The Lure of the Safe

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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When the people saw how long it was taking Moses to come back down the mountain, they gathered around Aaron. “Come on,” they said, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses, who brought us here from the land of Egypt.”

Exodus 32:1

Yesterday I began reflecting on the lamentable story of the golden calf. At the instigation of the Israelites, Aaron formed a golden calf so that the people might worship “the gods who brought [them] out of the land of Egypt” (32:4).

Why did the Israelites form the golden calf for their worship? Why did they violate the second commandment so blatantly? As I explained yesterday, in part, the Israelites wanted an idol because that’s what was familiar to them. If you think about it, this makes sense, in a way. If you were used to worshiping the gods through the means of visual representations, it would be hard to relate to an invisible God.

Moreover, the people yearned for “gods who can lead us” (32:1). Literally, they wanted gods who would “go before” them (yelekhu lefanenu). Remember that Moses, their leader, had been up on Mt. Sinai for a long time. The people worried that the one who had represented the Lord to them had died or, at any rate, disappeared. They felt abandoned, scared, and helpless in the middle of the Sinai wilderness. A physical representation of the gods, even of the Lord who rescued them from Egypt, would be reassuring.

How often do we find ourselves in a situation like that of the Israelites? We hear God’s call to something new and boldly step out in faith. But when we don’t sense God’s presence, when our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling, we too feel abandoned, scared, and helpless. We too can grasp for the familiar and tangible, lured by the power of safety. How much harder it can be to trust in an invisible and sovereign God, a God who, like Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, isn’t safe, though he is good.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Have you ever stepped out in bold faith, trusting God, only to panic when God seems distant? Have you ever grasped for what felt safe rather than trusting God? What helps you to trust God even when you feel alone and afraid?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, you know how much I am eager to hear your call and obey. I want to honor you with my whole life more than anything else. But you also know how easily I become nervous when you aren’t doing things the way I’d like you to do them or when you seem strangely distant. How tempting it is for me to grab on to what feels safe, rather than trusting you.

Help me, gracious Lord, to trust you at all times, even and especially when it isn’t easy. Give me solid confidence in you even when you’re “invisible.”

Thank you for all the times and all the ways you do make yourself known to me. Your grace astounds me, Lord. Thank you! Amen.