I would have had a really bad attitude if I was an Isrealite. I would have been one of the first people smacking on the flap of Moses’s tent demanding answers about water and food and when we were finally going to get that supposed place of milk and honey that we’d heard all about it.
I’d be able to see the pillar of cloud in the sky, and I could watch the toddler in the tent next door eating mannah. I might have even watched Moses slam him staff into a rock and bring forth water. Still, though, I’d probably want more proof.
And by proof, I mean ease.
When I find myself calling out to God for proof of God’s love for me, what I’m actually asking for most days is ease. More money so I don’t have to budget so carefully. More time so that I can waste more of it on Facebook. Less sacrifice on my part. I want life to be easier.
See I know the whole story. I know that over and over again I have been cared for. Over and over again, just the right amount of money has come in. Just the right friend has called. Just the right opportunity has arisen or passed into other hands. Over and over, I am loved. Tangibly and with more grace than I could ever imagine.
When we talk about the Isrealites in the wilderness, we focus on the big stuff – the parting of the Red Sea, the first day of mannah, that big pillar in the sky. But sometimes we miss two big things – the dailiness of God’s provision and the construction of a place for God’s physical presence in the midst of this wandering.
Every day, God gave these wanderers mannah. Every single day (except Sundays, but that’s okay because the day before they gathered extra, so on Sundays, it was bonus – free food and no work to get it). Every day, God put that big cloud in the sky, and every night, the sky flamed so that they had a physical mark of God’s guidance.
Yet, still, they whined.
Then, God calls them to Sinai. They gather at the bottom of the mountain – AFTER HAVING HEARD THE VOICE OF GOD – and they wait for Moses to return from his facetime with the Creator.
While he’s up on that mountain, God gives Moses specific directions – down to the exact measurements, the colors to be used in the tapestries, and the need for anatomical correctness in the flowers molded into the gold lampstands – for how to build God’s special dwelling place. God cares so much that he gives them not a vague suggestion – “Okay, so build me a place to come hang out.” – but a specific plan for God’s dwelling so that they can follow directions AND use their creativity (those tapestries needed to have cherubim on them, but God let the master weavers figure out the design). God knows what the people need.
Yet, down there at the bottom of that mountain, they’re melting down the gold they need for the ark and making a cow. A cow! (Who worships a cow?) They can’t even wait for Moses to come back with instructions before they try to make it easier for themselves.
If we just make an idol like our neighbors, we’ll get along better and maybe, who knows?, this cow could even give us stuff.
See, I would be the one worshiping a cow. I do it all the time. Every day, I find myself looking for a way to take back control instead of waiting. I want life to be easy. Maybe I should go back to teaching. Maybe I can get a job in a bookstore. Maybe . . . maybe . . . maybe. But I know full well that easy isn’t the point. Obedience is.
And when I obey, I get the great stuff – not just daily bread and pillars in the sky – but gold in the shape of a farm and work and dreams come true.
Maybe even a real live cow.
When do you find yourself wishing life was easier?
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