“A big Heap of Bull”
Exodus 32: 1-14
A Christian fellow, who had previously been a devout Hindu inIndia, reflects on his former religion at a time when he decided his Hinduism would lead him to worship his cow. Cows are sacred inIndia. They are gods allowed to roam the streets, enter houses, and to eat them would be a crime of sacrilege.
The Hindu honoured his cow; however, he began to question his faith when this god of his charged him. The consecrated cow, became a beast of burden, thinking nothing of the honour the Hindu had given him.
I’d suspect it would make you wonder, what you’d done wrong, after giving much homage to the cow. Yet all you get in return is wild-eyed rampage coming at you to gore you for your trouble.
Perhaps one should have fell prostrate seeking mercy from the cantankerous cow, but I must admit I’ve never witnessed too many farming folk from around these placed bowing low in the dust and filth of a cattle yard to earn the favour of a snotty animal that’s just been seared with a branding iron. No. The wise thing to do is let the adrenaline take over in super-human style and leap the impossible fence in a single bound.
So the blessed bovine became a beast of burden. The Hindu knew his god of wrath was no god at all and after some time circumstances brought him before the God of creation and his Son, Jesus Christ. In time he believed and he became a Christian.
This might seem like nonsense — worshipping a cow, not being able to eat them, believing they have divine powers. One might say it’s foolish or just a big heap of bull!
But humans have been burying themselves in it from ancient times up until the present. The Israelites having been led out ofEgyptwith much power and supremacy by God himself, now sit in wait for Moses who had disappeared upMount Sinai.
While Moses is before God, hearing what was to be put in place so God could have a personal relationship with the Israelites through the giving of the ten commandments and instructions for building a tabernacle — a footstool for God on earth, the Israelites put there own building plan into action. They built themselves an image and declare it to be God’s representative. What was taking time and preparation between God and Moses on the mountain was contrasted by the immediate rush down below for Aaron to dream up a golden image to take the place of an infinite God.
For us this too might seem like a load of bull. They built an image of a calf, and covered with their gold. It was a personal creation of the people, but it was impersonal — unable to speak, see, or act. It could do nothing unlike the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who had done everything for them in the past.
However, the people had waited quite a while for Moses. They must have wondered if he was returning. The Israelite failed to see it was not Moses who brought them up out ofEgypt, but rather it was God using Moses as his mouthpiece and mediator.
But why a golden calf? What has a cow got to do with God? Why did they make an image of a young bull as God’s representative on earth?
The Egyptians and Canaanites saw the bull as an object of fertility and power and worshipped it as a representative of the sky or storm gods. The Israelites had just recently leftGoshenwhere they would have been accustomed to this style of worship.
Bulls in ancient times were seen as the kings of domesticated animals, just as eagles were the kings of the birds, lions were kings of the wild animals, and the cedars of Lebanon were the kings of the trees.
So God seemed to have become even more distant, now that there leader, Moses, had not been seen for some time. He had disappeared in the glory cloud of thunder and lightning on the mountain. Therefore a bull would have seemed a fitting image of God who was hidden in the Sinai storm of fire and smoke with such power and might.
But we know that the whole exercise was a load of bull. The glory of God and his personal relationship with the people ofIsraelwas exchanged for an impersonal idol. In fact they acted disobediently before God, who had commanded them not to make graven images out of gold or silver. They turned from the person of God Almighty to their own personal thoughts and created a god. They sinned against the Creator and became creators themselves and after they made their impotent god of gold, their self-glory sat them down in revelry against God.
Worshipping living cows or golden calves might seem to us like a big load of bull. However, you and I too struggle with self-glorification. All of us create sacred cows in our lives and bow down to them. We do it wittingly and unwittingly, making gods of the created, and placing them above the Creator.
The problem is that when we create these gods for ourselves, it’s just not they that are the gods. We worship them before God, placing our faith in them, because they have come from our own power. In fact, it is you and I who make ourselves god, when we place other things before God Almighty. In reality, we distant ourselves from the One True God with a pantheon of pseudo gods. We busy ourselves in service to them, so we don’t have to face the reality of our sinful nature before God Almighty.
These gods in our lives are very impersonal. They take away our identity, further destroying the image of God which was originally intended for you and for me. Like the Hindu’s cow god, the gods we create end up charging us, becoming beasts of burden. They kill rather than give life. Like the golden calf our impersonal gods serve us by being a dead weight around our necks, dragging us down into darkness.
Before we exchange the glory of God for our ideas about God we do well to remember the idolatry of the Israelites and the Hindu cow worshipper, was, and still is, a big heap of bull. Before we seek to implement our own ideas of what worship is all about, perhaps we need to hear and study the word of God, and hear what God has put in place for us.
The glory of God is the God who saves us. The glory of God is he who names our sin, calls it to account so he might forgive it, so we might live in peace with him. The glory of God is he who feeds us with his Holy Word and embodies that word of peace and forgiveness in us through the bread and the wine, so we might bear the glory of God before the world showing that our own created false gods and idols are a big heap of bull. The Glory of God is Jesus Christ alone; who served us by bearing our sin on the cross; and continues to serve us in his resurrected glory.
And that’s no bull! Amen.