Golden Calf Goof-Off
by Sophia Prinsloo with Barbara Wilmerton Haas
Text Version | Afrikaans
Just before leaving for the church conference, all dressed up and looking spiffy, Dad told the kids, "Ariana, you are in charge. Boys, be good, behave yourselves and listen to your sister!"
"Ariana, remember there's food in the refrigerator and snacks on the table for everybody!" Mom told Ariana as she looked in the mirror one last time, putting a loose hair in place. She turned around and gave Ariana, Billy, Clive and Dean a hug and a kiss and promised, "If you behave while we are away, we can bake your favorite chocolate cake tomorrow!"
The kids watched through the window as they drove off. At first, they kept themselves busy with video games, and watching cartoons, eating the snacks and food their mom left for them, but by the afternoon, the boys got really bored. "Ariana, please! We can't wait until tomorrow for that chocolate cake. You have helped Mom bake one before. Come on! Bake us one! Please, please, bake us one!"
At first, Ariana refused, but the boys were so insistent, getting naughtier by the minute, that she agreed. "Okay, let's bake a chocolate cake, but you must help me."
She got out the recipe book, a bowl, and measuring cups and spoons. "Billy, measure 1¾ cups of flower into the bowl. Clive, you add 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1 teaspoon of baking soda."
"Baking what?" Clive asked.
"Baking soda," Ariana repeated as she handed it over to him.
"Dean, you add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Billy, now add 1½ cups of sugar and ½ cup of cocoa. Dean, get the eggs. We need two."
In his excitement of getting the eggs, Dean tripped, bumping into Billy and smashing the eggs against his chest. Before Ariana could do or say anything, Billy, with clear and yellow goo dripping from his shirt, grabbed another egg and smashed it on Dean's head, splashing goo onto Clive as well. Clive grabbed flour in both hands and threw it at his brothers. The flour fight was on!
Ariana tried in vain to stop them, so she quickly added the cooking oil and buttermilk, mixed them, poured the batter into a cake pan and put it in the hot oven. Grabbing two of the boys to try and stop them, she unfortunately got covered with flour as well. They looked so funny with white stuff all over them, and started laughing so hard at one another that they did not hear the door opening.
TROUBLE! Mom and Dad were back! Mom almost fainted when she saw the kitchen in a mess, and Dad was furious. Their punishment was not going to be soft and they would also be grounded for a month. The cake Ariana put in the oven didn't come out right and Mom, teaching them the consequences of having your own way, forced them to each eat a piece. YUCK! Billy had put in salt instead of sugar!
That day, after cleaning up the kitchen, cleaning up themselves and asking for forgiveness, Mom read them a Bible story.
Do you remember how after the Lord gave the Ten Commandments to Moses in the presence of all the Israelites, they were so afraid of hearing the voice of God that they begged Moses to go speak to the Lord alone? That's when Moses disappeared into the deep darkness of the cloud where the Lord was. There, the Lord gave Moses more rules for the people to live by. Moses wrote it all down in a special book called the "Book of the Covenant."
Then the Lord told Moses to go down to the people and invite 70 elders to come and dine with Him on Mount Sinai. "Wow! That would be something special," Moses thought excitedly. Obediently, Moses carefully went down the slippery slopes back to the people, arriving at the camp just before dusk.
Early the next morning, Moses gathered together all the people. They watched patiently as he built an altar with twelve pillars around it. Why twelve pillars? Well, there was one pillar for each tribe. He also told a couple of young men to sacrifice two calves. Then Moses did something weird. He took half the blood from the sacrifice and sprinkled it on the altar. Then he read the rules of the Book of the Covenant to the people. They listened carefully, gladly accepting all the rules and said, "We'll obey everything the Lord says."
As a sign of the seriousness of this blood covenant, Moses took the other half of the blood and threw it towards the Israelites. In those days, this meant that the Covenant was now binding to both God and the people, but it also was a symbol of the blood of Jesus that would reconcile us to God many years later.
Then, wearing their best clothes, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy of the elders of Israel went up the mountain to seal their Covenant with the Lord with a meal. Nobody else was allowed to go with them. As they climbed, they were met by the smell of delicious relishes, causing hunger pangs to urge them on. Half-way up the mountain, they came across a table set for them in the most spectacular manner. But it wasn't the table with food that caught their attention. There, beholding with their own eyes, was the footstool of the Lord, a pavement of brilliant, blue sapphire stones, as clear as the heavens themselves. They stood in awe, drinking in the glorious presence of the Lord. Yet, although they saw a glimpse of God's glory, He did not destroy them, but they enjoyed eating and drinking his presence.
After the delicious meal, God called Moses even further upward and said, "Come up to Me and I will give you tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments I have written with my own finger and also the law, that you may teach it to the people.
Moses told Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the 70 elders, "Stay here while I go up the mountain. If any of you have questions, ask Aaron. He is in charge."
So Moses and his assistant, Joshua, went up the mountain, disappearing in the cloud cover at the top for six days. On the seventh day, the Lord called out to Moses from the cloud. From down below, the Israelites saw the awesome display of the glory of the Lord, glowing like a raging fire. There, the Lord gave Moses the plans for building the Tabernacle, a large tent set apart for worshipping God. There were so many details in the plans for the Tabernacle and its contents that Moses had to stay in God's presence for 40 days in order to write them all down.
In the meantime, Moses and the elders went down to the camp. The Israelites waited for a few days for Moses to return, peeking up the mountain, careful not to set a foot across the boundaries Moses had set up. "What can the Lord possibly be telling Moses up there?" they wondered. "Is he ever coming back? When are we going to the Promised Land?"
As the days and then weeks went by, the people became more and more restless and impatient. They complained among one another: "That fellow, Moses! He could have at least sent Joshua down with a message. Why is he gone for so long? Maybe he saw God face to face and died? We aren't even allowed to go up the mountain to search for his body because then we'll also die."
More days went by and their unbelief and impatience got the better of them. They began to worry that God wouldn't take care of them, so they imagined silly ideas of what God was like and what He wanted them to do. Thinking they were very wise, they actually became fools and forgot all about the great miracles the Lord had performed for their sake, as well as their promise to obey the Ten Commandments and the Book of the Covenant. Instead of trusting the glorious, eternal, almighty God, they came to Aaron in a huge, unruly crowd and said, "Something must have happened to this fellow Moses who made us leave Egypt and spoke to the Lord. We believe he is dead and not coming back, leaving you in charge. This desert is getting to us and we need to get out of here. We need other gods to lead us out. So, MAKE US A GOD!"
Poor Aaron! He was hoping his brother Moses would come back sooner rather than later, but the Israelites were uptight and insistent, so he felt, in order to keep peace, he had to make a decision. "Give me your golden earrings!" Aaron demanded.
The people were just too happy to pull off the earrings from their wives and daughters and bring them to Aaron! "Finally!" they thought to themselves. "Now, we are going to get a god to our liking!"
Aaron took the golden earrings and jewelry and melted them in a big fire, making the metal soft and pliable. With sweat dripping from his brow because of the hot metal and the fire, he then used a tool to form the molten gold into the image of a calf.
When the Israelites saw this golden calf, they foolishly said, "Look, o Israel! This golden calf is the god who led us out of Egypt!"
They were so blinded by unbelief in the Lord, the REAL God, that they not only forgot the First Commandment God had given them, but also the Second and Third Commandments. Can you remember what the First, Second and Third Commandments were?
When Aaron saw how glad the people were about the silly, golden calf, he built an altar in front of it and announced with a thundering voice, "Tomorrow, we'll have a feast to the Lord!"
The Israelites were up early the next morning. They offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to the lifeless, man-made, calf idol, breaking their covenant with God not to serve other gods, not to make images and bow to them, and not to use his Name in vain. Then they sat down to eat and drink, and when they had their fill, they stood up and began to dance in a wild party, goofing around, casting their morals aside. They had lost respect for the Lord their REAL God, breaking the Seventh and the Tenth Commandments as well.
The Lord knew exactly what was going on in the Israelite camp. He said, "Moses, you must go down quickly because YOUR people are breaking the Covenant between us. They used the gold of the Egyptians I gave them to make a golden calf and are, at this very moment, worshipping it, claiming it delivered them from Egypt! I AM so angry about their stubbornness! Let Me rather kill them all and make YOU a great nation!" God was so angry, He would not even call them his people.
Moses was shocked! "No, Lord! Please, have mercy on them! What will the Egyptians say when they hear that You killed them in the desert and wiped them from the face of the earth? They will say You are spiteful! Rather, keep your promise to Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob that You will make them a great nation and give them the Promised Land!"
The Lord listened to Moses, felt sorry for the Israelites, and decided not to kill them, but to have mercy upon them.
Determined to sort out the misbehaving Israelites, Moses immediately got up and began descending the mountain. His knuckles were white from clenching the tablets of stone in his hands as he and Joshua came closer and closer to the camp. From a distance, they heard a tumult.
Joshua, also being the Captain of the Israelite army, worriedly exclaimed, "It sounds like battle cries!"
"No," Moses replied, his voice almost breaking from anger that was building up in his chest. "It is the sound of singing and partying!"
As they came close enough to get a glimpse of what was going on in the camp, they were horrified at what they saw. People were dancing wildly around a golden calf, shining in the sun. With boisterous singing and clapping of hands, they were worshipping a lifeless idol that could neither see, nor hear, nor speak, nor smell, nor feel, nor do anything. Some people even ran around without a scrap of clothing covering their naked hides. What a goof-off!
Shocked and wary of enemy spies, Joshua looked up into the nearby hills and said, "The people are goofing around are making fools of us AND of the Lord our God in front of our enemies. They'll laugh at us and think we are just as foolish as they."
Moses was disgusted, because the Commandments and laws of the Lord were supposed to be written on these people's hearts! They had promised to obey! With his anger finally boiling over, he took the two tablets of stone and threw them down so hard against a rock at the foot of the mountain that they shattered into pieces. The tablets were now just as broken as their relationship with the Lord.
Grabbing the golden calf, Moses threw it into the fire where it melted. When the metal cooled down, he took it, and ground it into powder and threw it into their drinking water, forcing the Israelites to drink it so that they would know that the golden image was useless, worthless, powerless and completely destroyed.
Still upset, Moses interrogated Aaron, who was in charge while he was away. "What have you done? What were you thinking? How could you use the jewelry the Lord provided for them to construct a useless idol? What did these people do to you? Why did you let them sin like this?"
Aaron was perplexed. "Please don't be so upset with me. You know this wicked people. They thought something happened to you and that you were not coming back, so they told me to make them a god. I told them to bring me their earrings, which they did. Then I threw them all in the fire and . . . uh . . . out jumped this golden calf."
When he saw the people had been committing adultery, cheating on their spouses to the amusement of their enemies, without Aaron trying to stop them, Moses stood at the camp entrance and shouted, "All of you who are on the Lord's side, come over here and join me!"
All the Levites who were loyal to the Lord came, and he told them, "The Lord God of Israel commands you to take your swords, go through the whole camp and kill every one of your brothers, and friends and neighbors caught in the act of calf worship."
The sons of Levi obeyed and killed about 3,000 guilty men. Sin always has deadly consequences! Then Moses told them, "Because you show your loyalty to the Lord, obeying Him by killing even your sons and your brothers, you have ordained yourselves for the service of the Lord and He will give you a great blessing."
The next day, Moses went up the mountain again, this time to plead the Lord's forgiveness for the people's great sin against Him. He said, "Oh, Lord! Please forgive their sin, or blot me out of the book You have written."
The Lord replied, "The one who sins, he will be blotted out of my book, and I will punish the guilty ones in the day of my punishment." A while later, the Lord did punish them by sending a plague upon the people because they had worshipped the calf Aaron made. But the Lord was also mercifully faithful, commanding Moses, "Now, go back to the people and lead them to the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey."
Praise the Lord for his mercy!
Always choose to obey Jesus, even if He sometimes may seem far away, because serving self or anything else but God always leads to destruction in the end.
1. What was the name of the book Moses read to the people?
2. How many elders went with Moses, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu to dine in the presence of the Lord?
3. How many days was Moses on the mountain with God?
4. Why did the people want another god?
5. How did Aaron make the golden calf idol?
6. Can you think of other kinds of idols we can have?
7. Do you think toys, money, food, drugs or alcohol can be idols?
8. How is that bad for us?
VERSE TO LEARN:
"For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matthew 4:10b).
ALTERNATE VERSE TO LEARN:
"And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him" (Luke 9:35).
Heavenly Father, forgive us where we wanted our own way
and not yours. Help us to always choose to obey You and to
know that You are near and You see everything we do,
or say or feel. Make us faithful servants of yours.
In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.
CAN YOU FIND THIS STORY IN THE BIBLE?
Exodus 24:1-18; 32:1-35
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