2017-10-15 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
Moses’ Divine Intervention
Tap, tap, tap…Aaron has waited patiently for his brother…
Eight to ten days…that was ok…18-20…barely ok…
28-30…the rabble rousers are getting restless…
And at day 39 something broke inside of him…
Ah!…and here they are…like clockwork…for the past 7 mornings…7 am…
Outside of the tent, the same refrain:
“Aaron! You up yet? Aaron!
Come on out! Answer us!
Make a god for us, Aaron.
One who shall go before us!
‘This Moses’…murderer turned kingpin…always getting the invite to the top of the mountain…on retreat… we do not know what has become of him!”
Aaron finally gives in…
“Give me your gold, you stole it from the Egyptians anyways…it’s not yours…take off the gold rings and jewellery…from your wives, your sons and daughters.”
Aaron rallies some of his finest craftsmen friends and they make a golden calf…and present it to the people at evening worship.
The Israelites respond with great enthusiasm:
“This is our God! Who brought us up out of the land of Egypt!”
Aaron beams with pride (it ain’t all bad being #1 leader instead of the younger brother side-kick) …maybe this isn’t going to be so hard after all!
“Yes, and tomorrow there will be a special festival day to…the LORD, bring your finest offerings and sacrifices of well-being…we will eat, drink and be merry!”
[scene swipe to the top of Mount Sinai…it’s dark and the wind is howling]
Moses wakes up from a deep slumber…
“Yes, Here I am…”
“Go down to YOUR people! They act perversely…they’re quick to turn aside from my commands…they’ve made for themselves an image of a calf, worshipping and sacrificing before it saying ‘This is the god who brought us up out of the land of Egypt…
Oooooh, stiff-necked, rebellious people…leave me now, so that my wrath might burn against them and consume them…I’ll start again, & when you return – – you will be the NEW Abraham, and of you I will make a great nation.”
But Moses implores the Lord his God:
“No LORD! NO! Why does your wrath burn hot against YOUR people, who YOU brought up out of the land of Egypt? (What will the neighbours say?) Turn from your fierce wrath!
CHANGE YOUR MIND!
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants,
how you swore to them by your own self…
You promised! You promised Abraham, you promised Isaac, you promised Israel…
By your own name you promised!”
And the LORD changed his mind…the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
You just gotta love a LORD who changes his mind, right?
–stories like these mess with us don’t they? Perhaps they mess with the theological boundaries we have for God…perhaps they mess with some of the worship hymns/choruses that are forever planted in our hearts/minds …
(ie. Faithful one, so UNCHANGING…ageless one, you’re my rock of peace)
(Immortal invisible… “we blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree, and wither and perish but NAUGHT changeth thee”)
We do love a Lord who changeth his mind sometime, right?
Well, if not…I want to proclaim to you good news!
God changes his mind!
And let me offer a few comments on why this is good news…
First some theological thoughts:
Peter Enns (OT Scholar & author) makes the comment that a “mind-changing God” is a God who hears our prayers…we are to be encouraged that when we plead and pray to God we know he is listening, that what we say matters. This is an essential component of being in relationship with God.
The OT scholar Walter Brueggemann, proposes that God’s “mind-changing” character is an opportunity for us, like Moses, to be divine interventionists!
“Moses’ effective intervention is an exercise of human agency that makes a decisive difference in worldy affairs.”
Philip Yancey: “This is indeed a mystery…but truth be told, we want some of both:
a dependable God we can count on & yet an attentive God whom we can affect.”
“Israel’s future rests in God, yet God honours human prayer as a genuine contribution to the shape of the future. Most remarkably, God forgives this people and renews the covenant. Such divine responses are grounded in the nature of Israel’s God:
gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” (Brueggemann)
And let me also offer some Biblical thoughts…
–Exodus 32 is not the only place for our “mind-changing” God to show up…
think of the Jonah story…God getting all ramped up and ready to smite Ninevah…but God saw their deeds…and relented!
–Or in the prophetic book of Hosea, God reflects on his relationship with Israel and cries out: “How can I give you up Israel? How can I hand you over? …. My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender….I will not execute my fierce anger.”
–Or how about Jesus!? When the son of God meets the canannite woman, he’s a wee bit obstinate in the beginning of their conversation when he says that his good news proclamation is only for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”… but she begs him for mercy…and he changes his mind! He says to her: “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” (Matt. 15)
And so…how shall we live this week as the New People of God…in 2017…as part of this local “people of God” movement who have been granted love and latitude by our “mind-changing Lord”?
First off, we might say: “Phew!” and “Thank you Jesus!”
For “while we were still sinners, God proves his love for us…and Christ dies for us….so we boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now recived reconciliation” (Romans 5).
As a people who have been recipents of God’s “mind changing ways”…we are called to to be like our God…to enter into the world of risk and rebellion as “daring human agents who act differently and so transform the world.”
And this call to the “God-bearing life” demands that we let go of the idols that cry out to us.
We say “no” to the idols of independence, health, family, wealth, power, control, ease, entertainment, consumerism…any of those things that give us the false assurance that our lives will be perpetually happy…that our life-bubbles will be anxiety free…
We (especially those of us who gather in places like this week after week) even say “no” to the idol of religion…this belief that if we participate in religious practice enough it will lead us to a place of safety and security.
And we say “yes” to the God who continues to change his mind about us, no matter how far we’ve run after our idolatrous ways,
our God is gracious to us, lavishing upon us love, mercy, kindness and compassion…
so that we might share God’s mind and loving ways…
We let go of our idols; we create space to say “yes” to God…
Barbara Brown Taylor notes that when we let go of the idols that we KNOW will sustain us,
we make space to receive the “as-yet-unknown things that God has in store for us.”
And so we are invited to come out, to let go, to open up…not to forsake the things we love and want for our lives, but to forsake them as idols…
Holding them lightly, without clinging, and to be willing to give them up when it becomes clear that they are taking up too much room.
And then, we are invited to prepare the way for something new and unknown in our lives, brought to us in person by the living God.
So…what will it be for us in these days?
What might new life mean for you?
What idol has to go first?
What is taking up too much space?
NOTE: This is not a “try harder” wagging finger shame-based challenge.
This is, as it always is with God, an invitation of companionship…to be in relationship with our living God…a relationship where together, we look and listen…
For God’s voice, God’s mercy, God’s providence, God’s way forward/way out…
Right here in the midst of us…
(We pray with the Psalmist)
Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all day long.
Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for your goodness’ sake, O Lord…remember me.