[Read Exodus 32:1-19]
Before we enthrone ourselves as judges over the Hebrews gone astray, we've got to admit we're not much different. They were products of their culture; we are products of our culture. And we are all trying to make God in our image.
I'm not white-washing their sin. Yes, they were impatient. Moses was gone for 40 days, and they thought the old geezer was dead. Yes, they were forgetful. They had witnessed miracle after miracle since leaving Egypt, but they still turned to the pagan practices that were familiar to them in Egypt. Yes, they were foolish. You gotta love Aaron who was Moses' right hand man. He smelts the gold, makes the calf, instructs the people to worship it -- and then offers Moses the lamest excuse ever heard [check out Exodus 32:22-24]. Yes, they were compromising, mixing pagan practices with their worship of God. Remember, for over 400 years, they were held captive in Egypt, so they were familiar with the Apis (the bull fertility god of grain and herds).
The LORD took them out of Egypt, but Egypt was slow to come out of them. They were products of their captive culture, and the Living God was saving them from their culture.
What God do we serve? The god of our imagination or the One True God? Did God create us in His image, or are we trying to do it the other way around?
This story got me thinking about all the times in my life when I wanted God to be what I wanted Him to be. I've attempted to re-make and re-shape God to fit my demands and wishes. It's funny how when we create gods, they look an awful lot like our desires. Created people trying to recreate the God who created them.... Odd, isn't it?
We often shape Jesus to fit our interests without even knowing it. Let me give you some examples:
The Oprah Jesus: he sits along side of the Buddha, Vishnu and other enlightened ones to lead us into generic spirituality.
The American Jesus: he comes draped in Old Glory bringing patriotic renewal, democracy, Sunday afternoon football, and white bread.
The Social Justice Jesus: he is the mascot for all our causes.
The Political Jesus: he's the champion of our preferred political party and power-over leverage.
The Dr Phil Jesus: he's the giver of advice and fixer of your problems.
The Prosperity Jesus: he came to give you everything you want.
The John Lennon Jesus: all is one, and there's no religion; just peace and ecstasy, man.
The BFF Jesus: he's just your buddy.
The Angry Nun Jesus: he walks around with a ruler ready to slap the offending hand, the champion of legalists and legalism.
You see how easy it is to make God in our own image? We do it all the time. It's no coincidence that when Moses came down the mountain carrying the Law carved onto two stone tablets, the first two laws read: 'I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt; you shall have no other gods' and 'do not make for yourselves any idols of created things' (including our own vain imaginations).
These stories remind us we are no different. We're no better; we're no worse. We attempt to re-make the Living God in the shape of our culture and personal preferences. What is God to do with people like us?
[Read Exodus 32:9-14 again]
Moses interceded on the Hebrew's behalf, and God was merciful. And Jesus intercedes on our behalf, and God is merciful. He's still working to get Egypt out of us...
The very real One True God will eventually have His way in us, and we will be forever changed by the encounter.