Exchanging for Self-Righteousness (Exodus 31:1-20)

Golden Calf

“These are your gods who led you out of Egypt.”   Ex 32:4

The freed slaves from Egypt panic when Moses is gone too long for their liking. They become uncomfortable and unstable. They demand Aaron do something to soothe them. They demand Aaron give them an understanding on their terms of the the LORD who redeemed them out of Egypt.

We are always trying to co-opt what the LORD wills to what we will, to what we want. The LORD who redeems unvalued slaves to become his holy nation of priests bearing his image in their lives. They instead want to revert to a demanding god who expects them to earn their value.

They want a god they can buy off. Buy off with their gold, with their offerings, with their effort. They do not want to be obligated to the LORD who loves them unconditionally. They want conditions.

The Christian faith’s greatest threat is not external persecution but internal heresy. As recently published research shows, so many “Christians” doubt the God who meets them in the Scripture. “A mere one out of three (34%) who have a biblical view of God also believe that He is involved in their life.” (1)  So many American Christians want the LORD to stay at arms length from them.

Truth is, we just don’t know what to do with a God who loves us without invitation, without condition, and without limitations.

“Your people have acted perversely; I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are.”   Ex 32:7, 9

The whole purpose of the wandering in the desert is to give the people the necessary time for spiritual transformation. They cannot and do not want to deal with it. They want to live on their terms.

We always fail to remember that our terms are constantly, incessantly tainted by sin. Sin infests our entire lives.

So what is the perversion and rebellious nature of these golden calf dancers? To reject the LORD of grace to insist on a god of works and self-righteousness. A god that has to be appeased so we can boast in our efforts.

“It is the sound of revelers that I hear.”  Ex 32:18

In rejecting the LORD of unmerited grace, they want a god they can buy off to they can be released to do what they want.  To be released from grace releases us to bargain with the gods so we can revel in what we desire.

What we revel in looks different for different groups, but at its core is a self-righteousness, a self-importance that puts us riding and steering that golden calf. Our world is awash in self-righteousness. This self-righteousness reveals itself in every gloating post about how wonderful my perspective is and how evil and wicked those who don’t tow my line are.

He made the Israelites drink it.  Ex 32:20

We are the ones who suffer when we exchange the grace and glory of the immortal LORD for for idols of this mortal world. The LORD desires us to turn to him and trust him. To trust him even in the midst of uncertainty. To trust his love and forgiveness even though we feel unworthy.

The revelry around the golden calf is a caution not to exchange the truth of God for a lie. (Romans 1:21-25)


(1)  Americans increasingly redefine and reject biblical view of God, new Barna research shows  by Adam Ford · Apr 26th, 2020

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