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Tabernacle vs. Golden Calf

Thought for the Week:

We find it all too easy to go from being spiritually high to plummeting into sin and disobedience when the buzz wears off—and it always wears off. Part of the solution is to quit looking for spiritual buzzes. A traveler who is always charging up mountaintops and then sliding down into valleys will not get very far. If he wants to achieve real progress, he needs to stay on the level ridge routes, avoiding the peaks and the dips. We need to work on the simple, day-to-day disciplines of faith.


Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” (Exodus 32:2Exodus 32:2
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

2 And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.  

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When we attempt to “do religion” without first consulting God’s instructions, we end up with golden calves. The Torah tells the story of the golden calf in juxtaposition to the instructions for the building of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle represents God’s way of doing spirituality. The golden calf represents man’s way of doing spirituality. God and Israel were both striving for the same end: they were each attempting to create a medium whereby Israel could worship God and celebrate their relationship with Him. Their methods of accomplishing that end were very different, though.

The golden calf was a poor substitute for the glory of the Tabernacle. The Torah tells about the work of making the golden calf to contrast it against the work of the Tabernacle.

Aaron did not know that God had chosen to make him the high priest over Israel. When the people asked him to make an idol for them, he took the role of priesthood himself. If he had waited for Moses to return, he would have learned that God had chosen to install him as a priest in the Tabernacle.

The people did not know that God had ordered them to raise a contribution of gold and precious materials for the building of the Tabernacle. If they had waited, Moses would have told them. Instead, Aaron told them to donate the gold of their jewelry for the idol.

The people were to fashion the furnishings of the Tabernacle of gold. Instead, Aaron fashioned the idol “with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf” (Exodus 32:4Exodus 32:4
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

4 And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.  

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). The people were to build a bronze altar for burnt offerings and a golden altar for incense. Instead, we read that “he built an altar” (Exodus 32:5Exodus 32:5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, To morrow is a feast to the LORD.  

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) for the idol. The people were to offer burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar in the Tabernacle. Instead, we read that the people “offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings” (Exodus 32:6Exodus 32:6
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

6 And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.  

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) to the idol. The Tabernacle was to be a resting place of God’s divine, invisible presence. Instead, the people made a visible, idolatrous representation of God. All the things that Israel desired, God had already planned to give them.

A girl from a poor farmer’s family was ready to be married. Her father promised to find a match for her. He set out for a distant city to find a suitable fellow. In his absence, she grew impatient. She was lonely, and she felt that she needed someone to provide for her. Rather than wait for her father to return, she married the crass and ignorant son of a local farmer. The day after the wedding, her father returned with the match he had found: a wealthy, handsome, and well-educated young noble. Imagine the girl’s shame and disappointment.

Patience really is a virtue. It is always better to wait on God.


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