OT: Ex. 32:1-33:23
Well, I typed this blog in my head while driving home from Macon today. I hope I remember all of it!
So, the Israelites made their golden calf. I guess I could flagellate them, as I so love to do. In that case, my commentary on this passage would be, "Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid! The end." However, what is the point of that? As we noted in some earlier comments, pointing our finger at past generations usually just serves to take the focus off of our own unrighteousness. So, instead of marveling at their stupidity, why don't we see what lessons they can teach us about human nature? One thing that strikes me is their dissatisfaction with God. They knew God; they had seen His power quite recently. However, because He wasn't working according to their timetable (He was keeping "that fellow Moses" away too long), they turned away from Him. Like the Israelites, I don't think I will ever not believe in God. My issues with God come with my dissatisfaction with His ways. My brother, Mike, faced these issues quite vividly. He went through periods where he was very dissatisfied with God's provision, and I would venture to say that he had more reason for dissatisfaction than the Israelites did at this point. What kind of amazes me about the Israelites (and Mike) was that when they turned away, they still looked for God. That is so crazy to me. I don't think that they realized they were looking for God. But they wanted something to worship. And since God is the only thing worth worshiping, I believe that they were seeking Him without realizing it. I think that's what we all do when we seek things to worship, whether pleasure, or our dreams, or security, or whatever. My preacher in Macon shared a great quote from G.K. Chesterton on Sunday. I might be paraphrasing, but it went something like, "A man walked into a brothel. He was looking for God." I really do believe in the truth of that statement. Where it gets crazy for me is when people, like the Israelites, have God, but they they look for other gods. How can we turn to idolatry when we already know God?
While the people are down in the valley making a spiritual U-turn, God lets Moses in on what is going on. I find that passage fascinating and confusing. Did God really change His mind? I mean, doesn't He already know that He is not going to kill the Israelites? He already knows everything, you know? Of course, this is all out of my depth, but allow me for a moment to explore an idea. Suppose that everything that God says is for the benefit of His hearer(s). So, yes, God is angry enough to wipe out the Israelites, and yes, they deserve death for their transgressions, but God, in His omniscience, knows that He is not going to kill them. When He expresses His anger, it is for Moses' sake. And here's why he might have done it, based on my own personal experience. Occasionally, Greg comes home frustrated with a teen or group of teens, and he vents to me about it. In those situations, I tend to revert to "loyal pit bull" mode, and I get so angry at the teens for frustrating my wonderful husband. To my shame, there have been times where I have wished that Greg would just "cut his losses" with a repeat offender and move on to other teens, instead. I have even urged him to do so! On the other hand, there have been a few rare times when Greg has come home genuinely angry with a teen. When he vents his fury to me, something odd happens. I don't become a loyal pit bull; instead, I become an apologist for the teen! I sympathize with Greg, but I also remind Greg that the teen is just a kid, I point out his or her positive points, and I urge him to be patient. It is so not my normal reaction. But though Greg's anger is nothing like divine wrath, it is still impressive enough for me to start interceding for the teen to Greg. And that is what Moses does for the Israelites. What makes me think this opinion has merit is Moses' reaction when he gets to the bottom of the mountain. He is sooo hacked! Imagine if God hadn't prepared him and softened him up toward the Israelites? He probably would have been urging God to wipe them out and start over! As it was, God had put him in a good emotional position to be a true mediator between God and the people. He was able to react in a way that balanced justice with mercy.
Yeah, you read that right. I think that in calling people to rally to him and kill at random, Moses found a good balance. Crazy, I know. I mean, three thousand people died. But, like Wisdom has been trying to tell us in Proverbs, sin has harsh consequences. The people were completely out of control. They had been given at least part of the Law, and they had totally rejected it. They all deserved death, honestly. Thus, in limiting the deaths to 3,000, plus those who died in the plague, God was actually being merciful!
Speaking of saying everything for the benefit of the hearers, I think that's what was going on when he tells Moses and the people that He is not going with them to the Promised Land. I think that was to help the people see how much they needed Him. And Moses, too! Moses was such a big leader that it was probably easy for him to forget that he was nothing without God (in fact, I seem to remember that his forgetfulness about that point was what kept him out of the Promised Land). Regardless, Moses got the message. He asks God, "How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" (33:16). There is so much to say about this beautiful passage, not the least of which is the awesomeness of God speaking to Moses as one man speaks to another. But what I needed today was the reminder that I am nothing without God. And I got it. We had a tax appointment yesterday that basically went as horribly as it could have possibly gone. We learned that, due to the accountant's mistake last year, we owed a ton of money. And I'm not going to lie. Afterwards, I experienced a brief amount of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth:). I experienced the fear and frustration of feeling totally out of control of my life. But eventually, it hit me: Do I have God living inside me, or don't I? If I do, then I think that He can handle it! For goodness sake, it's not even like I'm facing this huge persecution! It's just life. This stuff happens. It amazes me that I can be so weak, that I can think for a second that it is I who holds my life together. How delusional. Like Moses, I need those reminders that I am not the one in control...and that that is a good thing. (Which is why I just wrote all of that down.)
Oh, and before I move on, I have to mention the "book" that God has written that Moses wants Him to blot stuff out of (32: 32-33). How intriguing was that??
NT: Matt. 26:69-27:14
Whether Peter was Mark's source or not, Peter had to be the source for any info regarding his denial of Christ. After all, he was the only one there. Even in John's gospel, I seem to remember John being able to go further inside than Peter did. So, Peter was alone when he denied Christ. And yet, even though he didn't seem to want to 'fess up about chopping off Malchus' ear, he went ahead and told everyone about denying Christ three times. That is one thing that amazes me about biblical history. The people really don't tend to sugarcoat their stories! It just shows that God is the hero in this narrative. It sure isn't the people, and they know it!
I also find it beyond ironic that the chief priests are concerned about depositing blood money in the temple treasury because "it is against the law" (27:6). Um, isn't producing false witnesses for an innocent man against the Law? Isn't killing an innocent man against the Law? Talk about missing the forest for the trees--how blind can you be? I guess a modern day corollary would be a person who is hateful and selfish, but who worries about the order of worship in Sunday morning service. It's amazing how easy it is to completely miss the point sometimes.
This psalm kind of seemed to "fit" with our OT and NT readings today. I especially liked verses 10-11: "The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." God foiled the plan of Israel in today's reading, and he thwarted the purposes of the Sanhedrin. His plan for the redemption of man has stood firm from the beginning of creation until now, and His purposes have always been consistent (which is why I think something is up with the mountaintop conversation with Moses).
Proverbs 8: 33-36
Okay, I'm not going anywhere philosophically with this, but I just appreciate the motif. In our readings today, we saw three figures who were present at creation: God, Jesus, and Wisdom. In today's reading, all three of those figures descended to earth in human form to make themselves known to humanity and to teach us God's path for us. God came down and talked to Moses face to face in the tent. Jesus came down and died. And Wisdom came down and walked the streets calling to us. I know that Wisdom is figurative here, but like I said, I just really like the motif. I love the concept of those who made us actually coming down to be with us. That is so cool.