malleable calves. The Israelites began to worship and sacrifice to God at their convenience, and on their terms. Remember that a calf was a sacrificial animal for the cleansing of sin. The Israelites were worshiping the very thing that was meant to be sacrificed!
These two instances are of immense importance to the believers life, and his dealing with God.
God has revealed Himself with great explicitness. He has also delineated our obedience, worship and sacrifice to him. The life of a disciple of Christ is demanding, and goes beyond a list of ten rules. The life of a disciple of Christ requires all sacrifice, all obedience, and all worship. As Christians, we may come to a head knowledge of what it means to "deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." Yet on even fewer occasions will a believer come to a spiritual understanding of what that requires.
When God reveals this to us, it can be scary. We come to grips with how much a life wholly dedicated to Christ might cost. More often than not, our reaction might be to "tremble and stand far off" from God's will for us. We see God's jealousy, and we become willingly ignorant of his refining will in our life.
When a believer is unrepentant of sin, he is "trembling and standing afar off" from the will of God. When a believer sinfully mixes with the world, he is "trembling and standing afar off." When a believer fails to obey God's word or His spirit, he is "trembling and standing afar off." When a believer rejects the refining work of Christ in his life, he is "trembling and standing afar off."
From this unwillingness to accept Christ's refining work in us comes a golden calf. That is, a twisted and sinful perception of who God is, created for our convenience. We choose to ignore God for how He has revealed Himself to be, and then create a version of "god" that we can worship on our terms.
These golden calves are always a spiritualized projection of our own fleshly desires. We trade the thunderous, dangerous, and powerful almighty God, for a malleable calf. We then glorify the very thing that was meant to be sacrificed, and make it to be God. Golden calves always fall short of who God really is.
When we trade the image of God for the image made from corruptible man, we are worshiping a golden calf. (Romans 1:23)
Our knowledge of God and His will comes strictly from his expressed and special revelation. Not from who we feel God is or wants. All other perceptions are a golden calf.
Aaron therefore went to the altar and killed the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself.I don't know what was going through Aarons head when he killed that calf for himself. However, he could have been thinking of the golden calf he was guilty of fashioning. The only way to rid ourselves of a fleshly projection of God, is to kill it. We cannot further adjust our fleshly perceptions to represent God any better than Aaron could have adjusted the golden calf to represent God better. We must fully sacrifice our desire's and perception to God, and allow Him to freely refine and will in our lives.