Today's Lectionary Text
Know then that the Lord your God isn’t giving you this excellent land for you to possess on account of your righteousness—because you are a stubborn people! Remember—don’t ever forget!—how you made the Lord your God furious in the wilderness. From the very first day you stepped out of Egypt until you arrived at this place, you have been rebels against the Lord. Even at Horeb you angered the Lord! He was so enraged by you that he threatened to wipe you out. When I went up on the mountain to get the stone tablets, the covenant tablets that the Lord made with you, I was up there forty days and forty nights. I ate no bread, drank no water. The Lord gave me the two stone tablets, written by God’s finger, and on them were all the words that the Lord had said to you on the mountain, out of the very fire itself, on the day we assembled. At the end of those forty days and nights, the Lord gave me the two stone tablets—the covenant tablets. Then the Lord said to me, “Get going! Get down from here quickly because your people, whom you brought out of Egypt, have ruined everything! They couldn’t wait to turn from the path I commanded them! They’ve made themselves an idol out of cast metal.”
The Lord said more to me: “I have seen this people. Look! What a stubborn people they are! Now stand back. I am going to wipe them out. I will erase their name from under heaven, then I will make a nation out of you—one stronger and larger than they were.”
They were “a stubborn people” and had been rebelling against God from the outset of the journey. And now, they had made themselves an idol to worship from melted down gold and jewelry they’d brought with them out of Egypt. God was furious and making promises to wipe them out and start over with Moses.
What had made them turn away from God? The fact that God was not visible? They couldn’t trust in a god they could not see? Or was it that Moses had been gone for forty days – up there on that mountain where they couldn’t see him or know what he was doing. Mostly, I suspect, they just lacked trust in what they were doing. It wasn’t as if Moses had been leading them in a straight line out of Egypt to the Promised Land.
They wanted some tangible image to worship, so they made the idol – and incurred the literal wrath of God. All because of an idol.
I’m pretty sure no one reading this is guilty of melting down gold and casting idols to worship. But many of us DO “worship” idols of one sort or another. There are things in this world that we just can’t seem to do without. We make purchases we can’t really afford because we crave the latest “in” things others have. We replace church attendance with sports events. We pass on daily devotional time in favor of “reality” TV or 24-hr news feed. I plead guilty to spending too much time playing computer games when I should be preparing for Bible study or reading the book that is the basis for the current sermon series.
Do these things really make God angry? Perhaps not in the same way as the Israelites did. But I have no doubt that we disappoint God when we put our “idols” ahead of the God who provides for all our needs.
As we approach the beginning of Lent, I invite you to confess your own specific idols (at least to yourself!) and choose some way to refocus your trust and worship on God during this Lenten season. Let go of the worldly idols that call to us and spend time each day in prayer and meditation, reconnecting with the God who sent Jesus to show us how much we are loved.
Robbie Fall, retired elder
Prayer for Reflection
Slow me down, Lord. Help me trust in you and your Son instead of on the offerings of this world. Amen.
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