DISTANT FROM GOD
Day 6 | Distant from God
'But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, "Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don't know what has happened to him!" That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:
"Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
You have taken up the tabernacle of Molek
and the star of your god Rephan,
the idols you made to worship.
Therefore I will send you into exile" beyond Babylon.'
We've spent the last five days reflecting on God's good creation and the love and commitment he has made to all that led him to his birth as a human. Now, we'll consider the second reason Jesus came to this earth: human sin.
These verses capture part of a speech made by a man called Stephen, around three years after Jesus had returned to the Father. One of the earliest Christians, his bold and persuasive faith put him in the sights of the religious authorities, and he was martyred shortly after he gave this address.
Stephen captures beautifully why and how the people of Israel had become alienated from God – as well as some of the absurdity humans are so good at ('Not sure what happened to that Moses guy! Anyway, we've made a calf to worship...'). Human nature hasn't changed much down the ages. We may not resonate much with the urge to melt down our jewelry and make a bovine idol, but how willing are we to be obedient to God's radical call on our whole lives? What about our yearnings for old freedoms we had before we were Christians, or could have if we turned away? How do we 'revel in what [our] own hands have made' – whether in our careers, our families, or our hobbies?
When I think about the times in my life when I've felt distant from God, I can't put any of the blame for it on him. He gives us frightening freedom to worship who and what we choose, and the pull of idols is as strong today as it ever was. We need to consciously resist idolatry in our lives, even as we acknowledge God's amazing forgiveness and understanding that 'we are dust.' (Psalm 103:14) The Babylonian exile that resulted for the Jews was a national trauma. But the plan was always that they would return home. Ultimately God would send his son to make sure it happened.
Lord God, you alone deserve to be worshipped. I am sorry for the times I have not put you first or given you the respect, love, and obedience you deserve. Give me an undivided heart. Amen.