Friday, February 15, 2013

A Lenten Reflection for February 15, 2013

“It was this Moses whom they rejected when they said, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ and whom God now sent as both ruler and liberator through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out, having performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up a prophet for you from your own people as he raised me up.’ He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us. Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt, saying to Aaron, ‘Make gods for us who will lead the way for us; as for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’ At that time they made a calf, offered a sacrifice to the idol, and reveled in the works of their hands.
But God turned away from them and handed them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: ‘Did you offer to me slain victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?” (Acts 7:35-42)

When the ancient Hebrew people grew frustrated with their wanderings in the wilderness, they decided that following after the mysterious God who had rescued them from their slavery in Egypt was just too uncertain. They wanted gods more tangible and predictable than this One who Moses claimed to obey. It felt more familiar and comfortable to turn their worship to the “host of heaven”—most likely the astral bodies of stars, planets, moon, and sun. They even threw in a golden calf, which would reflect the light of the sun. After all, the sun was the top level divinity in Egypt—why not out there in the middle of nowhere?

Worshipping the heavenly bodies wouldn’t be so bad, would it? This rescuing, redeeming God of Moses was up there and out there, and the lights in the sky we also up there and out there. So worshipping them was close enough, right?

Our worship can also be “close enough” to suit us. There are all kinds of respectable things that seem to be in close proximity to God: Dynamic churches, charismatic speakers, favorite writers and books or preferences for music. We can even turn our worship to our well-constructed systems of faith (“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.” James 2:19) or to the Bible itself (“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.” John 5:39). Worshipping the God who is simultaneously unchanging and mysterious can be too unpredictable at times. It is much easier to have certainty in what is tangible or quantifiable than to have confidence in the God who redeems and rescues on his terms rather than on ours.

Forgive me, Lord, when I turn my worship to my own heavenly hosts.

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