In our sermon text today, Israel breaks covenant with the Lord by making a golden calf and corrupting themselves with false worship. It’s tempting to think that we are far more advanced, enlightened, and that we are not nearly as stupid. But centuries later, Stephen, preaching to the Jews about Jesus explains why they did what they did: their hearts were turned toward Egypt.
Growing fearful, insecure, worried in the wilderness, Israel was tempted to find meaning, value, security in the ways of pagans. And people are no different today. People looking for meaning and security in clothing, houses, bank accounts, drugs, alcohol, sex, friends, or just keeping up with whatever is considered cool or sexy or safe in the world’s eyes.
And this happens when your heart is turned toward false gods. But like Israel of old, we don’t usually make an idol and invent a completely new religion on the spot. We name our idol after good things. Israel named the golden calf after Yahweh who brought them out of Egypt. Maybe you drink too much and call it Christian liberty. Maybe you’re all stressed about finances and call it trying to be a good steward. But you can tell it’s an idol when you are not at peace. If it’s godly Christian liberty then you’re blessing others and imparting Christian joy in your celebrating, but if you’re getting drunk and being stupid or getting mad, you’re worshiping a false god. If it’s Christian stewardship then conversations about money should be getting easier with your spouse, not miniature nuclear explosions.
Idols are black holes that promise life and suck life out of you. They promise security and make you more fearful. But Jesus gives you peace. Jesus calms your storm. Jesus gives you love and wisdom that overcomes all obstacles.