When we think of different types of human sin, we often take our minds to the most gruesome of acts in order to declare what sins are the worst of the worst. But, as we get to know the Lord in his word, we will find that some sins that may look small to the modern man are actually huge human rebellion against the Lord.
Exodus 32:4-5 – 4 And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.”
Picture the scene. Israel is at Mount Sinai. Moses is up on the mountain top getting the tablets of the law establishing the covenant between God and Israel. And as Moses is away from the camp, the people get restless. They decide that God is taking too long. And so they take action.
Aaron, the priest and Moses’ brother, gets gold from the people. He has an idol fashioned. And then, in perhaps the ugliest moment of all, he declares that idol to be the LORD, the God who led them up out of Egypt. The God who declared in the Ten Commandments that the nation was not to fashion any idol, he is the one whose name they are stealing to credit a golden calf for getting them out of Egypt.
This is an example of the kind of sin that stirs God’s wrath in a major way. This is the kind of sin that moved God to threaten to wipe out the entire nation and start over with Moses, though the lord did not do so—nor did he really plan to do so. This is a major problem.
And since we do not fashion statues to worship in our own lives, we may think we are fine, safe from making that mistake. But I wonder how often we walk dangerously close to calling something by the name of God when it is not God. I wonder how often we do things in our own way and then try to say they are the actions of the Lord. I wonder how often we do things that dishonor God, serve ourselves, focus us in the opposite direction of our Creator, and then declare our acts divine.
You may say we do not do such things, but think carefully. If your life is not governed by the word of God, you will run the risk of making up a law of your own, christening that law as righteous, and then assuming that your standards are the standards of God. If you make up your own laws apart from the revelation of God, you are most likely to end up like Israel, dancing around the golden calf of your own self-image and home-made morals. When we think that we have the ability, apart from the Lord, to make determinations as to what pleases the Lord, we are much like the people who threw their jewels in the fire and then bowed down to the shape that came out.
It is a very dangerous, very deadly thing to declare something to be God that is not God. It is dangerous to make up our own rules and then use the name of God to establish them. Our standards must be those of the Lord. Our way to know God and his ways is the word of God. We must be a people submitted to the word of God, or we will be a people who bow to our own imaginings as Israel bowed before the calf. That sin, to turn your back on your Creator to bow to something of your own making, that is a sin that is utterly terrifying.