THIS CALF CAME OUT
T. PIERCE BROWN
In Exodus 32, we find a most interesting story that is even more valuable because in it we can see ourselves so clearly. Moses had come down from the mountain where he had been with God for 40 days and nights. He found the people deep in idolatry. In his anger he broke the tables of stone, ground into powder the golden calf they had made put it in water and forced the people to drink it. Then verse 21 says, “And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought a great sin upon them?” Aaron responded with some excuses, then concluded in verse 24, “And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off: so they gave it me; and I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.”
His fear of Moses and fear of the consequences of his act caused him to respond in this childish manner. He refuses to face his sin, but blames it first on the people, then on the furnace. How characteristic of human nature! We find it the legal system, and in the reasoning of almost everyone at one time or another. One of the most tragic things about this sort of thing is that until and unless we can place the fault on ourselves where it belongs, we can never repent of the sin and thus get forgiveness for it.
We may find a man who has grown insensible of spiritual values. He is profane, impious, licentious, and degenerate. He may sometimes be sorry and in his misery wish it were not so. As we talk to him we may expect him to be penitent. He says, “The circumstances in which I found myself never gave me the opportunity to be good. There are hypocrites in the church and bad influences out of it. I was pure gold. As I cast myself into the fires of life, this calf came out.” It is perhaps even sadder because there is so much truth in it. As in Aaron’s case, he did put the gold in the fire. He neglected to admit that he had the power to put it in or take it out, and that he was the one that shaped it with a graving tool into a calf.
You may find a policeman who joined the force with high ideals of law and justice. He stands now convicted of taking bribes, conspiracy with dope peddlers, or some other criminal activity. You ask him, “Why?” Instead of facing up to the fact that he is a guilty criminal who needs to repent of his crimes and sins, he goes through the same rationalizing. “I meant well. These people you gave me with whom I associate are bad influence. The circumstances in which I found myself are bad. I was pure gold, but I put it in the fire of life and this calf came out.”
Husbands and wives come into the preacher’s office on the verge of divorce. She works in an office and must dress carefully each day and be able to carry on scintillating conversation with the boss and co-workers. Her husband works hard in some outside job, and when he comes home is tired and relaxes or sleeps in front of the television set. On the other hand, she is tired of being dressed up all day, so she takes off her make-up, puts on some sloppy dress, runs around barefooted, or with her hose rolled down. Yet she expects him to compliment her as her boss does, or swoon at the sight of her lovely figure even with her rolled up hair, or whatever.
When the preachers or counselor inquires concerning the problem, neither of them knows of anything they can do. They have no particular faults. They put their gold in the fire and the calf came out. One might wonder at the gender of the calf in this case. Before either of them can do anything constructive about the situation, they have to face their own shortcomings, failures and sins. As long as it is the fault of anything or anybody else, they cannot repent and change anything.
There was a preacher in a fairly large congregation. He would preach powerful sermons on giving, or love, or personal responsibility. Yet his contribution was less than 10% of his income, and no one had ever seen him even walk across the street to set up a Bible study with a lost person. The contribution of the congregation was far less than half of what it should have been. No program of personal evangelism or any other except “fellowship,” where they would meet and eat could get off the ground.
He raised the question, “Why are they like that? They have had the best preachers in theUnited States. They have had the best: Larrimore, Lipscomb, Hardeman, Wallace, Boles, Goodpasture and me. I pitched my gold in the fire, and this calf came out.” He never seemed to realize that a simple little matter of practicing what he preached would have made a tremendous difference. There was no way he could improve the situation as long as he blamed the indifference and worldliness of the congregation on something else.
Boys and girls go away to college. Some moronic professor teaches them that the Bible is a myth or that there is no God, and they come back with their faith gone, skeptical or perhaps even agnostic. You ask why. The answer is, “This University destroyed my faith. You know how it is. I pitched my golden self into the fire and this calf came out.” There is much truth in it all. But it is basically wrong. The fire can set and fix the form, but it cannot make the character. In Aaron’s case, it had much to do with melting the gold, but it did not make the calf. Aaron fashioned it with tools.
This sort of attitude seems almost universal from Adam on down. Even Shakespeare had Macbeth with the seed of murder in his heart, planning to be king, saying, “If chance will have me king, why chance may crown me without my stir.” If we look carefully at Aaron’s rationalization, we may be able to find the cure for that attitude in ourselves. It is true that environment and circumstances tend to send us in the wrong direction. This is why we are told to “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess.5:22). This is why we are told “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1). In every case, there is a choice involved. When we realize and admit that we are the ones who cast the gold in the fire, and we are the ones who fashioned it with an engraving tool, then we can repent of our sin and face the responsibility that is ours and be forgiven.