When we read Deuteronomy 9:13-21 it is difficult to understand why the Israelites, who escaped the fury of Pharaoh by the hand of an almighty God, could turn so quickly from worshiping the one true God to worshiping a molded calf made by human hands. We may be tempted to cast judgment, convinced that we would never turn from worshiping God and choose to worship an idol. Yet if we are honest with ourselves and with God, we are more like the children of Israel than we care to admit.
Like the Israelites we, too, become afraid when God seems far off. We, too, grow impatient with God’s timing and delay. We, too, commit sin and turn away from God. We, too, are prone to panic and to seek a substitute when God’s answers don’t meet our expectations. Like the children of Israel we begin look for a tangible god that we can see and touch. There are times when we turn from an all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful God to things we have created. We may not create a god made of gold or wood or clay. However, our substitute god may be our own abilities, our positions in church, our financial portfolios, our spouse and or children, our material possessions, or even our academic success. We are more like the Israelites than we care to admit.
Fortunately, like the children of Israel we, too, have someone to intercede on our behalf when we turn to idols and sin against God. Moses interceded for the children of Israel and convinced God not to destroy them. (19) Moses also took their sin and “burned it with fire and crushed it and ground it very small, until it was as fine as dust; and [he] threw it into the brook that descended from the mountain” (21). As children of the Most High God we have an intercessor mightier than Moses--Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of God Almighty and intercedes on our behalf. Our sins, too, have been cast into the depths of the sea. Jesus took our sins to Calvary’s cross. As far as the east is from the west so far has God removed our sins from us (Ps. 103:12). There is no idol we can create that has the sin-crushing power and grace-giving love of Jesus Christ.
During this Lenten season, if God seems distant or silent in our lives may we think twice before we turn to a substitute for God. May we be encouraged to turn toward Immanuel, God with us. Turn toward the one true God who loves us so much that “he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Seminary Deacon Leader Mignon Jones-Spann