God’s Sovereignty

Exodus 33:12-23

I went home from work one day last week and sat myself down and had a little talk with God. Let me just say that anyone who works in the public sector will understand when I say, there are days you come home from work    muttering the mantra from Star Trek; “Beam me up Scottie, there’s no intelligent life down here!” (Oh, quit looking at each other, it had nothing to do with any of you.) So God and I were having a good talk when I was reminded that, in order for this to be more than just a visit to the celestial complaint department, I needed to do a little listening.

I found myself saying, “God, I don’t know how you do it.” I recalled the sovereignty of the God I was talking to. This is the God who brought light out of darkness, order out of chaos. This God I was speaking to was here before time began, is the alpha and omega, through which all which exists came into being. The spark of life the essence of everything, the craftsman of this universe, the author of all the laws of physics, chemistry, metallurgy, geology…

I thought of the timeline of history and was reminded as to just how long God’s wondrous creation has existed. Do you see that red little speck right there? That is us, nothing more than a speck of sand in the hour glass of time. And yet, no other of God’s creations has caused more harm, more destruction upon the earth than we have, in a mere blink of an eye. How, why, does God put up with us?

God made our living here really simple.

God simply said, “Worship me with all your mind, heart and soul, and have no other God’s before me.” Seems simple enough that we should honour the sovereignty of a God who gave us all this as well as our own lives as a gift,

an unconditional, gracious gift. Just gave it to us. Yet we constantly push the sovereignty of God into the periphery of our minds as we are busy securing our own power and control. We want to play God, dominating all other species, as if they were ours to own and control, as if they are somehow lower on the life spectrum than we are. We want to play God, dominating the environment and dominating each other, trying to sit on a throne that doesn’t belong to us. There are just so many people playing God, speaking for God, deciding for God. “Doesn’t it just tick you off God, that these little peons who don’t have a fraction of your power and might, just keep dismissing you? Don’t you just want to slap them up the side of head? Give them a wake up call?”

And I heard God saying, “Tried that once and as soon as they stopped treading water and got their feet back on solid ground, they just went back to their old ways.” “So, how do you do it God?” “It’s been a long journey,” was God’s reply.

*****

Exodus describes some of that journey for us. When God first called Moses to go set God’s people free, Moses wanted to know who this god was. So God said, “I am the great I am, the God of your ancestors.” I guess if you’re standing barefoot on sacred soil having your face scorched by the flames of a bush that is not being consumed, that’s a pretty good answer. But when the people of Israel are dipping their toes in the Red Sea, choking on chariot dust, you need a little more. So God reveals a little more of God’s nature to them and says, “I am who I am,

I will be all you need me to be. Watch and see what I will do in order

that you might know who your God is.” Notice that neither of these responses is terribly intimate. “I am God and knowing that should be enough for you to want to follow me.” It should be enough but it isn’t because the people want something more than a cloud and pillar of fire to follow.

So here comes the golden calf, something they can see, touch and worship. God is miffed to say the least. Who can blame God? So God says to Moses in a clap of thunder, “I am their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt.” Notice the shift here? God doesn’t say, these are my people. God says, “These are your people Moses. I am not longer going to identify myself with them.”

We all need to the thankful that Moses intercedes on behalf of his people. “No God, you can’t abandon us like this. I know the people have broken covenant with you, but you can’t leave them!” So God says God will send an angel. “Through this angel I will lead you but I will no longer preside in your midst.” “No, no God,” Moses pleads, “You have to go with us, right here in our midst. If you don’t, then what makes us any different from the Egyptians? You are our God. That is what gives us our meaning and identity.”

*****

Don’t miss the next point. Moses knows that, if this covenant between God and Moses’ people is going to be healed, the next move has to come from God, even though this fracture in their relationship was the total responsibility of the people. So Moses appeals to God’s deeper nature and asks God to reveal this nature to his people. Just saying, “I am your God, and you should follow me,” is not going to cut it, God.”

“If these really are your people,” Moses cries, “then you must show them your mercy and grace.” And God concedes, because what Moses is asking for has nothing to do with Moses. Moses is pouring out for God to see his love for his people.

So God says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious. I will show mercy in whom I show mercy.” This is only way our sovereign God can live with us without abandoning us or destroying us because we are a stiff-necked people.

*****

So what was God telling me last week? “Get off the mountain. It is okay from time to time to leave the world behind and come up here and let go a few frustrated thunder claps. “Been there and done that,” God says. “But nothing is going to be resolved if you distance yourself from

these relationships. So get back in there bringing with you my spirit of grace and mercy. I know, I know. You didn’t start any of this, but if there is going to be peace on earth, then it has to begin with you, as my friend St. Francis would say. Don’t give up on these people or all you will have left is alienation, pain and division. The world will not survive, my creation will not survive if this is all it has. Death will win.”

*****

It also occurred to me the immense capacity human prayer has.

When prayer is directed towards God out of a pure love for another, then God can be, and is moved. That is the power of prayer. Your sincere prayer for another can move God. So, if there are people who are really ticking you off, then maybe a heartfelt prayer for them will bring healing to yourself, to them, and even God. That is why I believe that recognizing that this day, we are sitting on the indigenous land of the Iroquois, Ojibwa and Chippewa nations, is so important. If we truly wish to reconcile with our Indigenous brothers and sisters and heal the brokenness that our dismissal has caused, then it seems to me that Moses is telling us to get ourselves down off that mountain we like to sit on and approach God’s children with grace and mercy.

If there is to be peace on earth then let it begin with each of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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