I want to draw your attention to the profound wittiness that is present in the narrative of the Golden Calf incident. The tale is familiar enough. The people grow restless as Moses meets with Yahweh atop Sinai. They insist on Aaron making them a god. He complies with their request, fashioning a Golden Calf out of the plunder which they’d gotten as they left Egypt.
But how the text (Ex. 32) describes these idolators is what I want to note. The people stoop down to eat and drink. They spring up to frolic. God calls them stiff-necked, we might say bullheaded. The language paints them as straying, running wild, quickly spooked, needing to be corralled. As one commentator, who first drew my attention to this, said, “[they are portrayed] as wild calves […] because they transformed into the very object of their worship.”
Here in vivid narrative is the truth of the proverbial saying: you become like what you worship. Worship isn’t an optional add on to the life of humans. It’s why we were made. It’s hardwired into our system. God made us to worship Him, and by worshipping Him we most truly bear His image. To be human is to imitate and image forth God our Creator.
If you determine to worship anything else, you are also bound to the imitation of that thing. If you serve a golden calf, you become like a wild ox. This is why the self-absorption of our age is so very destructive. If you become like what you worship, what happens when you worship a powerless and depraved creature in rebellion to his Creator? You get a human deteriorating into themselves. It’s moral radioactive decay. The only remedy for such a moral implosion is to repent and worship God alone according to His Word.
Prayer of Confession
You are great and marvelous, and Your splendor is past finding out. You have made us for Yourself, and in our worship of You we find our soul’s true rest, our soul’s true purpose. Yet, mankind has rebelled against this duty of rendering worship to You alone. He has exalted himself, and thus been doomed to a fate of the inward spiral of self-referential worship and imitation. Forgive us, who profess to be Your people, for not rendering unto You the worship that is Your due, and have mercy upon us for where we have gone after other gods who are not true gods. Where we have exalted ourselves in vanity and self-absorption, pardon our iniquities. For we greatly desire to display Your glory to all the world, in and through our faithful worship of You alone. Grant us strength to cast down all idols, and bestow unto us the blessedness of bearing Your image which comes through right worship of You, the One True God.
You have called Your church to truth in the inward parts, so we now confess our individual sins to You. Selah.
We do this in Jesus’ mighty name, and Amen.