A Snowball Effect

Read: Exodus 3:19-22; 32:1-6

And he received the gold . . . and made a golden calf. (Exodus 32:4)

Have you ever wondered where the recently enslaved people of Israel, wandering around in the wilderness, got the gold that Aaron made into the golden calf? How could they have jewelry? There is a clue in the odd words from Yahweh recorded in Exodus 3. This occurred at the time of the burning bush. God told Moses that the people would plunder their captors on the way out of Egypt and take the Egyptians’ silver and gold.

These are problematic verses. On the one hand, restitution for unjust treatment is a noble moral quest. But should God order the Israelites simply to help themselves? It’s puzzling. I’m helped by remembering that ancient Israel experienced Yahweh very much like we experience other human beings. As I noted when looking at the flood story, ancient Israel didn’t do systematic theology. God could change his mind, get angry, frustrated, and resentful. Here he speaks of revenge.

The ultimate result of the plunder is the golden calf, made to placate the people because Moses had disappeared on Mount Sinai. I understand their desire—it’s always easier to devote ourselves to something tangible than intangible. In the absence of God and their leader, the people goaded Aaron into making an idol to worship. In a snowball effect, their ill-gotten treasure was turned into a golden calf. Sin has a snowball effect in our lives—it gains momentum and before long, one bad decision leads to another. —Jeff Munroe

As you pray, look for ways sin has snowballed in your life.

About the Author

Jeff Munroe is the editor of the Reformed Journal and, in addition to being the author of the best-selling book Reading Buechner: Exploring the Work of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacher, is also a poet, blogger, and essayist. His work has appeared in Christianity Today, The Christian Century, US Catholic, and The Reformed Journal.