When I first came to pastor Riverside, one of the first series of sermons I preached was on the ten commandments. Believe it or not, I had a really cool pair of fake stone tablets, and each week I would bring them in with a new commandment “engraved” upon them.
I took great care to make those “stone” tablets look as realistic as possible. That makes me think: how heavy were the real ones? I mean, they must have weighed at least fifty pounds each! And can you imagine carrying those things down a mountain? I guess that’s what tending sheep for forty years in the wilderness can do for ya’.
God told Moses, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). He went on to say that he should not make any images to worship or bow down to (20:4). Yet, what did Moses find when he came down and saw the children of Israel partying (Exodus 32)? A golden calf. A graven image. An idol.
So, in order to have a visual for the sermon, I made an idol. No, it wasn’t made of gold, but it’s amazing what a little tin foil, coat hangers, spray paint, and insulation foam can do. I made my own golden calf (except it looked more like a chihuahua).
When I uncovered the “golden calf” that Sunday morning, one could sense a feeling of uneasiness. “It’s fake,” I told the congregation, “so don’t feel too nervous.” In a few moments everything was fine, and the message went well.
But later that night…
Sunday evening after church we were at home getting ready for bed, when my wife asked a question. “What are you going to do with that idol?” she said with a serious voice. “I don’t know, probably put it on a shelf in the garage.”
“Oh, no you won’t!” she replied. “You are NOT keeping that thing in the house. You either take it back to the church, or destroy it…I don’t care…just get it out of the house.”
What? Didn’t she realize how long I worked on that silly thing? Didn’t she appreciate my artistic ability, my ingenuity, my imagination? What was wrong with keeping my idol? I made it.
Isn’t it amazing how at the turn of a moment God can get our attention? We make idols every day out of the cheapest of material. Forget the gold, we worship stuff of even less value. Our idols are nothing like the ones in the Bible, not made of solid gold, but we put them before God, nevertheless.
I was convicted. God used my wife to make a point. If I couldn’t destroy a fake idol, cheap as it was, what made me think I could do away with other idols? Real idols? The gods (little “g”) that demand my time, my attention, my worship?
Only a picture remains.