by Scott Regener
The children are working their way through the Old Testament in Sunday School, and just this month we came upon the famous story of the golden calf. If you recall, Moses went up on a mountain and was hidden from the view of the Israelite camp by a cloud for forty days while God delivered the first tablet, just a few thousand years before Apple delivered theirs. Before long, the Israelites turned on Aaron and demanded that he make them a god to worship. If Eve’s explanation of the serpent’s deception stands out as funny, how much more Aaron’s explanation of what happened when Moses asked what happened: “’So they gave [their gold] to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”
Marshall McLuhan famously said that the medium is the message. What he meant is that the way a message is communicated changes how it is received. Television distanced the viewer from what was shown, encouraging a certain dispassionate stance where the viewer could serve as judge and jury based solely on what they were able to see on the screen. Daytime television exploited this judgment tendency to perfection. And now Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media take this one step further, including buttons for us to judge someone’s ideas without even needing to take a moment to ponder. Popularity is measured by likes, subscriptions, or even LOLs. It is tempting to open up our Bibles and click “Like” on Moses and give a big thumbs-up to Jesus, and then frown upon the Israelites for their many failings.
The truth, however, is that the Israelites in the Old Testament show us just how far we will go from God if given even half a chance. Consider how recently the Israelites had seen how mighty God was – delivering them from Egypt, leading them across a barren land, all the while providing them food and water when they needed it. Yet hide their human leader from their view for just a moment, and they looked around and saw where how bleak their surroundings and decided they needed gods to deliver them. In truth, they idolized Moses and worshipped and served him rather than the God who saved them.
Before we move on from those Israelites and their failures, though, we need to take a moment and look at our own hearts and those who lead us today. Megachurches rise and fall on the abilities of their leaders. Dozens of preachers can be heard every single day on radio and television, some of whom number their listeners in the millions. When we cannot see God’s hand in front of us, how quickly do we turn aside and ask these human leaders to provide us the answers we seek? When we think about our own lives and realize just how far short we fall, how quickly do we look to the men who lead our church and expect that they will do their job to perfection, rather than seeing them as sinners in need of grace like us all? When we cannot see God, do we look for someone with the answers we need?
That Moses guy the Israelites followed? He was a murderer. He married someone outside the Israelite nation, a Midianite. And when God asked him to lead the people, he said, “Oh my Lord! Please send someone else!” His patience with the people of Israel would eventually run out and, in a moment, he threw away his chance of going to the promised land. The man whose face literally shone from the glory of God was not perfect, and even he forgot the God with whom he met. Let us resolve not to worship men or idols or anything but the God of the Bible. Let us remind ourselves and each other every day that no one should ever take his place in our hearts.