In Exodus 32 we see a very sad story. In the many, many sad stories of the idolatrous and wayward history of the people of Israel this is surely one of the most tragic. Here we see Israel just six weeks after the awesome display of God’s power in delivering them from Egypt. With that dramatic memory still burning within them, they begin to question Moses and God. In Exodus 32:1 they express wonder that Moses, who is on Mt. Sinai receiving the tables of the Law, has been gone so long. They also have seen God just recently manifest His glory and presence in the fire, smoke, thunder and quaking of the mountain. Yet, despite all this they are questioning not just Moses, but God Himself. And so they demand of Aaron, “make us a god who will go before us!”
So what did poor, foolish Aaron do? He bowed to the will of crowd. He made them an idol, a golden calf. And when they saw it, they declared “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Wait a minute… THIS is your god? Yes. They said that this golden calf, this idol made by men’s hands, is nothing less than Jehovah God Himself. They declared that this image was the Lord God, their Deliverer and Savior.
The word used for “god” here is Elohim. This is a common word for the Lord in the Old Testament. It is in the plural, and in the correct context may be rendered as “gods.” You will notice that many translations render it as “gods” in this passage. However, it is evident from this context that the Israelites were not making “gods,” rather they were making a “god,” just one idol. And they said that this was “the god” who had brought them out of Egypt (32:4, 8). Further, when Aaron saw the response of the people, he proclaimed a feast, a worship celebration for Jehovah/Yahweh (32:5). The evidence is clear—they called this idol by the name of the Lord God, Yahweh Elohim. But just because you call an idol “Elohim” or “God” does not make it really God.
How utterly sad! And yet, are we any different today? How many times do we hear the strident voices of the ecclesiastical world proclaiming to us, “This is your god!”—when it is not God at all. There are so many, far too many, instances of a false god, an idol, being promoted as the God of Christianity. And in reality it is only an image, somebody’s imagined perception of the deity. And just because you call your false deity “God” or “the Lord” does not make it really God.
Consider some examples of what I am saying:
• “God is love and He never judges or punishes sin.” … THIS is your god!
• “God loves all people, therefore he accepts and approves all lifestyles.” … THIS is your god!
• “God would never send anybody to hell. Therefore hell can’t be real.” …THIS is your god!
• “God is cruel and harsh. He delights in punishing sinners.” …THIS is your god!
• “If you suffer, it is because you have sinned. God is punishing you.” … THIS is your god!
• “God wants His children to be wealthy and healthy. So if you are in need, it is your own fault. You have a lack of faith.” … THIS is your god!
• “I don’t believe God is all that concerned about doctrine. God does not require absolutes.” … THIS is your god!
• “It doesn’t matter what you call Him—God, Allah, Krishna, whatever—they are all different names for the same God.” … THIS is your god!
• “I don’t need God. I am okay on my own. I can take care of myself.” …THIS is your god!
• “A little sin is okay. God is not really that strict about morality.” … THIS is your god!
• “You’ve sinned. So just give up. God sees you as a total failure.” … THIS is your god!
• “You can get to heaven without being a Christian. Jesus is just one of many ways.” … THIS is your god!
• “Just so you try hard, that’s all it takes to get to heaven. God doesn’t expect perfection.” …THIS is your god!
• “You can’t call Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses or other such groups ‘cults.’ That is not being kind. We are all Christians.” … THIS is your god!
• “Just so you love Jesus, it doesn’t matter what you believe about Him.” …THIS is your god!
• “Nobody understands the Trinity anyway. Why would we have to believe in something we can’t understand.” … THIS is your god!
• “There are many paths to God. There are many roads to heaven.” … THIS is your god!
And the list could go on and on. In the spiritual climate we live in today, we could spend quite a long time cataloging all the false gods that people worship. And sad to say, so utterly sad, is that far too many people are sitting in church pews on Sunday mornings thinking they are good Christians, but in their hearts they are worshipping a golden calf. They are bowing to an idol which they think of as the true God of the Christian faith.
In our clamoring to be like the world (see Ezekiel 20:32), to be accepted by the world, we have rejected the true God for a host of golden calves. We have set up a false god and thought to ourselves that we are okay—because we have said, “This is my God. This is Elohim, the true God.” But it is not. It is an idol. It is a false image. It is a replacement for God. Remember, just because you call your false deity “God” or “the Lord” does not make it really God. (See Jeremiah 2:11-13.)
Is there hope for us today? Is there hope for America? For the West? Yes. But it is found in one thing, and one thing only. If we return to the God of our Fathers, the true God of the Bible, then we may yet see God turn things around. If not… then I fear for our land.