What's Your Golden Calf?


"We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with him, may then pour ourselves out for others." ~ Elizabeth Elliot

As we reflect on the earthly ministry of Jesus and the road he took to the cross, it is essential we remember why he had to come. Sin—our sin—is not something to be taken lightly. God certainly does not. Consider the below passage from Deuteronomy:

“Furthermore, the LORD said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people. Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’ So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain was burning with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands.

And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the LORD your God. You had made yourselves a golden calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the LORD had commanded you. So I took hold of the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes. Then I lay prostrate before the LORD as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the LORD bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me that time also. And the LORD was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him. And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time. 

Then I took the sinful thing, the calf that you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it very small, until it was as fine as dust. And I threw the dust of it into the brook that ran down from the mountain.”
(Deuteronomy 9:13–21 ESV)

All of us, without exception, have made for ourselves golden calves. Some of those calves have already been torn down and burned. Others are still standing. At times, we may find ourselves on our hands and knees attempting to refashion an old calf from the ashes. 

As we journey together as a church over these next several weeks toward the cross, let us pray together. Let us pray that God will reveal to us those golden calves in our lives to which we have become blind. Let us pray that God will give us the strength to not erect new ones. Let us praise God for the calves that have been torn down so that we might turn our affections toward Jesus and not gods of our own making. 

Now, I encourage you to prayerfully spend some time over these next few days reading and reflecting on John 14.15–31. Consider when Jesus spoke these words. He knows his betrayal is close at hand and his death on the cross is imminent. How does that impact the way you hear what Jesus is saying to his disciples? To you?

Faithful God, whose Son did not escape suffering and death
   but accepted and finally overcame them, 
      bring your disciples by the way of his cross to the joy of Easter. 
Strengthen your church to resist evil of every kind and turn from sin. 
With your mighty hand and outstretched arm, 
   uphold those enduring trials and any who know their very life is at stake. 
Be with your children who are heavy laden,
   and all who labor beneath the misuse of power by another.
Amid temptations to be successful,
   shape your children first to be faithful to your kingdom, 
      until the day when in your resurrected glory there is one life, 
         one sharing, one holy communion among all saints
            with you to whom all glory belongs forever, 
               Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

(Eucharistic Prayers. Samuel Wells & Abigail Kocher, Eerdmans, 2016.)

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