Devotions for Exodus 32:1-14
October 3-9, 2016
Monday, October 3, 2016
“When the people saw that Moses was delayed” (Exodus 32:1a).
Impatience is a human trait. After several days the Israelites grew impatient waiting for Moses to come down off the mountain. Our impatience often grows. We get impatient when we are stopped by a traffic light and become upset when we have to wait two minutes for our fast food hamburgers. The impatience of the Israelites led them to rebellion and sin.
The prophet Isaiah writes, “They who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). Paul writes that patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). As followers of Jesus, patience is needed in our walk with the Lord and in our service to others. The gift of patience grows in our lives as a gift. It is a gift we choose to use or not as we face the daily challenges of loving and serving God.
Timeless Lord, enable us to use the patience that your Spirit has given us so that we may faithfully follow you. Amen.
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
“Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us” (Exodus 32:1b).
Cam was angry at the auto repair shop where he took his car for servicing. His car wasn’t finished at the time promised, and when he did get his car back, some of the work was done in a shoddy manner. Cam decided he was going to take his car to a different repair shop the next time his car needed attention. If the new repair shop didn’t meet his expectations he’d take it to still another garage.
The Lord did not meet the expectations of the Israelites. God took too long giving Moses the Ten Commandments. The Israelites wanted a God who acted more expeditiously. Disappointed in the Lord, the Israelites looked for other gods.
We are tempted to follow the example of the Israelites. When God doesn’t answer our prayers, we threaten to stop believing. We might even decide to start worshiping other god’s like money, comfort, security or even ourselves. The Lord remains true to us, though, and is steadfast in God’s love even when we are fickle and self-centered.
Faithful Lord, thank you for your steadfast love even when we are tempted to wander. May you always move in our lives to keep us centered on you. Amen.
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
“Take off your gold rings” (Exodus 32:2).
The Lord had moved graciously in the lives of the Israelites. God had heard their prayers. Through the ten plagues and the leadership of Moses, God rescued the Israelites from their Egyptian slavery and led them as they began their journey to the Promised Land. God did not demand any payment from them; God didn’t ask for their gold or silver. In fact, the Lord arranged it so that the Israelites received gold and silver from the Egyptians when they left.
The Lord didn’t meet the expectations of the Israelites so they decided to go after other Gods. Aaron’s first words to them were, “Well, it’s going to cost you.” Isn’t that the truth? We follow the god of career and income and come to the end of our lives, regretting that we did not spend more time with our family. We seek the security of a well-funded retirement plan only to have it wrecked by an economic down turn.
It is true that Jesus told his followers, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Following Jesus has its costs, but it also has its rewards. Jesus tells us, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The choices we have as followers of Jesus are clear.
Gracious Lord, you have blessed us abundantly. Help us to always be thankful for your gifts and loyal to you. Amen.
Thursday, October 6, 2016
“He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf” (Exodus 32:4a).
We have always been suckers for strength, power and might. What better symbol of strength than a bull. After all, we have bull markets that we all like—they’re good for our 401k’s. We wish we could bull doze our way through life’s problems. Some past presidents have said that they were “bullish” on America. The Israelites couldn’t have chosen a better false god to follow than the bull, if they wanted to worship strength.
The God of Israel, though, has never been portrayed as a bull. The animal that usually symbolizes the God of the Christians is a lamb. What a radically different symbol for a god than that of a bull. The Lord is different from any false gods. The Lord could use brute force to accomplish God’s will, but rarely does. Instead God uses different expressions of power—love, loyalty, service, sacrifice and generosity.
Though it is tempting to follow the bull, as followers of Jesus we have been called to follow the lamb. Instead of using power that frequently harms or destroys, we use powers that give life and transform lives.
Lamb of God, empower us with your love, so that your will can be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
Friday, October 7, 2016
“These are your God’s of Israel who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:4b).
With the election season in full swing, fact checkers have been going wild. Candidates are willing to bend the truth, stretch the truth and completely ignore the truth. If there was a fact checker at the foot of Mt. Sinai when Aaron made this claim, it would have been ringing loudly. Really? The bull led the Israelites out of Egypt?! They hadn’t even created it, yet!
Sometimes we need a fact checker on our actions and words. We look around at our careers, possessions and position and pride ourselves on our great accomplishments. On the flip side, when something bad happens we cry out, “God, what did we do to deserve this?” We take credit for our blessings and blame God for the rest.
It was the God of steadfast love, overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness that led the Israelites out of slavery into freedom and the Promised Land. Just as it is God who walks with us, blesses us abundantly and has promised to walk with us through the good times and the tough times of life. Let’s get our facts straight.
Creator God, you have made us gifted, talented people. Forgive us, though, when we think that the fruit of our labor is because of us rather than because of you. Amen.
Saturday, October 7, 2016
“I have seen the people how stiff-necked they are” (Exodus 32:9).
In our urban, technological society, the closest we get to understanding what it means to be “stiff-necked” is when the power steering on our cars go out. We are able to still steering the car, but it is very difficult to do so. The car doesn’t want to go in the direction we want it to go. Animals with stiff necks posed a similar problem to people in a nomadic or agrarian society. The animal won’t turn if its head doesn’t turn. Farmers cannot plow fields with stiff-necked oxen and travelers can’t make much progress with beasts of burden that won’t follow.
The Lord knew that the Israelites were a stiff-necked people, before God began to prepare for their escape from Egypt. Instead of abandoning the Israelite, God moved in their lives and attempted to loosen up their necks so that they could faithfully, obediently follow God. The God of the Israelites is also our God, and God knows that we, too, are stiff necked. This fact doesn’t change God’s relationship with us. God’s Spirit works within us –massaging us—in order to loosen up our necks, open our minds, soften our hearts and enable us to turn our heads in the direction God wants us to go.
Lord, day by day may we see you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly. Amen.
Sunday, October 9, 2016
“But Moses implored the Lord” (Exodus 32:11).
God was angry. In this ancient story, God decided to wipe out the Israelites. They were more trouble than they were worth. The Israelites were complainers, stiff necked and now a rebellious people. Moses approached God, prayed for the Israelites and implored God to reconsider. God did. God changed God’s mind.
Theologians love to argue about God’s ability or inability to change the future. At times in Bible studies or over coffee, Christians speculate about the concepts of destiny, foreknowledge and predestination. After all of our arguments, discussions and conversations we arrive at the same place—we don’t know.
What we do know is that Moses prayed and his prayers were effective. Moses prayed and God listened. God forgave the Israelites and continued to lead them to the Promised Land. When we pray, we know that God listens. We don’ know how our prayers will be answered or what the future holds. We do know that we are in God’s hands.
Oh God who listens, hear our prayer, move in our lives and accomplish your will. Amen.