Year A Pentecost 19, October 11, 2020

“When Do We Stop Waiting for God?”

“Praise the LORD! O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.”

When do we stop waiting for God?

As readers of the book of Exodus, we know Moses was spending 40 days and nights on Mount Sinai receiving the laws and commandments. The Israelites though, do not know what we know. As far as they know, Moses said to “wait here” and disappeared into a cloud that looked like a devouring fire. Perhaps the mountain devoured Moses. In the text, we see that the Israelites are angry. In the Hebrew, “this man Moses” is an expression of contempt. I wonder if they think Moses and God abandoned them, leaving them alone in a strange place. The formerly enslaved Israelites are used to disappointment and broken promises. Their masters in Egypt let them down. It was only a matter of time before Moses, and by extension, God, did too.

It was unclear what had become of Moses, so the people stopped waiting and “gathered around” Aaron, an ominous phrase that often signals rebellion in the Hebrew Bible. They asked Aaron to make Gods for them and they created a golden calf together. It was a gross violation of God’s law, which states, “You shall not make gods of silver alongside me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold,” (20:23).

A professor of mine put it well when she said, “Humans are good at making gods, but the gods we make are not good.” The golden calf might seem more real and reliable to the Israelites than God. You can touch gold. It gives off a warm glow. Gold can’t walk away. In Egypt, it could purchase food and water. God though? God disappeared with Moses.

Or did God disappear? A very telling moment in the story is when God tells Moses to “Go down at once!” How did God know this if God was not present with the Israelites? Why would God tell Moses to go down if God didn’t care? God is always listening and watching, even when we forget God’s presence. The Israelites turned away from God, but God did not turn away from the Israelites.

God was furious about the violation of law to the point of destructive wrath. God told Moses to leave God alone to destroy the Israelites. Moses did not leave God alone. Moses reminds God that God promised to not leave the Israelites alone. God honors this promise. God is merciful and shows the Israelites unconditional love. God’s love is given freely and not dependent on merit.

When we find ourselves waiting for God, it is a forgetting of this unconditional love. Always remember you’re invited to the kingdom of God. You’re invited to recognize God’s presence in your life. God is near and does not leave us alone.

When we wait for God, humans often turn to gods of our own making in our loneliness. Humans are good at making gods, but the gods we make are not good. Sometimes I find myself led astray by the gods of social media, grades, or careerism, to name a few. What are the golden calves in your own life?

Instead of making gods, Paul advises us to “Rejoice in the Lord always…Rejoice.” Think of all the things that are true and honorable, all the things worthy of praise. In meditation on the good, we meditate on God. We stop waiting and our hearts blossom. Our lives become prayer, rejoicing in the Lord. Amen.