“[Moses] said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘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.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”” – Exodus 32:21-24
“No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” – Luke 16:13
“Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind! Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch!” – Allen Ginsberg: “Howl”
We look at this verse in Exodus today and we wonder, how could Aaron and the Israelites have been so stupid?! Here their leader is on a mountain top talking with the God of the Universe, and in no time at all they have created an imitation god in the form of a golden calf. We also have to wonder, how stupid did they think Moses to be? Was he truly to believe that they threw their gold into the fire and miraculously this calf jumped out? Yes, surely these people were primitive nomads who lacked the sophistication that we hold today…surely.
I’m afraid that when we look at these verses we do not have the luxury of chronological egotism. I’m afraid that we too have lost our faith in the God of the Universe. We have not carved a golden calf to worship. We have formed a tower of gold bars. But we bow down and worship that tower with every bit as much shameless awe, and arrogant devotion as the Isralites did with their golden calf. We have created a false god to go before us. We have created a deaf, dumb, and blind god whose only worth is the worth we ascribe to it. Now, when faced with an economic crisis, we are crushed when our god turns out to be the lump of cold metal that it always was.
When the people of God become dependent on their own abilities and their own fleeting sense of security, perhaps God chooses then to lead them into the wilderness. Maybe this wilderness is not a punishment, but a wake up call. Maybe this wilderness is the only place in which we can truly commune with God Almighty. Maybe, just maybe, it is in the dark, beneath a blanket of stars, listening to the crackle of a campfire, in a communal relationship with those around us, that we can finally be the children of God, dependent on Him for all that we have.
I’ll leave this topic for now with a song that sums this up better than I can. Here’s Bob Dylan’s “Gotta’ Serve Somebody”…