Do you ever find yourself reading the Old Testament and thinking, “Wow, how dumb can the people of Israel get?” Now, come on. Be honest.
It’s amazing, isn’t it, how the Israelites could be saved by God working through Moses and yet they grumble about not having food. I mean, they don’t even ask for it, for goodness’ sake! They just whine to Moses. Or how they could make a covenant with God, promising to do “all that He has commanded”, and then as soon as Moses’ back is turned break the first and second commandments to create a calf out of gold. It’s no wonder God tells them in Exodus chapter 33 verse 3 that He’s no longer going to be with them.
I guess, in a way I can understand them. For 400 years they lived as slaves, not making their own decisions, feeling like the God of their fathers has abandoned them, and being treated almost like cattle. Then along comes a man named Moses who was adopted into the kind of privilege they can only dream of with some “magical” powers that he claims are from this invisible God that’s been so long absent. I think that by the time the plagues are done with, they’re probably following the man more than the God he represents. So when they don’t have food, of course it’s his fault and he needs to fix it. And the calf thing? They’ve just come out of a land where everyone worships multiple gods and there are statues everywhere of what they look like. Surely God didn’t really mean that He was the only one? And if He is, then he needs a body, right? Some way for the people to truly love what they worship and something they can focus on. That they can see and touch. (Exodus 1-32)
So when we look at things in that light, I guess we can understand their momentary insanity. Maybe not overlook, but at least understand. And maybe if we can give them grace, we can give ourselves and those around us a little as well.
After all, we live in a time when God is “seemingly silent”. There are no audible words, no prophets, no amazing “magical” works of power. All we have that we can base our belief in God upon is personal experience and relationship. It’s all based on faith.
It’s no wonder unBelievers think we’re crazy. And it’s no wonder that sometimes we act like it.
I think it’s because we don’t have a god that we can see and touch that we go through spiritual ups and downs. One day we’ll totally believe that Jesus saved us and the next we do something that, if we thought about it, seems out of sync with that belief. But does that mean that we don’t believe? Does that mean that we should just give up, that we are unworthy of God’s Love and therefore are not truly His?
It just means you’re having a bad day. That you’re human, just like the rest of us. You’re no more, nor less loved than you were yesterday, the day before, or even the day you first believed. God does not look at you and say, “You know, I don’t think this relationship is going to work out.”
“But He did with the people of Israel!” you may argue.
Hm. Let’s look closely at that for a moment. Did God say He would stop being their God? No. Did He say He would not go with them? Yes. And it’s the same with us. Do you honestly think God is going to bless you if you are walking in sin? Is He going to guide and be with you if you are not acting like His child? Or is He going to wait until you wake up to just how much He loves you and submit yourself to Him again before going with you? God will not prosper those who use His name- and try to use His power- for personal gain and sin.
When the people of Israel were first told that God would not go with them, He commanded them to take off their ornaments, all of those fancy things they had received from the Egyptians as a “going away” present. For hundreds of years they had watched the Egyptians have everything while they had nothing. So I’m sure they were very proud of their plunder and probably wore lots of jewelry and fancy clothes all the time as a point of pride. But then God gives them a simple, yet difficult, command: “Take it off. Strip yourselves of everything that you think makes you worth something. Come spiritually bare before me.”(Exodus 33:5)
And they did! Why? Because they were truly repentant. So what was God’s response?
Not only did He “relent” and decide to go with them, but He presented Himself every day in a way that was visible: a pillar of cloud. And the people worshiped. Instead of giving up on them He gave them a second chance.
Just like God’s love for them was not based on their performance (and let’s face it, this is not the last time they receive a “God-check”), His love for us isn’t either. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we cannot earn that Love, that it’s a gift entirely based on faith (not performance) (Romans 3:21-28). It also tells us what true love is: a choice.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)
It’s something God chooses to do for us every moment of every day in the past, present, and future.
So no matter how “messed up” you think you are, please, don’t ever think God doesn’t love you or has given up on you because He doesn’t work like that. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Accept His love and grace for what they are: constant and who He is. (1 John 4:8)
And then extend that love and grace to those around you.
Think about it.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.”
(1 John 4:7-19)