Idols in the Wilderness
I can’t stop thinking about the Israelites these days. The running from the Egyptians and the making of golden idols. Moses and Aaron and Joshua. The complaining and the manna and the Ark of the Covenant. The walking through the wilderness. The promise of a new land.
We like to highlight the big moments—the burning bush and baby Moses in a basket. The plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. The water coming from the rock and the Ten Commandments. Moses and God talking to each other on a mountain.
But I can’t get over how long they spent in the wilderness. How many days the Israelites spent set up at camp, waiting on God’s promises to be fulfilled. How many moments they must have thought, “This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.”
No matter how many times we’ve seen the miracles, the walking through the wilderness can leave us questioning everything, can’t it? There is a little seed of doubt that says, “Maybe God won’t show up this time,” so we quickly turn to anything and everything to fill our needs. In the toughest moments—when we should be falling on faith, we often end up acting out of fear.
We take matters into our own hands, making ourselves into our own kind of savior. We keep ourselves busy, thinking we can distract ourselves long enough to ignore the tough terrain. We buy useless things. We comfort ourselves with food. We push ourselves with workouts and push away the people who care for us most.
All we are really doing is building a golden calf and calling it god.
We can easily laugh at the building of a golden idol, but it quickly becomes convicting when the idols show up as family members or technology, meals or money, careers or clothes. None of these are inherently bad; they just make crappy gods. They aren’t worth our worship. They can never bring the satisfaction or joy or peace that our Savior provides.
In both the good and bad seasons: if we aren’t turning to Jesus, we are turning to something else. And gosh, we don’t have to fight to turn toward worldly things; that current will sweep us up naturally if we aren’t constantly humbling ourselves at the feet of the King and saying, “God, I need you. Nothing in my hands I bring, only to the cross I cling.”
I don’t know where you are right now, whether you are walking through the wilderness or soaking up the sun in a land flowing with milk and honey. But here’s what I do know: none of us completely escape the hard stuff. All of us will walk through the wilderness at some point. We might even set up camp there for a while.
So, if and when you find yourself feeling broken and full of despair, lean in close to Jesus. When everything in you wants to run away screaming about the unfairness of it all, open up His Word and start reading. Pray when you don’t feel like it. Press into community when you’d rather walk alone. This is the way we will make it through the wilderness. Maybe you don’t need these reminders, but I definitely do.
And when we look up from our own stumbling feet and notice that God is walking with us through the hard places, we can rejoice because God is doing a work in us; He is sanctifying our souls for our good and for His glory.
This does not mean it will be easy, but the time spent in the wilderness will be worth it.
A Note for the Runaways
When the woods grew darker
And the shame settled in
You looked down
And started running
From grace, from God,
It seemed easier in the shadows at first
But then you looked up
You got a glimpse of the light
Because the really good news goes like this
No matter how far you travel
Or how much the darkness
takes over the night
You are never alone
His grace is waiting right there
Ready to greet you
Ready to welcome you home
You might even learn
It’s okay to run
As long as you’re heading in the right direction
And what you want
May not be what you need
I suppose that sometimes
You need to sit in the darkness
So you can be blinded the light.