I must admit that when the SEX, MONEY, POWER series was first announced I thought to myself, “That’s awesome. A lot of guys struggle with these things. And this is going to be a really good series for them.”
But I was in for a surprise. This series highlighted some major – an unexpected – things in my own life. It wasn’t just about ‘them’. It was a challenge for me in a big way.
I first realised this when my wife and I we were discussing how we were going to address the subject of sex in our Life Group, coming off the back of that Sunday morning’s message. It’s a difficult one, of course, given that our Life Group has guys and girls, singles and couples, and even children. How would we talk about this subject in such a mixed setting?
A key text in the Old Testament came out in our discussion – the story of the Golden Calf in Exodus 32. Here it is (NIV):
The Golden Calf
32 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around 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.”
2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.
7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’
9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”
11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.
17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”
18 Moses replied:
“It is not the sound of victory,
it is not the sound of defeat;
it is the sound of singing that I hear.”
19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.
21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”
22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘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.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”
What a strange and rather hilarious thing for Aaron to say: “out came this calf!” As if the idol appeared out of nowhere.
After this event they begin to make the temple and various giftings are poured out (see Exodus 36). Also, God brings His presence. It seems that God needs to deal with idolatry in our lives before he pours out His presence in greater abundance and, as a result, pours out his gifts.
You might recall Mike Hanchett’s prophetic word over Cornerstone from a few weeks back. In it there was a lot around God’s presence and His gifts being poured out over our church. It may be that before God brings this prophetic word to fruition many of us need to deal with idols that have crept in. I know this is certainly the case in my life.
When Shannon explained some of this to me I felt God say, “Ah,” and he began highlighting certain things in my own life that I’ve been largely ignoring or just living with. Certain things that, like Aaron, I’ve been saying, “Well, it just appeared out of nowhere!” But the truth is, that’s simply not so.
Yesterday was the last of this series, POWER, and I was challenged again on the idolatry issue. There are some key points from Marcus’ notes from yesterday that I think are worth mentioning:
- Idols demands your attention
- Idols keep you pre-occupied
- They dominate
- And idol becomes a priority of your time, talents and treasures
- Idols become those things we constantly run to for comfort and salvation
- We hold them in high value – they captivate us
But, the real story is
- They cannot redeem us, satisfy that deep need for a relationship and provide a future hope for us. They are not our saviour
- They are deceptive
- They need us to survive, no matter what kind of idol
- They bring us into bondage/slavery, not freedom
- They bring destruction to our lives and the lives of those around us
For me, there are many things I actually do run to for comfort and salvation. Many things. But what I had never seen before was how these things, as the third last point says above, need me to survive. Often it feels as if I need them to survive. Isn’t that deceptive? Without me, idols have no life – after all, as Marcus said, an idol requires me to polish it, me to fashion it, me to keep it safe. It needs me. That’s been a brilliant revelation.
It’s been a really great series and has fitted in very well with where we are as a church right now, I believe. Or, at the very least, it’s been great for me. Check out all the resources below on this series:
SEX (Week 1: 28 October)
MONEY (Week 2: 4 November)
POWER (Week 3: 11 November)