Listen to this week’s Devotional here.
Author: Chad Glang
“If indeed I enjoy your favor, please show me your ways, so that I understand you and continue to enjoy your favor; consider too that this nation is your people.” Yahweh then said, “I myself shall go with you and I shall give you rest.” Exodus 33:13,14
We say “carved in stone,” meaning permanent. And perhaps we think of the Ten Commandments, carved into the stone tablets. But those tablets weren’t so permanent. They fell victim to Moses’ anger, and Yahweh gave him a do-over…another set.
Moses makes his first trip up the mountain, gets the Commandments and comes down to find his people in the grip of their idol-making, partying egos. They are in a frenzy, worshipping gold. Well, ego calls to ego, and in a flash Moses is also in the grip of his own reactivity, specifically anger. He smashes the tablets. Oops. Permanent wisdom falls victim to temporary rage.
This leads to Exodus 33:13,14. Before Yahweh gives him the second set, they have a conversation. “Show me your ways,” says Moses. At first glance, this seems such a lovely prayer! Moses has been given his marching orders: take these people to the promised land, which is somewhere beyond the desert. He’s anxious, fearful, feeling not up to the task. “That’s a big unfriendly wilderness out there…I’m not sure I can get us across to the other side…show me your ways, so I may follow them.” What better prayer could there be?
Yahweh, however, doesn’t even dignify it with a direct response. Rather, he says, “I’ll go with you, and I’ll give you rest.” Coming from his limited point of view, Moses makes the best request he can…but he’s locked in a self-defeating paradigm. He wants to be in control. “Just give me a map; I’ll take it from there.”
In the pattern which the Rolling Stones would sing about a few thousand years later, Moses asks for what he wants, Yahweh gives him what he needs. You can almost hear Yahweh’s wheels turning as he shakes his head: “Moses, Moses, Moses. You ask me to show you my ways. What do you think I just finished giving you? Even carved in stone, my ways were no match for your emotions. You’re asking for a playbook, a set of guidelines you can follow. The outward guidelines aren’t so difficult to come up with…and OK, I’ll give you another set. But knowing my ways is not all you need. The inner wilderness you will traverse is more demanding than the physical desert. And for the inner journey, there is no playbook; it’s much too complex and confusing. What you need is relationship. I’ll go with you. And you need rest, so that you can participate in that relationship with me. Without rest, you’ll get caught up in circumstances, your ego will react, and you’ll forget all about me and my ways. I don’t know which is worse: the big party around the golden calf, or your righteous anger in reaction to it. They were lost in their own misdirected passions, and you in yours. There’s no playbook that will prevent that. I’ll go with you, and I’ll give you rest.”
God, grant us the grace to rest in you, to trust in you.
sonnets he wrote on the Annunciation (this is the first stanza).
We see so little, stayed on surfaces,
We calculate the outsides of all things,
Preoccupied with our own purposes
We miss the shimmer of the angels’ wings,
They coruscate around us in their joy.
A swirl of wheels and eyes and wings unfurled,
They guard the good we purpose to destroy,
A hidden blaze of glory in God’s world.
I smile as I read this, as it is the human condition to see so little, to miss the “hidden blaze of glory in God’s world.” Perhaps when I become conscious of the miracle of “the autonomic nervous system” and engage in that miracle by experiencing the Ruach, the breath of Spirit that animates me, I connect with that Spirit in a way that allows me to find hope and joy in the knowledge that there is so much we cannot see, but understanding that we are all surrounded by the wings of angels standing guard over the good. And that God’s glory permeates us and the world around us now and forever.
Prayer: Oh God, fill me with your love, your hope, your compassion, your forgiveness and may your Spirit fill me with every breath I take. Amen