A golden cow! Really, a golden cow…? The Israelites rejected the God whom they could clearly see surrounding the mountain top of Sinai for a golden cow (Exodus 32)! Not a real cow mind you, though that would be something of wonder, but a statue of a golden cow. And we sit back and think, “how stupid these people must have been, to reject God for something so trivial.” And yet the Israelites did this, again, and again, and again, and again…
“You will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They [the people of Israel] were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast only through faith. So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.” – Romans 11:19-21 RSV
We look at the people of Israel and think how ignorant and foolish they were, but keep in mind everything is set in a culture. So maybe we don’t struggle with worshiping a golden cow, but let’s face it, we are just as prone to wander from our faith in God as the Israelites, and we have the benefit of seeing the Bible in its entirety. Little gods abound in our society today and even in our own Christian circles. Is a cow a god? No! But it was made to be. Is Facebook a god? No, but it can be made to be. How about food, shopping, relationships, people, ourselves, etc…. are they gods? No, but we can make these things sit on thrones in our lives that are meant only for Yahweh. And this is stuff that isn’t bad, so how much more to we bow down to evil that lurks in our lives…?
Paul warns us that it was because of Israel’s unbelief that they have been left out of the proverbial tree of salvation, and in the same breath Paul tells us to not get too happy because we are just as likely to wander down the trail of golden cows and false gods as the next person. To un-believe in something means that now you believe in something else because we always have to believe in something… It doesn’t take all out rejection of God to lose faith, but to simply believe in the worth of something else that is more important than the God who saved you is enough to find yourself as “un-believing.”
Thank God that He welcomes us back when we come to our senses (Romans 11:23); but hey, let’s not lose our senses to begin with. So check your lives, is there something there that has taken God’s place, something more important than the Divine relationship that you entered into? If so, take a page out of pop culture and “drop it like its hot!” and run! No golden cows for us!