The image of God
What does God look like? Remember what happened when the Israelites were waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai. This was after they’d seen God get Pharaoh to relent and allow the Israelites to leave. They’d seen how God opened the waters of the Red Sea to allow them to escape. They’d seen the pillar of cloud in the day and the pillar of fire by night. They’d seen how God could feed them, giving them manna, bread from heaven. They’d seen what God could do.
And when they wanted more, Moses had brought them to the foot of Mount Sinai, where according to Exodus 19, verse 18, Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder.
They were getting close to seeing what God looked like and it was scary. They were content to allow Moses to go up on the mountain while they just waited below. And he’s gone a long time, 40 days and nights, so now they were getting restless. They had seen what God had done, they had been saved by his power, but they had also been terrified by it. So they go to Aaron and ask him to make gods who will go before them. So he makes the golden calf, something safe they can see. And it almost ruins them.
It’s easy for us to look at the Israelites and wonder what were they thinking? After seeing what God had done for them, how could they do what they did. But it is so human isn’t it? We certainly would rather have a God we can control, can touch and feel, fashion ourselves in the way we want it. And we do make our own gods. Often it seems to be things, our cars, our clothes, our possessions. And we sure seem to worship others, our sports heroes, our movie stars, pop artists. But these things will ultimately let us down.
But we do have a perfect image of God, so much better than this golden calf made by human hands. We see God in Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God, as Paul puts it in Colossians. And it is this God, in Jesus Christ that we can put our trust. Jesus laid down his life for us, Jesus rose from the dead for us. Jesus is what God looks like.
REV. DALE BROWN is pastor of Cumberland and Guinea Presbyterian Churches. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.