Golden Calves

golden calves 2

So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people, “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!” (1 Kings 12:28)

Read: 1 Kings 12:20 – 13:34, Acts 9:26-43, Psalm 132:1-18, Proverbs 17:6

Relate: When Moses went up the mountain to speak with God, the people grew restless. “Where did he go?” They asked. “Is he still alive up there? All that thunder and fire and… God. Has he been consumed?” Well, no, but he did start glowing a bit. Either way, while he was spending forty days in the presence of God, the crowds got stir crazy and Aaron had to make a decision. Will he try and keep them calm for a while longer or should he take matters into his own hands? He must have had the same doubts and questions they did. He didn’t know how much longer Moses would be up there either. He also didn’t know if Moses was still alive. The manifest presence of God was still very clear on that mountaintop but was Moses still up there as well? This was completely new territory for him.

Aaron made the wrong choice and decided to take matters into his own hands. I firmly believe his heart was in the right place. He wanted to give focus and direction not just to the people but also to their worship. Little did he know that God was doing the same thing with Moses topside. While God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments, Aaron was giving the people a golden calf. He wasn’t intending to make an idol. He was intending to focus the people’s worship on God. I believe this because of what he said once that calf was made. He told the people, “This is your god who brought you out of Egypt. Tomorrow there will be a festival unto the LORD.” Yes, Lord is all in caps. For those unaware, whenever that happens in the Old Testament, it is replacing the word YHWH because the copyists did not feel worthy of writing God’s name. Aaron called his idol, “YHWH”.

Jeroboam didn’t bother. He doubled down on the idolatry, but he cut out the good intentions. The first king of the Northern Kingdom quotes the first half of what Aaron said exactly, “This is your god who brought you out of Egypt.” But he doesn’t follow up the quote with Aaron’s next words. YHWH was the god of the Southern Kingdom. We are a new country. It is time to worship a new god. He set the precedent for political reasons, but virtually every other king who came after him followed him in this. In the south, sometimes there were good kings, some times evil. In the northern kingdom, every last one of the kings was evil. I wonder if he realized if what he was doing for political expedience would pave the way for centuries of evil. I wonder if Aaron realized that the example he set with one bad decision made in a moment of doubt would have such far reaching consequences.

React: I have no idea what things I say and do that will have a lasting impact. There could be little things I say or do with little thought involved that will create ripples that will echo in eternity. There could also be what I believe are momentous decisions at the time of their making which make absolutely no change in the annals of history. I cannot see the future. None of us can. Will an act of compromise committed in a moment of convenience one day become a highway of sin? Will a good word or decision made with little thought end up shaping the character of someone watching who will some day lead nations? How many good deeds and charitable acts were inspired because of the “widow’s mite”? Every decision we make, every word we speak, every step we take, carries with it eternal potential. How will we use it?


God, as much as I would like to make the right decision every moment of every day, sometimes I don’t. As much as I would like to always say exactly the right thing every single time I open my mouth, sometimes I fail. Sometimes it feels like usually that I am failing. Forgive me. For those times I have poorly represented You, I am sorry. Far more than just forgiving me, I pray that You would remove the impact those poor choices might have on others. I pray that the only things that would create lasting ripples through time would be those things which would bring glory to Your name. I give You my life, again. Let it be used for Your Kingdom.

15 thoughts on “Golden Calves

  1. I remember just how weird it was to look up at the gym’s TV which someone had put on the financial news channel and see a big gold bull behind a guy who was bragging on his knowledge of trading stocks. I had just read randomly about Aaron and the golden calf that day. Doesn’t anyone make this connection?

  2. It is immensely difficult to believe how evil the kings of Israel were. However they were no worse than their subjects. The idol worship combined with sexual orgies are beyond belief. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah.
    well put fellow traveler!

    • Thank you except for the fact none of the prophets you mentioned were prophets to the nation of Israel. Jeremiah was in Judah immediately before the exile. Ezekiel was a prophet to the Hebrews in exile, and Zechariah was born in Babylon and returned during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. All were peophets long after the nation of Israel ceased to exist.

      • The term Israel also refers to the people who where under the first covenant of God and Moses. The term ‘nation’ can be so used as well; for example ‘the Apache nation’ is a commonly used term, but it has no firm concept of physical boundaries or ‘federal government’ in the sense of the United States.

  3. This is my first visit to your blog. Thank you for sharing thoughtful reflections on Scripture.
    Many blessing!

  4. We might remember that ‘golden calves’ are not always physical representations. Aside from the ‘conventional’ idols of money, fame and sexual activity, the ‘golden calf’ of ‘good works’ while ignoring Jesus’ directions about seeking Him is very seductive.

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