The Golden Calf – Our Mask

I have made a few blog posts since the Israelites had got to the bottom of the mountain (Afraid or Fear?). But this part of the Exodus story is set out with a meanwhile section. The last few posts have been part of the meanwhile where Moses is talking with GOD up the mountain, he would have been gone for some time and meanwhile the Israelites grew impatient at the bottom of the mountain. We have reached the golden calf incident, a well known part of the Israelites story.

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered round Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ Exodus 32:1

The Israelites’ plea to Aaron was to create something that they could worship. The creation of the golden calf was a blatant disobedience of what GOD had specifically said in His rules for living, better known as the 10 commandments. It was throwing command 1 and 2 out – You shall have no other gods before me and you shall not make for yourself an image to bow down to and worship.

We could stop there and think, ‘What idiots!’ but there is so much more going on. This sin, this golden calf, was actually masking the lack of relationship that the Israelites had with GOD – they created the calf because they craved a presence to worship. But it was GOD’s presence that they had rejected. How ironic! They refused to acknowledge GOD’s involvement in their freedom and ‘as for this fellow’ Moses, this GOD representative, well, he was up the mountain and out of sight. Their representation of GOD had disappeared and so had their connection with GOD. Their relationship with GOD was worked out through a person. It had been their choice to do it this way.

I know that I can be like them … and that is an ugly truth. For example, on a Sunday, I can get into the place of thinking that with the right worship band, correct worship songs, encouraging preach and good friends around me would be the ideal place that I can meet with GOD. Am I any different to the Israelites? Have I opted for a relationship with GOD based on parameters of other humans? I know that I am not the only one to feel disappointed after a Sunday service and make comment that it wasn’t quite what I needed this week. I may not have made a physical golden calf, but it certainly feels like I could be demanding one shaped the way I want it. Surely, my connection with GOD is just that: my connection. I cannot expect others to make it happen for me. I have a major part in engaging with and cultivating my relationship with Him. The only person that I go through is Jesus. I must make the decision, weekly, daily and hourly, that my relationship and intimacy with GOD is my responsibility.

The Israelites had chosen to withdraw from GOD at the foot of the mountain and now they were going to remedy their lack. Sin would not be an issue because they refused to fear GOD. If I withdraw from GOD and refuse to fear Him, sin very quickly creeps in. The only remedy really is pursuing a relationship with Him.

The Israelites wanted a presence now and they would take matters into their own hands to get it. They took the treasure that GOD had given them as they left Egypt and, in an adulterous act, created the calf to gratify themselves.

That is what sin is. It is self-gratifying. It is the slave thinking that grabs at what they want because they ‘know’ that they could not have it otherwise. It is giving into your wants. Self-gratification is the root of all sin. It was the root of the very first sin, Adam and Eve wanted to be like GOD.

We don’t know if Moses had been up the mountain 1 day or 39, but we do know that they people were waiting. They were not happy about waiting and they allowed their wants to dictate their behaviour. They wanted to be satisfied … NOW!

It is sad to think that the calf was just masking an underlying need that had not been met. They needed relationship and that is what they had rejected. Sin, in this case, the golden calf, masked unmet needs. Do you get trapped in the cycle of sin? Now is the time to investigate what the unmet need is.

I am not claiming to be perfect in any way. Sin is ugly and when we really understand the root of our sin it can be vulgar. I am grateful that it is so detestable because it helps me to want to kill it off and resolve the unmet need in the right way. I have been thinking about this post and feel quite challenged to look again at some of my habitual running places that aren’t GOD. Our world presents us with plenty of places to run to; addictions, alcohol, porn … violence, money, ambition … anger, jealousy, bitterness … self-pity, isolation, blame … gossip, comparison, self-righteousness … and many, many more. All these things will have a root in something. If all we do is stop sinning in one area, but don’t deal with the root, it will only manifest in something else. We need to understand why we run to such things for comfort in the first place.

Sin never delivers what it supposedly promises. It will never fully meet a need and will demand more of you. Jesus overcame so that we could also overcome. Our wants push us into sin, but we have been given a will that needs to be exercised and build muscle. If we exercise the muscle to fear GOD, our desire to self-gratify becomes easier to overcome.

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:12-13

The following is quoted from another source (

In the 1950′s, a scientist named Curt Richter did a series of experiments that involved putting a bunch of rats in a high-sided bucket of circulating water and timing how long it took the rats to stop swimming, give up, and sink. The average rat was only able to swim for 15 minutes. Richter then repeated the experiment but this time he rescued the rats just after they had given up swimming at the 15 minute mark. After drying the rats off and letting them rest for a few minutes, he threw them back in the bucket of water. This time the rats were able to swim for an average of 60 hours before giving up – 240 times longer than the rats who were not rescued first. Richter concluded that the second group of rats were able to swim longer because they were given hope and this hope strengthened their purpose of living. 

This shows us that we can endure more than we think. If we know that there is a chance of rescue, we can keep going far beyond the standard when there is no hope.

My words to you if you are battling to overcome the want to self-gratify, know that GOD will never let you be tempted more than you can handle and He always provides a way out. All you need to do, in the words of Dory the fish, ‘Just keep swimming!’ because He has already rescued you so you have hope.

Katy 😉



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