How shall we live? How shall we worship? What do we do?
Having been to East Asia and back, hearing a sermon series on how to live in a world that does not share our faith, and then interacting with neighbors and friends that have a different perspective on how to live, these questions now seem more pertinent than ever.
I find myself ruminating on Exodus 32 in which the people demanded to worship, and so Aaron, Moses’ relative and partner in leadership, decided to heed the call of the people and build a golden calf. I have often heard this story in relation that we should worship God alone, and not other gods. Upon further examination, the Hebrew word found in verse 4 and verse 8 refer to YVHV- or Yahweh- God- or I AM much in the same way that is referred in the book of John when Jesus refers to Himself as “I AM”.
The Israelites were wanting to WORSHIP Yahweh. It was their intent to worship the true God! What was upsetting to God was that the Israelites chose their own way to worship God, when God Himself had told them how to approach him. Even the way we approach God is told to us by God Himself.
As I meditate upon this passage, i think about the intent of the Israelites. They were sincere and genuine in their desire to worship God. The manner in which they conducted themselves or followed through was not. On one sense, they could have a sincere heart, but in another manner, their actions were not obedient to God. The heart and intent matters, but so does the following actions.
It reminded me of a time, to my shame, in which I disobeyed God dearly. Many would not say so, but I knew in my heart of hearts, that I did. It was a time in which I felt God leading me to be a pastor. He was very clear: Be a Pastor at a church. Go to seminary. You will be a pastor.
So I naturally did what most people would do: I ran from that calling. I got my graduate degree, and I became a teacher instead. By doing so, I reasoned with God, that I was still fulfilling the calling He had for me by pastoring the students in my classes and teaching them English, at times, poetry found in the psalms. On weekends and during the week, I would lead bible studies at church and preach the Word on Sunday mornings. In so doing i told God, “I’m fulfilling what you called me to do.”
Half obedience is no obedience at all. And in so doing, I found that half obedience also only lent me half the joy. My soul was racked often with dissatisfaction. I would ask often in between classes, even in the middle of classes, “I don’t want to be teaching English, I want to teach them life: God’s Word.” I found that half obedience was no obedience at all. What I thought God might rob me of was greater joy. I thought I could live my life in relationship with God, but only half obedient. What he showed me was that being half obedient was no obedience at all, it was rebellion. And rebellion is fighting against God. I pleaded and I tired from that struggle, and I relented.
Only when I heeded the call of God, while still difficult, I found that He walked with me, and not against me. God often will allow us to choose our own path, only to see its end, and realize that all our efforts were for naught.
As i think about my life today, it causes me to reflect on where God is pressing me deeper. Where I am still only half obedient. Where I am reluctant to step forward, even as He calls me. I remember that it is only the devil that tries to steal my joy, by telling me the lie that following God will keep His best away from me. It is rather quite the opposite: His desire is for my greatest joy in Him, and the calling and life He wants me to go will bring that forth.