Psalm 106:20 says, “They traded their glorious God for a statue of a grass-eating ox!” I totally recognize we discussed this verse yesterday, but it’s so good, I wanted to share it again.
The Israelites, the chosen people of the Living God, who had just been rescued from slavery, at the first opportunity, coerce (really, it didn’t take too much coercion, they mostly just asked) Aaron to make them a statue of a golden calf to worship, which he does. They are the people He’s chosen. This is the lump of melted bling they’ve chosen.
I don’t imagine we have many golden calves in our homes, not too many statues we kneel in front of. This story is factual history, the golden calf was a real thing, but it’s also a metaphor. We are Israelites. We are afraid. We are asking where God is, will He come back, are we safe, what are we supposed to do now??? We still have golden calves, even if they’re not golden calves. So, the questions yesterday were, “What is our grass-eating ox? Where have we traded our glorious God for something much much less? Where have we set our hearts?”
Today, the question is, where has our fear deteriorated our faith, broken our state of love & trust, and led us to replace the True God with junk, just as the Israelites did in the wilderness thousands of years ago?
Maybe not junk, but certainly junk in comparison. Our work isn’t junk. Our children aren’t junk. Our spouses aren’t junk. But they don’t provide salvation, they don’t save. They don’t instill us with worth, they don’t give us the answer for the vital question we’re all asking, “Who am I?” They fade. They let us down. Statues break.
In the fish tank in front of me as I write, my son has a statue of a mechanical panther that is as awesome as any fish tank decoration you’ll ever see. I always had a No Fishing sign in my aquariums (aquaria? aquarii?) as a boy, and that was pretty awesome. This is even better. The fish swim through it, some lay along the base, the plecostomus (plecostomi?) suck on the legs, they really enjoy it. It gives texture, detail, pleasure. If it was gone, we’d all miss it a lot. When it wasn’t in there, I thought I could see longing in the gourami’s eyes. But if I reached into the water, took it out right now, and dropped on the kitchen floor, it would break. Our No Fishing signs broke from time to time. And that dumb golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai broke, too. So I ask those questions only to say, it doesn’t matter. Abraham destroyed his dad’s idols and Moses ground the calf into powder. That’s the other thing about statues (idols), they can be removed. We can throw them out with the trash – symbolically, of course. We don’t need to actually throw our kids away, leave our spouses, or quit our jobs. They make the tanks we swim in so much cooler. We simply have to throw away their position at the top of our lives. We have to strip their ability to push the buttons or dictate our value.
(I make that sound easier than it is. It’s simple, but certainly not easy.)
We can decide today, each moment, over and over or for the first time, to set them on SomeOne Who doesn’t fade, change, break, or fail. SomeOne Who can tell us who we are, and why. We can let Him love us into a new reality, where statues can be relieved of the pressure of completing us. A new reality, where our missing pieces are found and we can stop looking for them in empty holes and hollow spaces. A new reality, where we will be free.