The Messiness of True Worship

I knew this would get difficult.

How could I forget?

So many verses in the Old Testament cause me to cringe.

And today’s reading includes some of them.

I’d love to stop reading.

Change the subject.

Talk about a sunrise or the coming of spring.

But here I sit,

having made a commitment to write through every chapter,

I push through the instructions for sacrificing a ram.

More details about what to do with blood than I’d ever want to know.

My Cheerios feel safe this morning.

That’s about it.

The God of the Old Testament scares me.

 So I have to pause.

Remind myself.

This wasn’t a new thing.

Something God had created.

Old Testament people were already offering sacrifices all across the land.

Cain and Abel had done it first.

So God just borrowed something they already understood and turned it toward Himself.

Invited His presence into a ritual practiced by other nations,

consecrated the Israelites’ altar,

and brought His glory into their midst.

So when the people panicked,

thinking Moses wasn’t coming back down the mountain,

they should have remembered something else I can easily forget.

Moses was gone, but God was still there.

Removing a man doesn’t remove a Redeemer.

Aaron must have forgotten too.

As the people cried out for Moses,

they gathered around his brother.

And doesn’t it feel good to be needed?

So doing what I may have done myself,

Aaron tries to solve their problem.

But instead of looking to the mountain and crying out for God,

he looks at the people and cries out for their gold.

In their distress, they listen.

Handing over precious belongings,

they trust Aaron to create something they can see.

A golden calf.

A new altar.

An unconsecrated place.

The very thing God had commanded them not to do,

“You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it.”

Only six weeks have passed since they first heard these words,

but here they stand.

Bowing to a golden calf just inches from Mt. Sinai.

So close to God and yet so far away.

I’m no different when I feel far from God.

It’s so easy to turn to friends.

Or family.

Take their advice.

Create my own plan.

Chisel a way forward.

And forget I’m just inches from Mt. Sinai.

What if the Israelites would have looked up?

Called out to God instead of Moses?

Gathered around the mountain instead of gathering around Aaron?

It seems easy to see where they went wrong,

reading their story over 2000 years later.

But how different do the pages of my story really look?

How often do I turn the wrong direction in hopes of finding Him?

Avoid a messy sacrifice by tossing gold instead.

God didn’t need the Israelites’ “stuff.”

And He doesn’t need mine.

He wanted their hearts.

And He wants mine.

But like a ram,

I’m generally a mess.

Spilled out on the altar.

A living sacrifice.

Cheerios were so much easier to swallow this morning.

Maybe I cringe when I read about sacrifices,

because I know how often I avoid them today.

Not the placing of animals on an altar.

But the placing of me.

Dying to myself so that He can live instead.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy,

to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,

holy and pleasing to God–

this is your true and proper worship.

Romans 12:1

(Today reading: Exodus 29-32)

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