To be honest, I was inclined to skip ahead a bit. Have you ever felt that way? It doesn’t have to be the Bible, it could be any book… or the eightieth episode in a serial show. You just figure that this next little bit can’t be that important. I felt that way about Exodus 23:20-33. I mean, I knew that some good stuff was coming and this “angel of the Lord” bit seemed like an add-on. And then I read it. What I would have missed! [Wow, that could be the story of my life and the Bible…]
“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared,” God says (23:20).
The Israelites are headed into some hardcore wandering and searching, struggle and trials. But they are not alone. This angel that God is sending ahead of them; it’s intentional on God’s part and meant for their good. [What would you do if you knew that God was sending an angel ahead of you?] And God’s angel is going to lead them where they are to go. They don’t need to know the way because the angel does. It’s like when I blindly jump in my car and input the address into the GPS. I don’t know how to get there, but the British lady inside my GPS does! There’s trust there (until you end up going the wrong way down a one-way street).
God tells the Israelites to listen to the angel, and as a result, things will be good for them (23:21-22). It’s important for them to pay attention to the signals they get, and to listen to them. The end results are in their favor; the opposite of listening gets them the opposite of favor. Seems pretty straightforward.
God tells them that they, the Israelites will go ahead of them and wipe out their enemies (23:23). That’s one of those troubling, Old Testament ideas that I just can’t quite wrap my mind around, but I accept that God is God and there’s a plan here that I can’t understand (and that probably the people of Israel in Exodus didn’t get either).
But in Exodus 23:24, God lays down an admonition that I think we could stand to pay more attention to: “Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces.” How often is the ‘stuff’ that we can’t overcome or deal with the result of falling for, investing in, or becoming obsessed with something that wasn’t to be ours in the first place? Or something that we didn’t really need but we ‘worshipped’ it anyway, because we gave it more credit, power, control, or attention than we should have? Here, God tells the Israelites to destroy the idols of these other people so they don’t stick around and trip up the Israelites. It’s revisited in Exodus 23:32-33 because it’s just that important. Hmmm. What better day than Good Friday to destroy the idols in our lives?
And to think I almost missed this food for thought. God wants what’s best for me and God wants to keep me from being tripped up by things that aren’t good for me. Rinse and repeat.
I know, I know, the cartoon didn’t really “flow” today, but it’s the best I could do. Besides, it’s a warning about how we can take things too literally… and let them end badly.