In this sermon, Pastor Neil talks about the Israelites and their worship of the golden calf. He points out how we too have idols today– and we must avoid them. Here are some excerpts:


“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Unlike the people of Israel at thefoot of Mount Sinai, do not let any thing or any one displace God in your heart. Not even things that remind you of God.

As followers of the Lord Jesus, we must not ever make an idol of the cross, though it is a central symbol of our faith. Our worship is reserved for Jesus, the Christ of the cross, who suffered and died on the cross to save us from our sins. We must not make the empty tomb of Easter morning an idol. Our worship is reserved for the true and living God who demonstrated His power by raising Jesus His Son from the dead and exalting Him to the place of highest honor in the kingdom of heaven.

We must not make an idol of the Bible. Our worship is reserved for the God who has spoken in the Bible; the God whose Word it is; the God who has revealed Himself, His will, His ways, His mighty acts, His love and grace for a world full of sinners, and the gospel of salvation in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord in the Bible. We must never allow the church as an organization or as a spiritual entity to become an idol, for it must never displace the Lord of the church in our hearts. Nor can we ever allow this or any church building to become an idol that becomes more important to us than God Himself.

A Clear and Present Danger

We can shake our heads at the people of Israel and wonder: What in the world was wrong with them? But the truth is that idolatry, in one form or another, is always a clear and present danger.

One thing we can learn from the Israelites and from human experience down through the ages is that idols can never save us. About the golden calf, R. C. Sproul wrote: “(It) gave no lawand demanded no obedience. It had no wrath or justice or holiness to be feared. It was deaf, dumb, and impotent. But at least it could not intrude on their fun and call them to judgment. This was a religion designed by men, practiced by men, and ultimately useless for men”(Sproul, Grace Unknown, 19-20).

The Trouble with Idols

Christopher Wright puts it this way; “The worst thing about idols, as the Hebrew scripturesso tirelessly point out, is that they are utterly useless when you need them most” (Wright, “All Our Gods Have failed,” Themelios 18, No. 3).

It was true of Israel’s “unholy cow.” It is just as true of the idols we worship, or are tempted to worship, today.

February 4, 2018

Exodus 32:21-25

Dr. Neil Smith

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