“Try to imagine what the Canaanite nations were thinking when they climbed into the mountains and looked down on the camp of the Lord. Can you imagine seeing a million ex-slaves camped in perfect order? But the cake-topper was the pillar of fire. Can you imagine? All of your life, you have worshiped dead idols of stone and wood, and for the first time in your life you are faced with a living God? This is not any nation knocking at your door, this nation has a God in their camp. His glory shooting out of heaven and illuminating the camp…” – Zach Neese, How To Worship A King, p. 28
So you’re an Israelite right after leaving Egypt. You went from what had to have been a boring and routine life of labor to one of the greatest adventures of all time. You might not be all that culturally educated, you were just in captivity after all, but you know that this God of yours is different. They have statues of stone, metal and wood that just…sit there. You have a God who manifests himself in a pillar of fire!
But it doesn’t take long. Moses goes up the mountain to meet with your God and you get impatient. It’s taking him too long. So you make a golden calf. Really? You’re ready to give up the pillar of fire for a metal bovine? Don’t you remember walking on dry land to cross the Red Sea? Did all of the brick making somehow damage your temporal lobe causing hiccups in your short-term memory?
Sometimes I wonder if we don’t come awfully close to doing the same things today.
Our story isn’t quite like the Israelites in that often the things that divert our attention from God aren’t all that bad. But I sometimes wonder if the Church has essentially neutered itself by forgetting that we know a God who demands attention even still in this world today. I don’t believe there is anything necessarily wrong with buildings, budgets, ministries, sermons series, leadership structures, denominations, outreach events, etc. In fact, many of those things are quite important and very good. But if we’re not careful, they can easily take our focus off of Jesus.
And we trade in the amazing for a common bull…make that a steer.
Are we encouraging people in how to live a better life or are we leading them to an encounter with the very giver of life?
Are we inviting people to chase personal happiness or are we inviting them to chase after the source of unspeakable joy?
Are we choosing to overwork ourselves trying to serve God or are we being reminded that we were create for relationship with God and that everything we do should flow from that core?
And it isn’t just within the Church. Even as individuals, things distract us. Good things, but distractions nonetheless.
Whatever the steer is in your life, in your church, let’s not forget that we have the God of the universe in our camp!