Reflections: Monday of the Third-Last Week

Today’s Reading: Exodus 32:1-20

Daily Lectionary: Jeremiah 11:1-23; Matthew 24:1-28

“And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’  (Ex. 32:4)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. A translation issue from the original Hebrew helps unlock this text, and an archaeological discovery helps too.  The translation issue is this – the Hebrew word for “God” is in the plural.  This means the Hebrew translator has to decide if the text is talking about God or false gods when he sees the same word (Elohim).  In Ex. 32:4, it should be, ‘This is your god.’  There was only one golden calf Aaron made, so how could he say that was multiple gods? That makes no linguistic sense at all.  Instead, Aaron built the calf and said this was Israel’s God.  It’s just that he was wrong.

An archaeological issue also unlocks Ex. 32.  Carvings have been discovered of ancient idols standing on the backs of animals, usually bulls or lions. Idolaters thought that their (false) gods had power over these creatures if they stood on their backs.  Notice, Aaron does not make a graven image standing on the calf.  There’s nothing but empty air there.  That’s because God commanded that He should not be made into idol form.  Aaron was careful to follow that word.  But Aaron also borrowed pagan religious practices for God’s worship.  Apparently, Aaron thought the substance of the true God’s worship would stay the same, even if the style changed to be more relevant to his day. But this blended worship angered God.

God’s worship should never be designed by popular opinion poll, or what we think relates to sinners best.  That’s because we are sinners in need of salvation we cannot come up with.  God alone has won salvation for us in His Son Jesus, by His death for our sins.  And God delivers this salvation by the Word of the Gospel and the sacraments.  Worship practices are to correspond to this. The historic liturgy does correspond to this.  The worship of the historical Lutheran church is based chiefly on what conforms to the Word of God and its doctrine best.  God is the God who justifies sinners freely on account of Jesus’ death.  In worship, we come on holy ground, and leave the infatuations of our pleasure-seeking world at the door.  Lutheran worship is not bound to this time. It is timeless. And that all makes it good.  In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Heavenly Father, guide our worship that we do not anger You by conforming it to what this evil world thinks is best, and grant that we may be Christ-centered and counter-cultural in worship.  Amen.

-Pastor Robert Mayes is Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church and Zion St. John Lutheran Church in Beemer and Wisner, NE.

Audio Reflections Speaker: Rev. Duane Bamsch

Study Christ’s words on the cross to see how you can show more Christlike grace in your life. Perfect for group or individual study, each chapter has a Q&A at the end, and the back of the book includes a leader guide. Available now from Concordia Publishing House.