Archive for the ‘Golden Calf’ Tag

Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator Icon

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The Glory of the Lord, Part I

MAY 27 and 28, 2022


The Collect:

O God, form the minds of your faithful people into one will.

Make us love what you command and desire what you promise,

that, amid all changes of this world, our hearts

may be fixed where true joy is found,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 33:12-17 (Friday)

Exodus 33:18-23 (Saturday)

Psalm 97 (Both Days)

Revelation 22:6-9 (Friday)

John 1:14-18 (Saturday)


The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

–Psalm 97:5-16. The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Psalm 97 is consistent with the concept of divine glory in the Hebrew Bible.  God is invisible, but evidence of divine mighty acts is visible.  YHWH is an active player on the stage of human history.

Moses, interceding on behalf of the Israelites between the infamous Golden Calf (Golden Bull, really) incident (Exodus 32) and the restoration of the covenant (Exodus 34), asked not only to know what God wanted him to do but to see God’s Presence, or, as some versions translate the Hebrew word, glory (33:18).  God consented to the first request and to a partial view of the divine Presence/glory, for a full view would be fatal to humans.  The connection to Exodus 32 was that the Golden Calf/Bull was, for those who adored it, a physical stand-in for God, who became angry yet held back from destroying such a stiff-necked people (33:3).

In the Gospel of John Jesus was the physical embodiment of divine Presence/glory, which was evident in his deeds as well as in his resurrection.  Even though Moses had a close relationship with God, Jesus was more intimate with YHWH.  And many people saw, met, and interacted with Jesus.  They saw God, but many of them did realize that.

Often we seek God and settle for substitutes, which can only prove inadequate.  John of Patmos reported a vision in which he fell down to worship an angel, who rebuffed the effort immediately:

You must not do that!  I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book.

–Revelation 22:9b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Among the themes in the Gospel of John is that Jesus, the physical embodiment of the divine Presence/glory, came into the world and encountered much rejection.  Many people preferred an inadequate glory instead.

Many people still do.  How many of them know this about themselves?









Devotion for Monday After the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Golden Calf

Above:  The Golden Calf

Image in the Public Domain

The Tangible Presence of God

MARCH 14, 2022


The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 33:1-6

Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42

Romans 4:1-12


Search for the LORD and the strength of the LORD;

continually seek the face of God.

–Psalm 105:4, Book of Common Worship (1993)


The reading from Exodus 33 follows on the heels of chapter 32, in which Israelites had created a golden bull (although the traditional term is golden calf) as a tangible sign of God’s presence while Moses was away on Mount Sinai/Horeb with God briefly.  God, we read, was most unhappy:

If I were to go in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you.

–Exodus 33:5b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Moses talks God down, fortunately for the Israelites.

Faith, for St. Paul the Apostle, was inherently active.  Hence the Pauline definition of faith was that, in the absence of proof for or against a proposition, one trusts that it is true and acts accordingly.  This contradicts the definition of faith in the Letter of James, whose author wrote that faith (for him merely intellectual) is insufficient for justification with God.  No, in the Letter of James justification comes via works.  Both writers agreed that works are essential for justification with God, but St. Paul understood works to be part and parcel of faith.  These are the kinds of nuances many people overlook in the Bible.

To have an active faith in God, who is invisible, is not to go through life without tangible signs of the divine presence.  Actually, tangible indicators of God’s presence surround us.  We have no need to manufacture any such indicator, for nature is replete with them.  We need merely to open our minds, attune them to spiritual matters, and observe.  The Reverend Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901), Presbyterian minister, humanitarian, poet, and admirer of nature, summarized the point well:

This is my Father’s world,

And to my listening ears,

All nature sings, and round me rings

The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:

I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.


This is my Father’s world,

The birds their carols raise,

The morning light, the lily white,

Declare their Maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world:

He shines in all that’s fair;

In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,

He speaks to me everywhere.

The full text of the poem begins on page 180 of this book.

The presence of God is tangible indeed.  In my darkest hours, my happiest moments, and the times between those two extremes I have encountered God via people and animals as well as directly, without mortals as vehicles of grace.  You, O reader, might understand well what I mean because of your experiences.  If you do not, are you willing to perceive the tangible presence of God?








Devotion for the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   14 comments

Above:  Epitaph of a Centurion

Exodus and Luke, Part VIII:  Damaged Relationships

APRIL 24 and 25, 2023


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 33:1-23 (16th Dayof Easter)

Exodus 34:1-28 (17th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–16th Day of Easter)

Psalm 98 (Morning–17th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–16th Day of Easter)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening–17th Day of Easter)

Luke 7:1-17 (16th Day of Easter)

Luke 7:18-35 (17th Day of Easter)


The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelite people, ‘You are a stiffnecked people.  If I were to go in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you.  Now, then, leave off your finery, and I will consider what to do to you.'”

–Exodus 33:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


I detect several consistent patterns in my life.  One of them pertains to what happens after I fall out with an institution.  I return after some time, but never with the same enthusiasm.  The water might be under the bridge, but I cannot forget the flood.  So the breach remains in my memory.  Things can be better, but not as they were before.  Perhaps this is a spiritual failing.  (Relationships with individuals are a different matter; I have reverted to a pre-falling out state with them.  Institutions are frequently impersonal by nature, however.)   I offer neither a defense nor a condemnation of myself relative to this reality relative to institutions; no, I am content at the moment to make an objectively accurate statement.

The relationship between God and the Israelites was damaged, not broken, in Exodus 33.  Moses functioned as an intermediary, for there was a distance between God and the people.  The narrative would have us believe that the people were entirely to blame, but I argue that God, as the narrative presents God, shared in the blame.  Were the people supposed to love and follow a deity who sent away those who had not adored the Golden Calf as punishment for the adoration of that idol?

The relationship between Jesus and the religious authorities (eventually broken) in the Gospel of Luke.  And, in Luke 7, our Lord found a Gentile–a Roman officer, no less–whose great faithfulness impressed him.  This spoke well for the Centurion but not of those religious authorities.

To tie everything together in a big theological bow, God did come among many of our forebears, and they did not perish. The Incarnation of God in Jesus constituted God among us, with us, and for us.  It was how God bridged the gap.  Things would not be as they were before.  No, they would be better.






Devotion for the Fifteenth Day of Easter: Third Sunday of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  The Golden Calf, by James Tissot

Exodus and Luke, Part VII: Discipleship, Jesus, and the Mean God of Exodus 32

APRIL 23, 2023


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 32:15-35

Psalm 93 (Morning)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening)

Luke 6:39-49


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Dedication:


Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord” and not do what I say?

–Luke 6:46, The New Jerusalem Bible


Psalm 136 is a litany of thanksgiving to God.  The refrain is

his love endures forever.

(Revised English Bible)

Yet I do not see divine love in Exodus 32:15-35.  Do a massacre and a plague constitute love?  Earlier in the chapter Moses had talked God out of retribution, but his attempt at the end of the chapter failed.

I think that the account in Exodus 32:15-35 assumes that, since God is in control of nature, God must have sent the plague.  And, given the bloody nature of certain Bible stories, especially massacres of those of have committed idolatry (as in the case of Elijah and the priests of Baal), I imagine some ancients not batting an eyelash.  Idolatry was on par with murder and cursing or insulting one’s parents as capital offenses in the culture of the Israelites at the time of Moses.  I am  glad that I did not live then; parents selling children into slavery, people executing others for reasons that, in civilized cultures today, do not warrant judicial intervention–it is all too much for my liberal, post-Enlightenment tastes.

Yet I understand the unifying theme which runs between the main readings:  A disciple of God is one who follows God.  Rank hypocrisy offends, does it not?  Those three thousand or so people whom the Levites killed had sworn to keep the new covenant, the one Moses annulled when he broke the stone tablets.  Then, oddly by Western individualistic standards, God punished the faithful people with a plague.  Was the collective responsible?  So, even if I strive to live faithfully in a sinful society, am I still responsible for societal sins?  So, how faithful am I?  And, if I am very faithful, what is the point if God is going to punish me for the sins of others anyway?

I am reading a text written from one set of assumptions in a mindset foreign to it.  So certain aspects of the narrative “will not compute.”  As for faithfulness, I can only do my best to follow God via Jesus then trust Jesus, who is more merciful than God seems to be at the end of Exodus 32.  Comedian Lewis Black has said in a routine that maybe having a child calmed God down between the Old and the New Testaments.  It is a good joke, one which points to an evolution in God concepts in the Bible.  It is also true that, if one accepts the terms of the joke, one commits at least one heresy.  But, to borrow the language, I seek mercy through that child.







Devotion for the Fourteenth Day of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  The Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin

Exodus and Luke, Part VI: Extending Compassion to Others

APRIL 22, 2023


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 32:1-14

Psalm 92 (Morning)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening)

Luke 6:20-38


Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

–Luke 6:36, The New Jerusalem Bible


And the LORD renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon His people.

–Exodus 32:14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Old habits are difficult to break.  This fact does not excuse anyone from not trying hard enough; no it just means that one might have to expend extra effort.  Among those habits is idolatry.  An idol can be an image, a concept, an activity, or a book.  One makes something an idol by allowing it to distract one form God.  Idols are ubiquitous.  I wonder, in fact, how many of the Ten Commandments yard signs I see are idols for those who have erected them.  And, living in Athens, Georgia, the most prominent idol seems to be University of Georgia athletics, especially football.  How many times have I heard fans describe to me as being “like a religion”?

In Exodus 32 we read of part of the notorious Golden Calf incident.  God, quite angry intends to destroy the Israelites there and then, but Moses talks God down.  I wonder where we would be had God’s Plan A (as presented in the chapter) become reality.  For the sake of truth and accuracy in biblical summary, there is plenty of bad news for the Israelites later in the chapter.  Yet I am trying not to get too far ahead of myself.

As I have written many times in various devotional posts, with God one finds both judgment and mercy.  Today’s readings emphasize the latter element.  And we are supposed to extend compassion to one another, just as God has done so to us.  But, if one insists on judging others, one should look out

…because the standard you use will be the standard used for you.

–Luke 6:38, The New Jerusalem Bible

The offset to this, of course, is grace.  Nevertheless, I am not a Christian Universalist, nor do I deny the reality of chastisement from God.

Each of us has a personality which marks us as an introvert or an extrovert.  These are the ways God has made us, and there is no sin in being the person God made one to be.  Indeed, different varieties of Christianity are tied more to one pole than to the other.  Evangelicalism, in my experience, is quite extroverted, whereas Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy, with their monastic traditions, recognize the spiritual validity and richness of introversion.  As an introvert, I feel drawn toward the latter, not the former.  I have adopted a lifestyle which is akin to a version of monasticism without a cloister or vows; I am monkish.  These lectionary-based devotional posts flow from some of the solitude I seek and find.  As for extroverts, they can be wonderful company, and I recognize their spiritual gifts.  I am merely wired differently.  If we were all the same, the world would be a greatly diminished place, would it not?

May each of us extend compassion to others in a manner consistent with how God made us.







Twenty-Sixth Day of Lent   17 comments

Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665)


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints


Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor


“Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord….”


Exodus 32:7-14 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

The LORD spoke to Moses,

Hurry down, for your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have acted basely.  They have been quick to turn aside from the way that I enjoined upon them.  They have made themselves a molten calf and bowed low to it and sacrificed to it, saying, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’

The LORD further said to Moses,

I see that this is a stiffnecked people.  Now, let Me be, that My anger may blaze forth against them and that I may destroy them, and make of you a great nation.

But Moses implored the LORD his God, saying,

Let not your anger, O LORD, blaze forth against Your people, whom You delivered from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand.  Let not the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that He delivered them, only to kill them off in the mountains and annihilate them from the face of the earth.’  Turn from Your blazing anger, and renounce Your plan to punish Your people.  Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, how You swore by Your Self and said to them: I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and I will give to your offspring this whole land of which I spoke, to possess forever.

And the LORD renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon His people.

Psalm 106:6-7, 19-23 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

We have sinned like our forefathers;

we have gone astray, done evil.

Our forefathers in Egypt did not perceive Your wonders;

they did not remember Your abundant love,

but rebelled at the sea, at the Sea of Reeds.

They made a calf at Horeb

and bowed down to a molten image.

They exchanged their glory

for the image of a bull that feeds on grass.

They forgot God who saved them,

who performed great deeds in Egypt,

wondrous deeds in the land of Ham,

awesome deeds at the Sea of Reeds.

He would have destroyed them

had not Moses His chosen one

confronted Him on the breach

to avert His destructive wrath.

John 5:30-47 (The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition):

[Jesus said,]

By myself I can do nothing.  As I hear from God, I judge, and my judgment is true because I do not live to please myself but to do the will of the Father who sent me.  You may say that I am bearing witness about myself, that therefore what I say about myself has no value, but I would remind you that there is one who witnesses about me and I know that his witness about me is absolutely true.  You sent to John, and he testified to the truth.  Not that it is man’s testimony that I need–I only tell you this to help you to be saved.  John certainly was a lamp that burned and shone, and for a time you were willing to enjoy the light that he gave.  But I have a higher testimony than John’s.  The work that the Father gave me to complete, yes, these very actions which I do are my witness that the Father has sent me.  This is how the Father who has sent me has given his own personal testimony to me.

Now you have never at any time heard what he says or seen what he is like.  Nor do you really allow his word to find a home in your hearts, for you refuse to believe the man whom he has sent.  You pore over the scriptures for you imagine that you will find eternal life in them.  All the time they give testimony to me, but you are not willing to come to me to have real life!  I do not need the praise of men, but I can tell you that you have none of the love of God in your hearts.  I have come in the name of my Father and you will not accept me.  Yet if another man comes simply in his own name, you will accept him.  How on earth can you believe while you are for ever looking for each other’s approval and not for the glory that comes from the one God?  There is no need for you to think that I have come to accuse you before the Father.  You already have an accuser–Moses, in whom you put all your confidence!  For if you really believed Moses, you would be bound to believe me; for it was about me that he wrote.  But if you do not believe what he wrote, how can you believe what I say?

The Collect:

Almighty and most merciful God, drive from us all weakness of body, mind, and spirit; that, being restored to wholeness, we may with free hearts become what you intend us to be and accomplish what you want us to do; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Idolatry is this day’s theme.

Moses was up on the mountain communing with God and receiving commandments while Aaron began to lead the Israelites in idolatry.  Exodus tells us that God was prepared to destroy the people then and there, until Moses made a persuasive case to the contrary.

We human beings like to make God (or our gods) concrete.  This explains the popularity throughout history of idols, representations of deities.  Monotheism came relatively late to the Hebrew people, as their practices of worshiping Yahweh and other gods for a very long time testify.  People are like what they do.  Prophets, priests, and other religious authorities might claim that people should bow down to only one God, but people who worship gods are polytheists.  And Yahweh wanted all the attention, not just some of it.

In this day’s reading from John the idol of the certain Jewish authorities was the Hebrew Bible.  They focused so much on their scriptures that they did not recognize the fulfillment of part of those scriptures in their midst.

Today the Bible is the most common idol among professing Christians.  This is not the sacred anthology’s intended function, of course.  Yet I write of reality, not an ideal state.  The Bible should be a means to an end, not the end.

I conclude with a hymn, “Break Thou the Bread of Life,” with words by Mary A. Lathbury and Alexander Groves.

Break Thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
As Thou didst break the loaves beside the sea;
Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord;
My spirit pants for Thee, O living Word!

Bless Thou the truth, dear Lord, to me, to me,
As Thou didst bless the bread by Galilee;
Then shall all bondage cease, all fetters fall;
And I shall find my peace, my all in all.

Thou art the bread of life, O Lord, to me,
Thy holy Word the truth that saveth me;
Give me to eat and live with Thee above;
Teach me to love Thy truth, for Thou art love.

O send Thy Spirit, Lord, now unto me,
That He may touch my eyes, and make me see:
Show me the truth concealed within Thy Word,
And in Thy Book revealed I see the Lord.


Written on March 2, 2010