God spoke the words of law and promise from Mt. Sinai to the children of Israel in Exodus 20…and it terrified them. They told Moses, “No thanks, you talk to god. We can’t handle it.”
Then they chose to craft a calf out of gold and call it their god. They claimed that this was the god who brought them out of Egypt.
We do this all the time.
The God who spoke from the mountain is terrifying, and that’s kind of the point. When Moses asked the voice from the burning bush, “Who should I tell them sent me? What name should I say?” the voice replied, “I AM WHAT I AM (Yahweh aka Jehovah).
God can’t be named.
God can’t be contained.
God can’t be described.
The infinite source of all things is not an object in the universe to be known or a force to be controlled. God is the ground of all being from which all being springs forth.
Moses had a dynamic relationship with God. It was a relationship not based on religious rules and regulations. It was a raw, open relationship of conversation and trust, even arguing. It was honest and dynamic.
The people weren’t ready for that. They didn’t want a God that would lead them in a pillar of cloud into the wilderness. They didn’t want a god that would stretch them and expect them to live by trusting and mutual interdependence. They didn’t want a God that would expect them to love their neighbor.
We typically don’t either.
They, and we, too often want gods that we can create in our own image, or in a form that we can understand, define, and control. We want gods that we can polish and make look pretty. We want gods that we can carry to the places we want to go and bless the things we want to do. We want gods that we can blame when things don’t go the way we want them to go. We want gods that will protect our tribe and tell us to hate and fear all others.
We’d even be willing to sacrifice our children for these gods, in order to make us feel safe and secure.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God revealed through the person of Jesus the Christ, is not a god that can be cast in gold. God is the voice that spoke all things into existence and spoke the promise and is faithful and dynamic and on-the-move and wild.
My favorite line from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was when Lucy and Edmund were talking to the Beavers about Aslan, hearing about him for the first time.
“Is he a tame lion,” Lucy asked.
“No!” Mr. Beaver said, “but he is good.”
What are the American gods that so often tempt us to turn from the wild God of Exodus and settle for safety, security, predictablity, and getting our own way?