Friday, January 28, 2011

The Fall: Ad Nauseum

There is a lot that can be said, all negative, about the story of Aaron, Israel, and the golden calf, but honestly, what caught my attention on this read through of Exodus was a feeling of familiarity about what is going on in this story.  I don't mean the sense of familiarity about Exodus 32, but rather a sense of familiarity caused by a repeating pattern we read over and over from Genesis 1 up to Exodus 32.

Genesis 1-3: God makes all things good.  He makes Adam and Eve to be his stewards.  All is well and good, until Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.  They discover shame.  They discover fear.  They discover the idea of consequences.  They hide from God, and when he asks them what has happened, Adam points his finger at Eve while she points her finger at the serpent.  The serpent has no fingers so looses out in the exchange.  In the end, God provides for humanity anyway, but what they broke is still broken.

Genesis 6-9: Creation's derailing has reached critical mass, all except for one man and his family.  God makes Earth 2.0 through the flood, saving Noah and his family to repopulate the earth (a repeat of Adam and his family).  However, a short time passes; Noah gets drunk; his son rapes him, and Earth 2.0 goes down the tubes.  God, once again, continues to provide for Noah and his family, and humanity presses on.

Genesis 11: Humanity is thriving, but refuses to do as God has instructed them, which wasn't a bad gig considering all God asked them to do was enjoy the act of reproduction and fill the earth.  Instead, humanity bunkers down at Babel.  God forces them to leave and populate the globe, a.k.a. helps them to be fully human as they were meant to be.

Genesis 12-23: God calls Abram and tells him he will make a great nation from his descendants that will be a blessing to the rest of humanity.  Abram trusts in God and leaves, journeying into the unknown.  However, fear soon sets in and he asks his wife to pretend they aren't married so that no one will try to kill him to get to her.  She agrees...twice.  God promises Abram and Sarai a son.  They wait, but waiting gets old, and so Sarai convinces Abram to take another wife, which he does.  Hagar, wife two, then has Ishmael.  Sarai becomes jealous of the way Hagar now treats her and kicks Hagar out of the family.  Abram and Sarai, now Abraham and Sarah, then have Isaac.  Long story short, Abram and Sarah have a roller coaster life full of a great many successes as well as a great many failures.  Final word: God provides for them either way.

Genesis 24-26:  Isaac and Rebekah's story is basically a retelling of Abraham and Sarah's story, including the 'let's pretend you're not my wife' part.  The only twist there is that Isaac forgets not to fondle said  'not' wife in public, which blows that plan.  God provides for them anyway.

Genesis 27-Exodus 32: The names change (Jacob, Jacob's sons, Moses, Aaron, the Israelites led out of Egypt), but the story doesn't (with the possible exception of Joshua).  God gives people blessing and freedom and goodness, and in return they reject it or take it for granted or complain about it the whole time.  They then, at some level or in some way, turn their backs on God and make messes of their lives.  The Israelites in Exodus 32 with their golden calf aren't doing anything original.  The problem is that they aren't doing anything new.  Staying faithful would be the exception to the rule so far.  Had they not worshiped a false god after seeing what the real presence of God was like...now that would have been something original.

And yet, what do we find?  In tomorrow's reading we see that God continues on with his people anyway.  Creation, fall, providence, that's the story of Genesis and Exodus.  That's the story of the Bible.  That's the story of God revealing himself to humanity, and as irritating as it is to see the Israelites make fools out of themselves in Exodus 32, I'm glad God continues to respond as he does.  Because, of course, I have never made a fool of myself before God...

Stopping point: Exodus 32

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