Summary: The problems of a ’pick and mix’ approach to a relationship with God
Exodus 32: 1-14
Pick and Mix Christianity
One of the great mantras of current politics is the word ‘choice’. It seems that we must have choice in everything whether it’s the schools our children go to, or the hospitals we are treated in. Disappointingly, this idea of choice is strictly limited – it doesn’t seem to include a choice about paying tax.
This idea of choice is something that is very significant in our society. We have the ability to make so many choices. We have the freedom to make so many choices. We have the financial wherewithal to make so many choices. Henry Ford once said that you could have any colour of car you like as long as it’s black. Well for us, the choices we have when we buy a car are enormous. Choices surround us.
In many ways, choice can be good. But it can also engender a ‘pick and mix’ mindset, a butterfly mentality. The kind of situation where a person flits from one activity to another. The kind of situation where a person moves on to something else the minute the latest experience fails to excite. The notion of consumer mentality where the customer is king, right or wrong.
On one level it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to use a different washing powder this week. But in some things it really does matter. It really does matter when it comes to relationships. We live in a world now where people can have a pick and mix approach to marriage, and move on the minute they’re bored with their current wife. The consequences if this are far more serious than the choice of your washing powder. So sometimes this pick and mix approach to life really does matter. It really does matter when it comes to relationships. …. to spirituality. … relationships with God. And in our society, we can see clear evidence of this pick and mix approach to spirituality, to a relationship with the divine. And we find that this pick and mix approach to spirituality is nothing new, and the problems that go with it our nothing new.
Because that’s just what happening in our reading from Exodus.
First thing we can see about this pick and mix mentality from our reading is in
THE PEOPLES IMPATIENCE.
Right at the very beginning of our reading, we see that Moses was delayed. And it was that delay that caused the people to be impatient. It was that delay that caused people to want to move on to another experience. It was that delay which caused people to look for another God. It’s a bit like a credit card. Take the waiting out of wanting, say the adverts. The people couldn’t wait for God. They wanted God right now. They wanted an instant experience of God. The people were impatient.
And I guess people are no different now. They want God to act when they want him to act. They want instant experiences of God. But God isn’t like that. Gods timing is often different from ours. For a start, it’s perfect. God acts when he will act. God gives us experiences of him when he chooses to. And sometimes we have to be patient. Sometimes we have to wait. And a pick and mix mentality when it comes to a relationship with God simply does not work.
But not only were the people impatient with God, we see that the consequence of this was
THE PEOPLE’S INFIDELITY.
The result of their impatience was that they were unfaithful. We see this very clearly in verses 7 and 8. Gods tells Moses that the people ‘have corrupted themselves’, and ‘turned aside’. And you’ll see that they had turned away ‘quickly’. The people’s infidelity came about rapidly. It is helpful to look at the timescale. All this took place very shortly after people of Israel had left Egypt. It began about three months after leaving Egypt’s and crossing the red Sea. And in chapter 19 we see that God said to the people ’look what I have done for you. Will you enter a covenant relationship with me?’. And the whole of the people of Israel agreed that they would enter into this relationship with God and be his holy nation. They had had some really amazing experiences of God in action, and God’s presence with them. They had been delivered from Egypt. They had experienced God’s presence on the mountain where Moses met with God. And at this point God gave them the Ten Commandments, and some further instructions for living. And then God met with Moses, Aaron and seventy of the elders. Ch 24. And then Moses himself had a meeting alone with God, which lasted for forty days. So at most, it seems that the events of chapter 32, our reading this evening, took place about six months after their miraculous delivery from Egypt, and three months after entering a covenant relationship with God. And yet they corrupted themselves. And yet they turned aside quickly. We see so clearly the people’s infidelity.