Friday, January 31, 2014
Living Oracles and the Works of our Hands
Acts 7:38 He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us.
Acts 7:39 Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him; instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt,
Acts 7:40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make gods for us who will lead the way for us; as for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’
Acts 7:41 At that time they made a calf, offered a sacrifice to the idol, and reveled in the works of their hands.
Today’s scripture reading comes from Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin. He is sharing with them his faith just before he is put to death and in doing so he lays out the history of the Jewish people. While speaking of Moses he makes a very significant point regarding the Law. He equates the Law with living oracles because they are given to Moses by God through the angel. The significance here is the “living” oracles — for they come from the living God! This law is literally breathed out for all of humanity to give direction in life, and that direction leads them back to a relationship with the living God. However, just as Aaron and the Israelites grew impatient, so have we and instead of being drawn toward a relationship with the living God, we become infatuated with things made by human hands. The Israelites in the wilderness made for themselves an idol to worship; an idol with whom there was no opportunity for relationship. And this led to their own demise, a repercussion which was still being felt in Stephen’s day.
We, too, have two very clear options before us in regard to our Christian faith. Either we can be engaged in a relationship with the living God by way of the incarnate Word, or we can become infatuated and distracted with the things of this world. The things made by human hands may even encroach our sanctuaries and places of worship, thereby appearing to be in a place that leads us to God. The Israelites were worshiping the idol in the very place that they should have been worshiping God.
Our living God still wants to be in relationship with us today. He has made this possible by sending Jesus and leaving us with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit draws us into a deeply personal relationship with the living and loving holy God. This relationship is alive, active and on-going. The result is that our faith is stretched in a variety of directions that becomes transformative in our personal lives. It is not always comfortable, but it leads us in the direction of the living God.
What is the attraction to works of our own hands? Those things don’t push us. They are static. They may be attractive and we may simply like them, but this becomes a perfunctory faith, one in which rituals may be practiced but in which no personal transformation occurs. This is what attracted the Israelites. It was much easier to get excited and dance in front of a golden calf than to imagine a life-long transformational relationship with a holy loving God.
We have a choice as followers of Jesus Christ. Will we follow him in a very personal manner, or will Christianity simply be a part of our culture? When it becomes a part of our culture we attend church and “do the right things” out of an external sense of obligation. The Israelites wanted to worship a god. When we engage with the living God every day becomes a new adventure. Yes, it is challenging but it is also invigorating in ways we would never have imagined. Moses was transformed from a shy young man into a man that led a people and transformed history.
Will you follow the living oracle, or continue to be enticed by the works of human hands?
Lord, thank you for reaching out to us. Amen.