A friend of mine emailed me this week, commiserating that we were probably the only two people around here who have been enjoying this cooler, rainy, overcast weather. Of course, now that I’ve typed that sentence, the sun just came out. Ironic timing, that.
God has a sense of humor.
This week in our service, we collected the last of our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes and prayed over them, preparing to send them overseas to children around the world. It seems like such a small thing to pack some basic toiletries, toys, and other small items into a shoebox for a total stranger, especially when we’re spending so much time and money around this time of year to buy elaborate and expensive gifts for the people we love. Then again, when you see the faces of the children who are utterly amazed to receive what they perceive as spectacular gifts (and when you remember that America invented the word “regifting” to express just how much many gifts mean to us), then perhaps it’s all the more important to remember to focus more on doing the small, amazing things that quietly change lives, and a smidgey bit less on the huge, spectacular things that titillate until they’re soon forgotten.
Of course, I recognize that it’s human nature to be drawn to the shiny, the new, the expensive, and the quick (instead of the worn, the aged, the poor, or the complicated). I was tempted to say “American” nature, but the Israelites were the same way.
That’s why they built their golden calf -- a “fetish” that they imbued with power (both power for them and power over them). See, working with God is complicated, and He doesn’t always go in the direction that you point Him in... but a golden calf has no mind of its own, so it makes a perfect “god” for those who are looking for more of a magical fetish than a holy Lord.
Unfortunately, that’s also what Moses ended up doing with his own staff. It was supposed to be a symbol of God’s power and authority, temporarily wielded by Moses, but over a relatively short period of time, it had devolved into being a magic wand or wizard’s staff in Moses’ mind. Instead of trusting in God’s authority, he began to trust in “how the magic trick worked the last time” -- he began to trust in showmanship instead of in the Provider.
God tried to make a point about that sort of magical fetish by telling Moses to make a bronze snake and place it on a pole. If the people had the faith to trust in God and look up to the bronze snake, they’d have life. The power wasn’t in the image -- the pole didn’t heal anyone -- but rather, the power was in God, accessed through the faith to look up to Him.
Later, Jesus used that same context to explain that He Himself would be lifted up on a pole. If people had the faith to trust in God and look up to Him on the cross, they’d have eternal life. The power wasn’t in the image -- the cross didn’t save anyone -- but rather, the power was in God, accessed through the faith to look up to Him.
Almost immediately, the people began worshiping Moses’ bronze snake, because that’s human nature...
So what about you and me? Are we putting our faith squarely on God and trusting in Him, through a long, complicated, daily-lived-out relationship with Him? Or do we sometimes cut those corners by trusting in a quicker, slicker fetish here or there?
I mean, which is quicker -- to stop and ask God for wisdom every time, or to just do what worked the last time? Which is easier -- to trust in God’s wisdom even when it goes against our own, or to trust in the mechanisms of life that best appear to help us achieve our own goals?
Choose this day whom you will serve -- the Lord, or the fetishes of our own making...