It is said of these people, “They kiss calf-idols!” (Hosea 13:2)
Some 700 years before the birth of Christ, the people of God were in ugly, willful rebellion against God. They had left their first love and were chasing after smaller gods that promised life but delivered only death. This is always the case when we chase after anything smaller than Jesus. Oh, it may look like life, and it may even feel like life for a time, but in the end it cannot deliver on its promise and brings with it only despair, destruction, and death.
Let this serve as a word of warning this day: Kiss not the calf! Whatever that idol may be, it will not satisfy the longing of your heart. Instead, bow the knee and kiss the King of kings and Lord of lords, for He will always meet you with love and grace in your deepest place of need.
The problem with presenting a message like this in our contemporary church culture is that too many Christians will dismiss it offhand. We hear the word “idol,” and we promptly picture the golden calf the Israelites formed and began to worship when Moses tarried too long on the mountain of God. Oh, we believe the biblical account of the people of Israel bowing down and worshiping a statue, but we assure ourselves that those were a primitive people; we are far too educated and sophisticated to do anything like that.
I’m perfectly willing to grant that most people living in the 21st century are unlikely to worship a statue of a calf, but it is also a fact that men and women will worship idols that are much more “fashionable” . . . things like a job, a relationship, financial success, a hobby, social status, physical beauty, and more. All these forms of worship can be summarized by one word: greed, which the Bible expressly defines as idolatry in Colossians 3:5.
It’s important to point out that most of our present-day idols are not “bad” things. Things like career advancement, physical health, and positive relationships are good things that we should all pursue. The problem arises when these (and countless other good things) become ultimate things in our lives; that is when they become bad things. These idols enslave us and become life-altering, causing us to do things we ought not do; often we hurt ourselves and our loved ones in the process of our idolatrous pursuits.
Let’s be honest; we all kiss calf-idols from time to time. Sometimes they are clearly bad for us — things like greed and immorality. But more often than not, they are good for us — things like maintaining a strong marriage and raising healthy children — and the greater the good, the greater our expectation of having our deepest needs met by it. I’ve said it here before, but this truth cannot be overemphasized: Good things become bad things when they become ultimate things.
Have you kissed the calf lately? Have you sought after anything smaller than God to give to you what only God can give? Remember, we all enter this world with a God-sized void in our hearts, and it is only when we fill that void with God that we will find the happiness and joy and satisfaction we so deeply desire.
Kiss not the calf! Rather, like the prostitute who anointed our Lord with expensive ointment, kiss the feet of Jesus Christ, and your internal void will be filled to overflowing.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!