Scripture Reading: Exodus 32:1-6
As human beings, we want to worship something. We desire to worship, we’re wired to worship, and we will worship. But what will we worship?
One of my missionary friends says that his definition of missions is to help people turn away from worshiping anything that was pulling them away from God, so that they could worship the One True God. It isn’t a matter of whether or not people will worship, but a matter of who or what they will worship.
Exodus 32 gives us one of the clearest pictures of this truth in the Bible.
While Moses was spending forty days and nights in the presence of God, getting the detailed plans for what God wanted them to do next, the Israelites were growing impatient down at the bottom of the mountain. They went to Moses’ right-hand man and brother, Aaron, saying,
“Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him” (Exodus 32:1b).
Now Aaron, having seen all the great signs and wonders that God had just finished doing for the people, should have naturally said something like this: “Didn’t you see that pillar of fire? That cloud of smoke? Those Egyptians smashed by the waves of the sea? What are you thinking?” But that’s not what Aaron said. He said:
“ ‘Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ … Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry” (Exodus 32:2-4, 6b).
The people grew impatient waiting for what God had in mind for them. God knew it was in their hearts to shape and fashion things out of gold. He had a blueprint in mind for them that was about to blow them away with the magnificence and awe of it, and would inspire in their hearts for impassioned worship. But instead, they chose to put their God-given skills to use in ways that took them further from God, instead of drawing them closer to Him.
I had a friend who told me about her 32-year old daughter who had decided to pursue a lesbian relationship. My friend asked me how she could continue to show love and acceptance to her daughter, without approving of the relationship. She especially wondered how she could possibly ask her daughter to give up this relationship, when it seemed like this was the first time her daughter had been happy in her entire life. What could I say?
I told her: “Your daughter may be really happy for the first time in her life. It sounds like she’s found someone who loves and accepts her. There’s nothing wrong with a loving and accepting friendship―we all need those. But it’s the sexualization of that friendship that isn’t what God wants for her. If she thinks what she has now is good, imagine what God has in store for her! God says He can do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.”
I know in my own life I was happy, having fun, and thought I was doing fine―until I put my faith in Christ. But when I started reading the Bible, I saw that God had more in store for me. What I was doing would never bring me to that point, and would probably destroy me, like it eventually destroyed the Israelites. Many of them died as a result.
Looking back on my life, the happiness I experienced then pales in comparison to what God has given me now. I was trying to meet my valid needs, but in invalid ways.
We’re all going to worship something. It’s a valid need we all have. But only by worshiping the One True God can we truly satisfy that need, for our benefit, and for His.
Want to learn more? You can watch a podcast with more discussion about this topic below.