The Sin of Remaking GodYear A Revised Common Lectionary
Exodus 32:1-4 (Moffatt Bible) When the people saw that Moses was long in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered round Aaron, saying, “Come on, make us some god to go in front of us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we don’t know what has become of him!” 2Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.” 3So the people all broke off their earrings and handed them to Aaron, 4who took and carved them with a tool into a metal calf.
Exodus Chapter 32 tells the story of the children of Israel build the golden calf and worship it. Moses had been gone, talking to the Lord, for a long time. The Word tells us he was gone for forty days.1 The only real connection the people felt they had to God, Moses, had been away so long the people were afraid he had disappeared.”2
This passage can speak to us today about our vain attempts to guarantee God’s presence and our equally vain attempts to change who God is.
The authors of the Jewish Study Bible feel the people might not have been looking for a literal god. They may have wanted something that “would serve as a means of securing God’s presence.”3
Other gods. There are times when we make the symbols of God, church relics and artifacts, religious clothing and jewelry gods. Those things, as wonderful as they are, do not secure God’s presence. No clothing we wear, nothing we can add to our homes or our places of worship can secure God’s presence. We have a God that is too powerful, too big and too kind to ever be able to be purchased by our cheap relics, trinkets and stuff. And that is good news, because all we can purchase is temporary. God’s presence is a gift, a lasting gift.
The writers of the study notes in the Christian Community Bible say the sin of the children of Israel was not just making an image of God. They sinned by making a god that suited them.4 The human tendency is to create a God that matches our heart and our mind. When we do that, we end up with the kind of God nobody would really want to worship. Our God ends up sharing our petty hatreds, our fears and our hangups. Who would want to worship a God who has a few issues and could use a little therapy?
The god of the sexually insecure and deeply afraid is a god who rages against gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-identified and intersex people. This same god, a god of human making, condemns queer people. Fortunately, the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, does not fear queer people. In fact, God welcomes gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-identified and intersex people.
The god of those who fear poverty, condemns those who are poor, because they did not have enough faith. The reality is that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob does not fear those who are poor. In fact, God blesses those who are poor and gives many poor people deep faith and spiritual riches.
The god of those who fear people of different racial or ethnic backgrounds is a bigot. And the list of gods created out of our human fears goes on and on. None of those gods are particularly loving or kind.
Many people want a God who will make their spiritual life really smooth and easy. They long for a comfortable, completely predictable life, without any struggles, without any growth. To have a truly comfortable life, where there is no discomfort at all, the human tendency is to avoid people who are different than we are.
And what is the problem with wanting the easy spiritual life? There is not much true spiritual freedom with the spiritually easy life. Spiritual slavery is an intellectually easy life for those who are afraid of true freedom, for those who have never really tasted freedom. There are no contradictions in life. No thinking and no spiritual discernment is required. All you have to do is follow orders, keep rules and regulations. In short, be a spiritual slave. The problem is that the easy spiritual life is not the way to the promised land.
That is not the kind of life God gives those who follow Him. The Eternal wants a better life than that for us. The Lord asks more from us than keeping special feasts. The Lord asked the children of Israel to conquer and occupy the promised land.5 And God is asking us to occupy the promised land. The path is not easy. It requires us to think, to face challenges. Because we have to live in the real world and witness to those who also live in the real world.
The irony - what seems like the harder route is the easier route. But it is only the easier route when we remember who God is. The Lord that is taking us into the promised land cannot be bought or purchased. That means our God is not fickle. The Lord is not a fair weather God. When things get tough, God sticks with us and guides us. God gives us discernment and judgment. So we can serve the Eternal through the challenges, so we can love and serve those who frighten us and so we can move into the promised land.