Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Desert Deception (Gods Among Us)

"Kneel, god of thunder."

"Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter... The people grumbled against Moses, saying, 'What shall we drink?'"

"Kneel before your conqueror."

"They set out... to the wilderness of Sin... on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, 'Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.'"

"Kneel, as is your desert and destiny, before Loki Laufeyson."

"All the congregation of the people of Israel moved on from the wilderness of Sin... and camped... but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, 'Give us water to drink.' And Moses said to them, 'Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?' But the people thirsted there for water and the people grumbled against Moses and said, 'Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?'"

"When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, 'Get up, make us gods 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.' So Aaron said to them, 'Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.' So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'"

We are desert people.

Look at us. What are we doing? We're sick. There is no cure from what we've become. We're tired. How long can we go on this way? We're thirsty. Our lips are arid and nothing in this world can quench our thirst. We're lost. Sometimes, I think it would be better if we never even tried or we just gave up and died, there is no point. We're hungry. Nothing fills the void in our bellies. We just want to quit. I'd rather quit and die than waste breathe at failed attempts of life and eventually die anyway. We've endured waiting for God long enough. We're done being dependent on Him. So, what do we do? We worship something else. We trust something else. Maybe the Lord wasn't really with us in the first place. That should justify trusting in ourselves or some other thing above Him.

Wait, wait, wait, hold on there. We're missing something. As Admiral Ackbar would say:

"It's a trap!"

We're wandering into the realm of self-deceit and giving in to the temptation of self-worship. But, I thought we did away with God. How could we know any better?  We need to open our eyes. We need to see the whole story. We're only looking at a part of history, the now. What happened before all of this? And, what happened after? These are only parts of the chapters of the book of the whole, what does the rest say?

Only one verse before the Israelites "set out from the Red Sea," Miriam had been singing to them, "Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea." Why was she singing? They had finally been delivered from their exile in Egypt!! This was not of their own doing, but of God's doing. They all knew that they had no hope. There was no escape, no future, and no refuge, without the Lord. They had been slaves as long as they could remember and they all knew the fact that it had been only by the strength of God's right arm that they had escaped. His plagues and miracles had been enough to frighten Pharaoh into letting the God-fearing people go. And, even when Pharaoh had changed his mind and pursued them, it had only been by the power of God that they had escaped.

Alright, alright, alright, God has helped us in the past. So, what? In the words of Eddie Murphy,

"What have you done for me lately?"

Israel was thinking this. Although they had been spared from God's hand and delivered from Egypt, they wanted to know why the Lord had left them. They thought He forgot about them when it was really them who forgot about Him. For this we can just read on to the endings of these chapters. In Chapter 15, the Lord turned the very same bitter water that they had been complaining about into sweet water that they could drink. In Chapter 16, God let bread and quail descend from the sky itself in order to feed His hungry people. And, in Chapter 17, God made water to spring forth from the rock.

God was there, active and alive. He consistently saved His people from the desolation they so obviously deserved.

Still, even after all of these things, in Chapter 32, the group forgot about God altogether. And, as if that wasn't enough, they hadn't only given up on God, they had taken away his previous credentials. Instead of remembering that it was He who brought them out of exile, they claimed "the man [Moses] ...brought us up out of the land of Egypt." It was the man they did not "know" what had become of. They forgot about the Lord altogether. They had become the polar opposite of joining Miriam with His praise. Instead, they didn't even acknowledge that He had existed. They ignored the fact that He was the only one able to deliver them from servitude. And, they made a new, different, fake god out of their own hands and with their own minds. They had thought that they had given themselves the power to know righteousness above God's. When really, they had fallen into the trap of the Devil. It was in this way and with these lies that he had made them his servant. Instead of serving the Lord, they served his adversary. Instead of singing praise, they sacrificed to molded gold. They bowed down to an inanimate object rather than fearing the living Lord.

Imagine Joshua's fright when he had heard all of the commotion down in the camp. He couldn't help but stammer, "There is a noise of war in the camp." But, then he became confused, "It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear." And as soon as he came near the camp he saw the calf and the dancing.

Joshua's first guess was right.

Loki. Loki is a god of mischief and lies. He is the silver-tongued prince of Asgard. In Norse mythology, he is a shape-shifter and engineer to the death of Balder.

Overall, he covets power and does whatever he needs to achieve it. He pulls tricks, he shape-shifts (he was a woman in the Balder devo), he tells lies, and performs whatever rhetoric is required to have his sway.

He would do everything in his power to have the world and Thor bow before him, succumbing to his power. In fact, many times, it seems as if he has had his way. He wins.

The Devil is the same way. He covets power and does whatever he needs to achieve it. He tricks us, he shape-shifts (unbeknownst to the Israelites, he is working behind the calf above), he lies to us, and performs whatever rhetoric he can to have his sway (he has quoted Scripture to attempt to defy Jesus, today he works through out-spoken anti-theists and atheists).

He would do everything in his power to have the world and Christ bow before him, succumbing to his power. In fact, many times, it seems as if he has had his way. He wins.

There, in Chapter 32, it sure looked like he won. The Devil had his way. He took God's children and bride,  making them dance for him. Like puppets on strings, they sacrificed to him. Like a puppy who has been utterly abused enough to forget its own master, Satan took the people away from the father who loved and cared for them and abused them enough to forget their own father.

We are desert people.

We are exactly where the Israelites found themselves in Chapter 32. Before the birth of Christ, we had been in exile. We were slaves not to Egypt, but to the Law. We were given a bar set way too high and almost killed ourselves trying to attempt and atone for it. Then, it happened. Our long-foretold Savior was born. But, that's not all. He took all of our sins. He took the death we deserved. He faced the Devil himself. And, He rose. He atoned for us because we couldn't atone for ourselves. He was the only one able to deliver us just as the Lord was the only one capable of delivering Israel out of Egypt. But, now, here we are. We are desert people. We're sick, we're tired, we're thirsty, we're lost, we're hungry, we just want to quit, we've endured waiting for God. This is Advent, just as the Israelites had yearned for the Promised Land, we yearn for His return and our Promised Land, Heaven.

This is when the Devil strikes, while we're weak. We cannot afford to give into his tricks, disguises, lies, and rhetoric. We cannot afford to give our lives to the beast. We cannot afford to lose the battle for our souls to someone who has, in truth, taken us away from the sole Being who has ALWAYS been there for us.

Instead, we need to hear the voice calling us out of this wilderness saying, "Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight." This voice, the Word, Scripture, begs us only to listen. Not to act on our own accord creating obstacles to stumble over in our own path, but to listen. Once we are silenced, we can hear. We can hear that Christ has won. And, here, is where we are healed. Here, is where we are rested. He is where our thirst is quenched. Here is where we are finally found. Here, we are fed. Here we are given the strength to carry on. Here, we no longer endure waiting, but rejoice in it.

This Advent, He is coming. This time of year we celebrate His birth. And, His return. Unlike our brothers who were lost in the desert, we know that He will remember us. He will have mercy on us. And, He will lead us until we are safely back home with Him.


Most of the inspiration for this idea came from Stephen's Speech in Acts 7.
This has been part of the Gods Among Us Series

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