Roger's Postings

Friday, September 13, 2013

Exodus 32:7-14.                       Will God relent for our golden calf??             15/9/13

 {7} Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. {8} They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' {9} "I have seen these people," the LORD said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. {10} Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation." {11} But Moses sought the favour of the LORD his God. "O LORD," he said, "why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? {12} Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. {13} Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: 'I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.'" {14} Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

 Here again we have a message which calls us to take heed to the thinking that is very much a part of the world we live in. The making of ‘golden calves’ is just as much an issue today is it was back in the time of Moses. The question is, are a part of it or not? Do we recognise that it is going on around about us? Do we care? Or do we simply want to enjoy the eating, drinking and revelry? And perhaps most importantly do we happily go along with it all presuming that God forgives us anyway, so it doesn’t matter.

 Whatever might be the case, we need to keep in mind what the Almighty God has to say with regard to these things. It is not a matter of, it is all a bit grey, so it doesn’t matter too much, and after all God is a loving God who is for us. This reading reminds us that it does matter: it is serious business!

 That being the case let us think through what was going on back then and question whether this may not be the case today as well.

 In the lead up to the ‘golden calf’ we have the people growing concerned that nothing was happening. We read: When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him." Because nothing was happening the thinking seemed to be that ‘they were backing the wrong horse.’ Obviously this God, Yahweh, was not really the true God after all. Let us make ourselves another one.

 It is incredible, isn’t it! They had seen and experienced God’s almighty power again and again as he brought them out of Egypt: the plagues; the angel of death and the Passover, the parting of the Red Sea and the water from the rock, to name just a few. Now just a short time later when things had gone quiet for a little while, they were ready to discard this great God for something of their own making. How stupid can they be? Really?

 Look around us here today; are we any different? We too have seen and experienced God’s great love and power, and yet are we not doing exactly the same. Maybe we are not taking off our golden rings and melting them down into the image of a young bull, but we have turned and made other gods for ourselves. We have made many things that which we look to in order to have life and fulfilment. We too have become impatient with God and his seeming inaction and are looking elsewhere for our answers to life.

 Our leaders, even within the church, struggle with the same problem that Aaron faced: on the one hand to remain faithful, and to give the people what they want. Aaron got them to gather their gold and made it into a golden calf; then said this is a representation of the Lord. The people however saw this golden calf as their god and then set about enjoying themselves as they saw fit: eating, drinking and revelry. Aaron seemed to think that he could have a little bit each way and it wouldn’t matter: that he could give the people what they wanted but still keep to the faith. It did not work!

 They had God’s Word written on tablets of stone: “You shall have no other gods before me. And; You shall not make for yourself an idol .....” This would have all still been very fresh in their minds; yet they could very quickly ignore and overlook it all. They wanted results and they wanted it when they wanted it.

 Today it is little different: we just as easily forget and ignore what God has written for us. We also quite readily listen to the words, ‘did God really say,’ and then go on to say and do that which is actually contrary to what God has really said. As leaders the temptations is there to give the people what they want to hear and justifying it by saying we are still being faithful. We make grey areas out of many teachings and practices. We look to society and we change our teachings so that we are not seen to be so different. We say that we are Lutheran, but have drifted far from the teachings that have been passed on to us. With all of that, the people are then left to go their own way into crass idolatry and paganism, even if it is in the name of christian.

 To this we would have to say the Lord must have similar thoughts to that which he said to Moses: “They have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' "I have seen these people, and they are a stiff-necked people.”
 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them.

 Lord have mercy on us, for that surely is what I – we deserve. Lord, turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. Lord we are in trouble; remember your Son and what he has done for us through his death on the cross, and draw us back to your Word. Help us to remember all that you have done for us through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and the importance of your Word for us; as well as our Baptism and Holy Communion. Help us all to see that there in those means you have given us all that we need in these difficult times.

 Yes let us be reminded again that our help and our life is in God alone. Through and in connection with Jesus Christ we have everything that we need that is of importance. His death on the cross alone is what has given us forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Nothing more is needed for our salvation. It is not Jesus plus something else that you or I must do that makes this salvation ours.

 Through him and his grace alone we are brought into the family of God; not through anyone or anything else. His love for us, even though we in no way deserve it, is what has made it all possible. Not one of us can do anything to ensure that it is extended to us. God’s grace alone is sufficient.

 And it is by faith alone: that is simple trust in the fact that he has done everything necessary for our salvation that is required. We are forgiven: we are saved by Jesus alone; all we are called to do is to trust that in Jesus it is so.

 This we know, for that is the message of the Scriptures. That is why we also say that it is through Scripture alone that we are reliant for these truths. In the Bible we have God’s infallible and inerrant Word for us. We, throughout history can see that, where it is Scripture plus the reasoning of sinful man that we shift the focus away from that which is essential, and that we start changing God’s Word to suite ourselves.

 However as we hold fast to God and his Word we are assured that the Holy Spirit is at work constantly in our lives through this Word and Baptism and Holy Communion. Through those means we can be sure that God is at work bringing that forgiveness, life and salvation to each one of us. They are the means that he has promised to work through for our good, so we need to regularly avail ourselves of them, so that he can work good in our lives.

 All this being the case, let us then not look for something more than what God has given. Yes at the moment there does seem to be a delay in God’s activities in our society. Not a lot of great things seem to be happening like we might expect. Yet he has done great things for us through Jesus Christ, and he has promised that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. So let us not compromise that which God has given and said to us, so that we become even more corrupt and stiff-necked.

 No let us look to Jesus Christ alone as our source of life and salvation, so that we can go forward with confidence and hope. Instead of looking to the ‘golden calves’ around us, let us trust that in connection with Jesus we have everything necessary for this life and the next. For to him alone belongs all glory and honour, now and always. AMEN.

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish




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