Moses: Idolatry and Identity

After rescuing Israel from certain enslavement or death and providing for them in the desert wilderness, God gave them commands by which to live in a covenant relationship with God and each other. The foremost command was to avoid worshiping false gods. That foundational commandment could be likened to wedding vows: have no other “spouse” than me. And the people agreed! They were even given plans to build God a home, the tabernacle (a sort of “mobile home,” actually) so God could live as closely as possible to them.

But when Moses climbed Mt. Sinai to meet with God on behalf of the people, the people let their anxiety overcome them — again, perhaps because of their mistrust — and they broke their covenant with Yahweh. In fact, they did what most people do in the face of anxiety — they reverted to the familiar. In their case, a goddess of Egypt — a golden calf upon which their Egyptian predecessors had relied.

In addition to breaking their covenant in an internal manner (spiritually, emotionally), they even melted down their gold to fashion the calf. This was the gold which was to be used to celebrate the God who had saved them in the creation of his tabernacle (dwelling place). And with that gold, they created their idol. Like adding insult to injury, this action would be like a newlywed who takes his or her new wedding band and gives it to someone else.

What is stunning and sobering as we remember this event in Israel’s history is how quickly it happened — and how quickly it happens to us, too. We were created to worship. It comes as naturally to human beings as eating and breathing. We don’t choose whether we worship, but we do get to choose what we worship. Having trouble identifying what you might be placing on that pedestal? Consider the kinds of sacrifices you make in your life — what you spend the most time and money on, for example. That to which we sacrifice our most valuable resources (time and money) might be one of our idols. What we worship will determine what we are willing to sacrifice.

God is understandably angry at his people’s stubbornness (or impatience, etc.) but this is when Moses really shines–from this point on Moses will be referred to as the “great high priest” because he intercedes on the people’s behalf, for the sake of God’s glory. He shows God he knows that God is the main character of the story, whose plan they are living out, whose plan is to redeem the entire world.

For reflection:
1) What idols draw your love and loyalty away from God? marked by repulsion from corporate, Christ-centered worship? Jesus is for the Body. To know him is to know his Body.
2) have we made Yahweh into an “idol,” like a small fixed statue we want to control and manipulate? When religion becomes secular, power-seeking resource?
3) How can we resist simplistic interpretations about God’s judgment and mercy? So we don’t cherry pick scripture to serve our own worldview? Because the mercy we want from Jesus is only meaningful in light of God’s authority to judge.

Many blessings,

Soul Sickness

It’s always easy to compare ourselves to others, isn’t it?

Sometimes we put ourselves up on a pedestal, seeing ourselves as better than others.  Honestly–who hasn’t at least once blamed other drivers for being “the problem,” when the reality is we’re also right there contributing to the heavy traffic!

Other times, we may see others as up on that pedestal, which can lead us to try to “keep up with the Joneses.”

Both of these comparisons lead us away from the truth — everyone suffers from “soul sickness.”

From Pastor Aaron: “Sin is an illness that affects every human being. It is the sickness of our souls that results in individual moral failures and behavior but can also extend to social scales where collective sin results in systems of oppression and abuse. By looking at the story of the Pharisee and Tax Collector today, we saw evidence of both in two very different responses to God. 

In essence, we revolt against the way of God and choose our way. But through the grace of God and the work of Jesus in our lives we can be healed of the brokenness that sin has created. This is what Paul calls full restoration, that our souls can be made well. However, we have to participate in our own healing.

For reflection:

  1. Have you ever compared yourself to others, either as superior to them, or inferior?
  2. We like to “look good” to other people, but why are we often tempted to put only our “best selves” before God, as this Pharisee did?
  3. Have you ever felt similarly to the tax collector?  What led you to that place?
  4. If you’ve heard the gospel before, you might not be surprised that the tax collector was the one justified by God.  But think of someone today whom you would be shocked to hear was given God’s mercy.
  5. If Jesus were telling this story today, who might he use as his two characters?

Give yourself permission to do nothing for a few moments today.  In the open space, what might the Holy Spirit be bringing to your heart through this parable?

Many blessings,

Pastor Mike