Moses, the Mountain, and a Mass of Email

Christians and non-Christians alike constantly talk about the need for “self-care” these days. I wonder if farmers, working 80 hours a week in 1950s America, thought about “self-care.” That is a rhetorical question. Of course, they did not. The reason, I suspect, is not that hard-working farmers did not need to take care of themselves. Instead, we talk about it today because of new demands in how we live.

We talk so much about it (there are books, YouTube videos, and even people dedicated to this topic), and people of yesteryear did not because times have changed for us. We are in a new place that makes divine demands on all people. Society expects us to be “on” all the time. We must respond to instant messages instantly. We must be aware of tragedy in our city, state, nation, and world. We must keep up with the news, the latest book, the newest post, the latest show, the best restaurant, and what everyone we know is thinking as they stream it live onto social media.

In other words, society expected 1950s farmers to grow crops. Today, on the other hand, society expects us to be God. We have the world’s information in our pockets—we must be omniscient. We can respond to everything everywhere—we must be omnipresent. We have incredible technology that can solve “all” our problems—we must be omnipotent. For an example of the latter point, consider a billboard I recently saw hawking services to people with cancer: “Take control of your cancer! Call us today.” As if dealing with cancer is a matter of “taking control.”

Moses begs to differ. In Exodus 24, Moses went up the mountain of the Lord. When on the mountain, God conversed with Moses from Exodus chapter 25 to 31. In chapter 32, we read that the people begin to commit idolatry—the infamous golden calf “incident.” Aaron “received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” (Exodus 32:4b). It is incredible that this happens while Moses is meeting with the Lord.

If I were the Lord or Moses, I would say, “We need to cut this meeting short! The people are committing idolatry. They need us!” But, instead, the Lord finishes giving Moses his Word. It was enough for the Lord to speak to Moses. He was not in a hurry. He knew that Moses needed His Word more than the people needed a leader. The most important thing was hearing from God, not stopping one of the worst sins Israel was ever to commit.

How many of us forsake time with the Lord to solve the world’s problems? How many of us see email alerts and think they are more important than time with Yahweh? I imagine we all have done this—I know I do more than I would like to admit. When we buy the lie that we are like God, knowing all things, capable of all things, being everywhere via technology, etc., we commit idolatry with the ancient Israelites. We are saying we do not need Moses’s God; we can make our own gods. Actually, our current tendency is worse—we do not just fashion idols and say, “Look, here are the gods that delivered us!” Instead, we seem to think we are the gods who will deliver ourselves.

To “come down the mountain” prematurely to handle business is a subtle form of idolatry that I, and many Christians, struggle with constantly. It is to believe the billboards and braggadocios billionaires that claim we can have everything we want if we try hard and believe in ourselves. But Moses stands as a gleaming example in the dark storms of modern self-aggrandizement, reminding us that to sit at the feet of the Lord—even when spiritual tragedy surrounds us—is good and proper. It is a reminder that the spiritual disasters around us are not, properly speaking, our problem. The battle belongs to the Lord. He may send us down the mountain to be a spiritual leader in critical times (Exodus 32:7), but never before filling us with His grace, peace, and Word.

The events or tasks causing that tension in your chest and anxiety in your heart cannot be solved by you. If those things are to be done well, they must be according to the Lord’s plan. So be at peace. The Lord wants to fill you. He has not called you to do His job. Meet with Him, and do not worry about tomorrow. He has a plan for that too. Proper self-care, therefore, is less about us and more about us meeting with God.

-Rob Golding—Pastor of First Artesia CRC

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