Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Morning Psalm: 119:49-72 | Evening Psalms: 49, 53
Deuteronomy 9:13-21 | Hebrews 3:12-19 | John 2:23-3:15
As my understanding of the golden calf episode has increased over the years, so has my comprehension of the devastating effects of sin. My childhood Bible storybook depicted Hebrew revelers dancing around a huge calf three stories tall, and my literal mind marveled that the people accepted Aaron’s proclamation that “these are the gods who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (Ex 32:4), when everyone surely knew the great idol was Aaron’s recent creation. “How could the Hebrews have been so gullible,” I wondered with a childish confidence that I could never sin so greatly.
As an adult and having acknowledged the reality of my own sinful nature, I revised my youthful understanding of the shameful episode. The calf was probably smaller than my storybook image, less impressive in appearance. I still marveled that the Hebrews could claim that the powerful God who had redeemed them from Egypt was represented in the golden figure. But I had also learned my own sad tendency for going along with the crowd, and accepted that I probably would have worshiped the calf without perceiving the inherent idolatry. My sinful nature makes me as “gullible” as the newly-redeemed Hebrews.
More recently, I’ve realized the the Hebrews did not worship the calf instead of the Lord. Rather, Aaron encouraged the people to honor the tangible golden calf along with yhwh; the revelry around the calf was part of a Hebrew-devised feast to the Lord (Ex 32:5). Their idolatry was not the blatant substitution of the human-made image for the Living God, but an insidious attempt to add their own effort to the gift of God’s grace. I mourn that all too often I do the same, longing to contribute my self-righteousness to the salvation that God gives me through the Lord Jesus Christ. My prayer this Lent is that the Holy Spirit will both convict me anew of my desire to save myself and increase my thankfulness for the salvation He has worked for me.
Gracious Lord, bring us to the deepest depths, mourning like Moses each time You confront us with our sin. And then raise us again to new life in the joy of a reconciled relationship with You, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Rev. Jan Wiley Dantone (MDiv 2006, DMin Student)
Associate Rector, St. John the Divine
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