Friday, March 13th

Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship at a distance. Moses alone shall come near the LORD; but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.”  Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice, and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and set up twelve pillars, corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel.  Exodus 24:1-4


This is a painful text…for we know this story and we know that Moses will soon journey back to the mountain while God’s people impatiently plot for a better god.


It is painful because we are cheering for the people of Israel.  To read the whole story to this point is to get caught up in this dunderheaded crowd of dusty pilgrims.  They are so much like us.  Impatient.  Passionate.  Rebellious.  Lost.  And all too often unaware of who they truly are as they react again and again out of their lesser selves.


“All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do,” they all sing in an angelic chorus.  And they really meant it when they said it.  So do we.


They knew what was expected of them.  Moses told them all that the Lord has spoken.  He even wrote it all down for them.  He set up a place of worship both to remember the words and the God who spoke them.  They had absolutely no excuse.  Neither do we.


Paul would later write to the Romans, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.”


That is what is so painful about this story.  Even as they say it, we know that they can’t do it but we still harbor the hope that they can.  Every time we read this story we keep hoping for a better and different ending but this part always comes out the same.  Although the people swore that they would obey, it wouldn’t be long before they were melting their gold jewelry down to a more manageable kind of god, a golden calf just like the neighbors had.


Moses is on the mountain talking to God and God’s people are down in the valley creating a “better” god for themselves.


We can’t laugh at them or criticize them or wonder how they could be so stupid.  For we know too that we have made many promises to God and to others that we’ve broken – and we know we have many golden calves into whose deaf ears we have offered our heartfelt prayers.


The wilderness exposes us.  And exposure is one of the causes of death for those who get lost in the wilderness.


The next time we read this story it will have the same ending.  And the next time we reach that ending we will continue reading past the golden calf all the way to Jesus, the one who came to us through the wilderness and comes to us still in the wilderness of life.  Impatient, rebellious, broken by far more than our broken promises, he comes to us like the angels came to him.  To feed us, protect us, and guide us on our way home.


Let us pray:  Forgive us, Lord, for the broken promises we have made along the way.  Forgive us our rebelliousness, our blindness, our unwillingness, our impatience.  Be our cloud by day and lamp by night, lead us that we might follow you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


One Response to “Friday, March 13th”

  1. Mary Dvorak Says:

    3/18/09 Did I miss the memo?
    Hope all is well and your transistion is going smoothly!

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