Sunday, February 1, 2009


At this minute, the Super Bowl is in the 2nd quarter and Pittsburgh is up by 3 over Arizona. I am not much of a football fan, but even as I write those words I am well aware that I am in the minority in that respect. Die hard fans of any person, team, or hobby fascinate me, which brings me to the subject of today's scripture passage, Exodus 32. I didn't want to ignore the events surrounding the creation of the golden calf, so even though Exodus 32 was part of yesterday's assigned passage, it's worth camping out on for a minute or two.

Moses was meeting with God on the mountain for forty days, during which time God was inscribing his law on both sides of stone tablets. At some point, the people started getting restless and apparently forgot all that God had done for them. They approached Aaron saying that they didn't know what had happened to Moses, so they needed something to worship, and Aaron obliged by making them a golden calf to praise.

God had done so much for the children of Israel, but already, they'd forgotten. They wanted something visible, tangible to be the object of their worship, and their behavior was detestable to God. Scripture says that his anger burned against them.

God's first two commandments instructed his children to have no other god and to make no idols. He specifically said they were not to bow to anything or any one except him, and yet here they were just days later, recklessly partying like crazy people as they worshipped a gold cow.

That might seem ridiculous to us today, but about fourteen years ago when I taught a fifth and sixth grade girls Sunday School class, I learned that it's our nature to be very much like that. Leslie was one of the girls in my class, so I had an inside track as far as knowing who all the young ladies admired. That particular year, all the girls had crushes on a young man whose real name was Mark-Paul Gosselaar, better known as his character, Zack, on a popular show called "Saved by the Bell", and on this particular weekend, he was rumored to be in our area.

Our Sunday School lesson that morning was taken from Exodus 32, and it issued a warning against idol worship. I started our class by telling the girls that I had an exciting lesson planned, but that I also might have a surprise for them. I explained that someone they all loved and adored might be stopping by our class to say hi to them. I didn't reveal any identities, but they immediately started trying to guess. Their exuberance became increasingly difficult to contain, so I reemphasized that I couldn't guarantee anything and asked them to try to concentrate on our "exciting" lesson.

I gave them group activities and listened to them giggle and guess, primp and prepare. Not a single group noticed the clues to my scheme that were hidden in their study activity because they were simply too distracted. Randomly, different girls would ask, "Is it so-n-so?", and I'd say no--but don't worry about that right now, just keep working on your lesson. These girls who were usually attentive were simply unable to concentrate. They worked themselves into a frenzy agreeing that it must be their beloved Zack!

When time was up and no special guest had arrived,I told them the guest was Jesus, not Zack, and that he'd been there all morning. I asked them to search their hearts and ask themselves if they'd ever been as excited about their love for the Lord as they were thinking that Mark-Paul Gosselaar might pop in for a visit.

The lesson had implications for me as well as for the girls because it was a reminder to us all that it's easy to ignore our idols. We are fans of people and things, but rarely do we get as super-thrilled about our fabulous God as we do about a super star or the super bowl. I suspect that ten years from tonight, only trivia buffs, gamblers, and the players will even recall who wins this game, yet as I watch I see spectators on each side behaving exactly as sold-out, hard-core fans should. The sad thing is, it's rare to see a Christian equally as excited about Jesus.

God's Word is clear. Here's what he has to say in Exodus 20:
4 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods...

The Princeton dictionary defines worship as idolizing something or someone. Dear God, show us if we have put anything or any person in a position of higher esteem or importance than you, and may we be first and foremost, your greatest, most exuberant fans.

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