You are God Alone
Sermon: October 11, 2020
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”
Aaron said to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”
When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the LORD.” They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.
The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ”
The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”
But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’?
Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ”
And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
In a little while, the worship team will be singing the great song, “You are God Alone.” It is one of the team’s favorites, and for good reason. There is so much good, about who God is and what that means for us
in this one song.
You are God alone, from before time began.
And right now, in the good times and bad . . .
you are God alone.
There is something reassuring in that;
God is God and present, not just bringing good times, but able to change bad to good.
And that this God is the One true God.
The song ends with these words, repeated over and over:
“You’re unchangeable, you’re unshakeable,
‘you’re unstoppable, that’s what you are.”
Where God is all these things,
the people of Israel were shook, they were stopped,
and they were looking for a change.
“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.””
The people, seemingly, had forgotten that God had delivered them out of slavery in Egypt, had provided for them in the desert, had brought them manna and water when they were hungry and thirsty, had led them by a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day.
Some how, they were left feeling alone, left without God to protect and provide, and without Moses to guide and lead. It seems like they felt it was up to them.
Terrence Fretheim says that the people sought to create what God had already provided. They, rather than God, were to take the initiative. The people disregarded the personal, active God and made their own god; an impersonal object that cannot see, speak or act.
Well, God re-acted:
“The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.””
And then, Moses, trusting in the strong relationship he had with God, pleads for the people:
“Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people.
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants,
how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ”
And then something remarkable happens:
‘And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.”
The God who is unchangeable, unshakable, unstoppable; changes God’s mind!
Is it possible that God repents?
When we think of the word, repent,
we think about it in relation to our lives.
For us, to repent means to change one’s direction, change one’s mind, change one’s life;
usually in regards to sin.
We sin before God, and we need to live our lives differently, we need to turn our attention to the path God has laid out for us and not continue to walk away from God.
Fretheim talks about this:
“In the Old Testament, God never repents of sin; all of God’s actions are considered appropriate and justifiable. Rather, divine repentance is the reversal of a direction taken or a decision made.
The God of Israel is revealed as one who is open to change. God will move from decisions made, from courses chartered, in view of the ongoing interaction with those affected. God treats the relationship with the people with an integrity that is responsive to what they do and say.”
I thank God everyday, for God’s adaptiveness,
Think about it; if God was a God who did not change course, the flood would have been it . . . game over.
If God did not change direction,
then Jesus would not have come on the scene;
bringing forgiveness of our sinfulness,
bringing life in the face of death,
bringing an answer to how to live a different life
than a life of human power and might and strength.
Have you ever stopped to thing about the things we pray for? Don’t we ask God to change the ways things are going?: We pray for an end to the virus. We pray for people to stop hating each other. We pray for healing of illnesses of mind and body. We don’t want to continue living in all this, we ask for change.
And for me, it is reassuring to know that God does change, that God listens to God’s creation and that God responds. God does indeed change God’s mind, but there is a lot to God that does not change.
This story is not the only place in the Bible where we hear of God changing direction. And, sisters and brothers in Christ, whenever it happens: it always, always, is for our good. For you see, what does not change, is God’s nature.
“This means that there is genuine openness to the future on God’s part . . . It is this openness to change that reveals what it is about God that is unchangeable:
God’s steadfastness has to do with God’s love;
God’s faithfulness has to do with God’s promises;
God’s will is for the salvation of all.
God will always act, even make changes, in order to be true to these unchangeable ways and to accomplish these unchangeable goals.”
And for that, thanks be to God. Amen.
Terrence E. Fretheim. Exodus. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville: John Knox Press, 1991.