“I am the Lord your God…. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…” (Exodus 20:2, 3-5)
I am usually surprised, delighted, confused or horrified at what I find whenever I read a Bible passage. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12) – in short, able through the Spirit to inform, discern, convict and encourage us, no matter how many times we have read a particular passage. I love reading the Bible in community, not only discussing it but for the accountability. This year I’m not going to get bogged down – I have a group to meet with!*
So far (as of this writing, we’re in Leviticus), we’ve seen how God calls people. Sometimes it’s great, they have a willing heart with lots of faith (think, Abraham, Noah, Joseph). Sometimes it’s not great (think Adam and Eve, and Cain). Sometimes they obey, but at first balk at God’s request of them (think, Moses). Sometimes people will follow God in one instant and then not trust him in the next (think Abram and Isaac, both lying to rulers in fear, saying that their wives were only their sisters). It’s easy to judge people in the Bible – until we really take a look at ourselves. How often do we not trust God, and we take things in our own hands? What do we worship, making something that is not God into what makes our lives worth living, more important than God? When do we lie or deceive?
Another thing that really stands out to me is people not taking responsibility for their actions — blame-deflecting. Consider Aaron, after he makes a golden calf when the people are upset that Moses has been gone for more than a month (he was with God on the mountain):
[Moses] turned to Aaron and demanded, “What did these people do to you to make you bring such terrible sin upon them?” “Don’t get so upset, my lord,” Aaron replied. “You yourself know how evil these people are. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has gold jewelry, take it off.’ When they brought it to me, I simply threw it into the fire – and out came this calf!” (Exodus 32:21-24)
“And out came this calf!” I love this ridiculous speech. Again, it’s first easy to judge him but then I think – how many times have I done the same? I’ve deflected blame. I’ve worshiped other things. The wording is kind of funny — I’m thinking perhaps of Moses rolling his eyes at Aaron’s deflection. But then it gets suddenly very serious – thousands of people die for their own sin and for Aaron the leader’s sin.
The Word is great for studying the history of God’s people and for seeing how great and loving is the God we love and serve. But it is also useful for our own growth, seeing what to do, what not to do (2 Timothy 3:16); our training to be people deeper in love with God, training in godliness (1 Timothy 4:7), training not to worship anything except for God. What we practice and do is an indication of what we believe – train your brain to choose life. We are bathed in God’s grace, forgiveness and restoration when we miss the mark because of our relationship with Jesus. And the Word also affirms us when our hearts love God, when we’ve loved the light and truth and have poured out our love to others and have given “the thirsty something to drink.” Let us live in light – not darkness; in truth – not deception; in grace and love – not judgment or indifference.
How often does God call us and we aren’t listening? Or how often do we overthink it? As Doug quoted in his summer sermon series on Improv, “You can’t be that kid that’s at the top of the waterslide overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.” (Tina Fey) If God calls you, listen; discern in community. Then do it! It’s encouraging to me that he does call us, that he wants to work through us. (How great it is that we are his beloved!) This purpose and work is life giving to us, to others, and to the Kingdom.
I’ve said this many times, but – life is short! Come down the chute! God is calling you – spend time listening for his voice, be willing to have others help you to discern it in community. Soak in his Word. You’ll be glad you did.
Kelly can be reached via email.
*Join our Facebook group (The Story – Bible Read Through). And women, come join Kelly and others in the Wednesday Night Story Group at Creekside. It’s going to be a great year!