Where’s Your Cow?
I appreciate how Psalm 106 sums up Exodus 32 and the first of Israel’s experiences with a golden calf. It’s a tidy little sentence that offers a mix of brevity and humor. Quite simply put:
They [the Israelites] exchanged their Glory for an image of a bull, which eats grass. Psalm 106:20
On one side you’ve got God: their Glory – their Splendor, their Perfection. God, the Creator of universe. God, who spoke light and life into being; who crafted stars and seas and sunsets. God, who designed the neck of a giraffe and the feathers of a peacock; who formed man from the dust and breathed life into him. God, who is holy and mighty; the Lord of lords and the King of kings.
And on the other side you have a cow.
And cows can – well, they can eat grass. Which might earn the cow a point, but since they were merely worshiping an image of a cow, not a real cow, the final tally is cow: zero – God: a lot more than that.
Yet, they chose the cow.
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t bowed down to any golden calves lately – a fact that makes it pretty easy to gloss over, and even scoff at, the naiveté of the Israelites. The score was painfully obvious, and they sided with the loser. Not exactly an intelligent move.
But the reality is we’ve all got grass-eaters in our lives; we’ve all got things that morph from harmless to hazardous when we choose to put our trust in them instead of God. They’re things we define ourselves by – things we rely on, hope in, and long for other than our Savior.
In fact, the list of potential grass-eaters is our culture is pretty endless: if it’s not your career, your bank account, or your family, maybe it’s your sense of humor or your new pair of shoes.
Isaiah describes this practice a little differently. He talks about a carpenter who cuts down a tree. He uses part of the tree to build a fire and cook his dinner. With what’s left of the tree he carves an idol and bows down to worship it.
Sounds pretty ridiculous when it’s put like that, doesn’t it? Worshipping a block of wood when the Maker of Heaven and earth wants a personal relationship with us. But when you’re hungry does your mind wander to your Provider or to your favorite aisle at the grocery store? When you’re lonely do you run into the arms of your Comforter or scroll through your cell phone and call your best friend?
Remember that cows aren’t evil, neither are blocks of wood. But worshipping them is.
And you don’t have to physically bow down to something in order to worship it. It’s a matter of desire – it’s a matter of the heart. So what do you long for? Where is your hope and your security? If it’s a grass-eater – if it’s something created rather than the Creator, count it as an idol. Then, repent and worship the only One who is worthy of your honor and praise.