“They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.” This verse from Psalm 106:20 jumped off the page as soon as I read it. In Psalm 106 David is recounting when God rescued the Israelites from the Egyptians. The Israelites grew impatient waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain and decided to build an image of an ox that they could worship instead of worshiping God. This raised so many questions in my mind. How? How do you get delivered from so much and then just decide you need more? Why? Why couldn’t they trust that this God who had led them by a cloud by day and fire by night wouldn’t abandon them? Why wouldn’t they wait for Him? As I thought about the Israelites I realized that I too am guilty of building my own golden calf.
Obviously, I have never built an actual golden calf to worship. No, I am much more discreet in building my idols. I build idols that are acceptable by my culture’s standards. As a Christian, I like to think that I worship God alone and that His will is always my desire. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. As I spend time with God in His word and in prayer, He reveals my idols to me. He gently shows me where I am building my own golden calf.
Tim Keller says, “What you boast in is what gives you confidence to go out and face the day. It is the thing of which you say: I am somebody because I have that. I can beat what comes against me today because I am this. What you boast in is what fundamentally defines you; it is where you draw your identity and self-worth from. It is the rallying cry of the heart.”
What I boast in, I worship. What gives me comfort and peace, I worship. Even the good things that give me joy become objects of my worship. As a parent, I admit that one of my greatest struggles is making my boys’ happiness and comfort my idol. I want playing time for them in games. I want them to be invited to the parties and never feel left out. I want them to have good grades and stand up on the bleachers at the honor roll awards night. I want them to have a group of friends that they sit with at lunch. I have to ask myself some hard questions though...will a life of ease ever cause my kids to draw near to Christ? Will a pain-free life ever help them see their need for a Savior?
I get impatient waiting for God to do things that I think He should be doing, so I start building that golden calf. I start manipulating and desperately trying to control. I realize that I am worshiping something other than God when I am completely broken over its failure. When my son is nobody’s choice, when he doesn’t get playing time in a basketball game, when a teacher has to talk to me about his behavior, or when he feels rejected at a lunch table...my devastation over these things is a glaring indicator that they have become my reason to boast.
My prayer is that my boast is in Christ. I will continue to fight to destroy that golden calf that I have destroyed and rebuilt so many times in my life. God didn’t deliver me from being enslaved by Egyptians like he did the Israelites, but He did deliver me from being a slave to my own sin and from spending an eternity in Hell. He doesn’t guide me by a cloud and fire, but He does give me His word and the Holy Spirit to direct me in His ways. I am thankful that I serve a God who doesn’t expect perfection and abandon me when I sin, but instead shows grace and mercy to me that is undeserved. So, my challenge to you is to ask yourself what your golden calf looks like. Ask God to help you identify where you are building idols and to give you His strength to destroy them.
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