From the moment the golden Trump statue arrived at CPAC in Orlando, Florida, social media was inundated with its comparison to the golden calf that Aaron, brother of Moses, made in the desert on the Sinai Peninsula.
Moses had climbed Mount Sinai to receive the terms that would define the covenant relationship between God and God’s people. He was gone so long that the people of Israel feared he would not come back. In their supposed abandonment, they asked Aaron to make a god for them to worship.
Considering that the Israelites had watched God defeat the Egyptian gods with plague after plague, walked through the Red Sea on firm ground–walls of water on both sides, witnessed the Red Sea enclose their pursuers in a watery tomb, were being guided by supernatural fire by night and cloud by day, were supplied drinking water from a rock, it is difficult for me to believe they would choose to worship a golden calf.
But after a quick internet search on “oxen worship” I found cattle worship was fairly common in some ancient cultures, one of which was Egypt, the country where the once enslaved Hebrews were held captive for generations.
Another example of idolatry and perhaps a more appropriate juxtaposition to the golden Trump might be the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to worship the golden Nebuchadnezzar statue in Daniel chapter three verses 1 through 7.
King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. He set it up in a recessed area in the wall in the province of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar sent messengers to assemble the satraps, governors, mayors, military advisers, treasurers, judges, officers, and all the other provincial officials to dedicate the statue he had set up. Then the satraps, governors, mayors, military advisers, treasurers, judges, officers, and all the other provincial officials assembled to dedicate the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. They stood in front of the statue.
The herald called out loudly, “People of every province, nation, and language! When you hear the sound of rams’ horns, flutes, lyres, harps, and three-stringed harps playing at the same time with all other kinds of instruments, bow down and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever doesn’t bow down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” As soon as they heard the sound of rams’ horns, flutes, lyres, harps, and three-stringed harps with all other kinds of instruments, all the people from every province, nation, and language bowed down and worshiped the gold statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Because they declined to venerate Nebuchadnezzar’s golden monolith, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace stoked “seven times hotter than usual” due to the King’s prideful rage.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
Since the book of Daniel combines “a prophecy of history with an eschatology (a portrayal of end times) both cosmic in scope and political in focus,” it could be easy for one to imagine—due to his pride, arrogance, avarice, self-indulgence, and insolence–the gleaming graven Trump image in this scenario. Just as easy to conceptualize is Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Mitch McConnell, Franklin Graham, Lindsey Graham, et al. obsequiously genuflecting to the resplendent effigy of emptiness.
What has Trump and his cohorts failed to perceive? What did the faithful trio know that King Nebuchadnezzar and his advisors didn’t know? What did Moses and Joshua remember that Aaron and the Israelites forgot?
As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it. Exodus 20:19-20
Did he really make them drink the gold-powdered water? The following link gives a thorough explanation of this figure of speech. Moses did not force them to do anything, he was merely asking them, what are you believing?
When you are worried, what are you believing? When you are facing trials and tribulations, what are you believing? When the world around you appears to be going to hell in a hand basket, what are you believing? A simple question, one that gently reminds us that we are not separate from our Creator; that we are only lost in some form of “ignorance, deception (or) illusion.”
I read the following in a recent Richard Rohr daily meditation:
“… we don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are. We see the things we want to see, the things that confirm our assumptions and our preferred way of looking at the world … People can’t see what they can’t see. Their biases get in the way, surrounding them like a high wall, trapping them in ignorance, deception, and illusion.” —Brian McLaren
We see things the way we are believing.
He (King Nebuchadnezzar) said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” Daniel 3:25-29
King Nebuchadnezzar’s mixed response demonstrates that asking oneself “what am I believing” is an on-going process; that we can still see something “other,” separate.
This is why when Jesus was asked which is the greatest commandment, he answered:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39
There is nothing other than God. To revere any mere object or idol as a representation of what is everything is to remove one’s own very self from this knowing that is everything. ‘I Am’ is not anything or something other than what we and all seeming others always and already ARE. To fully grasp the first commandment is to make all the other commandments completely unnecessary. Until and as this knowing is fully embraced and integrated, the rest of the commandments are offered to God’s people as a temporary abode, refuge and/or pathway.
Rupert Spira puts it this way:
Nothing has its own existence, but rather everything borrows its apparent existence from God’s being, the only being there is. There is only one reality, and that reality stands alone, indivisible, indestructible, whole, perfect and complete.
This does not imply any disparagement of people or things. On the contrary, we are elevating people and things to their proper status. We are relieving the world of its status as an object to be exploited, and we are liberating people from the projection of ‘other’ to be oppressed, thus alleviating both from the inevitable consequences that attend such beliefs.
In other words, we are removing the filter of beliefs through which the universe has been fragmented into an apparent multiplicity of objects and others.
Solely by asking ourselves one question—what am I believing—and then waiting in apparent spaciousness for the revelation of God’s presence.
This is what Moses and Joshua knew. This was the awareness of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Me? I am still working on it, walking in “trust, not by what (I) see.”