impatience – a reflection on Exodus 32:1-14

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Exodus / Lectionary / Old Testament / Pentateuch

The statue of Ugolino, by Carpeaux, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Rick Morley.

The following is a reflection on Exodus 32:1-14, the Hebrew Bible lesson appointed for October 9th, 2011 according to the New Revised Common Lectionary. (Proper 23, Year A) On this site there is also
• a reflection on the Gospel Lesson for the same day, and
• a version of the Prayers of the People, based on the Canticle of the Sun.

The root of the problem in Exodus 32 isn’t idolatry.

It’s patience.

From the moment the Israelites left their homes in Egypt and headed down to the sea shore on their way to the wilderness, they were saturated with impatience. First they thought Pharaoh’s army was going to slaughter them all. Then they thought they would starve—and, oh! Remember those cucumbers they had back in Egypt! Then they were thirsty and thought they’d dehydrate. Then they wanted meat, because the miracle bread started to be a little too much.

Then Moses was taking too long up on the mountain talking to God—as the thunder and earthquakes from God’s immanent Presence roared overhead.

“…as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

You gotta love it. “This Moses.”

Yeah, remember, the guy who engineered your freedom…the one who spoke one-on-one with the God who sent the plagues. And split the sea. And the pillar of cloud and smoke. Remember him?

Good ‘ole what’s-his-name.

Yeah, we have no idea what happened to him. Maybe he just took off. Maybe he’s catching up on The Jersey Shore. Never can tell.

They can’t just sit still, and revel in gratitude that they aren’t making bricks anymore.

And, it doesn’t take long for the ants-in-the-pants to be just too much. Time to make an idol.

This is one of those spiritual lessons that we should have no problem identifying with. For, if there’s anything that we have a hard time with in our culture, it’s waiting.

We have no patience. We expect everything to happen quickly. Immediately.

I mean, just think back to the moments you’ve (surely) had at sometime this week, when your Internet connection started to get a little slow. When your iPhone had a hard time catching a signal. When you sent an email 20 minutes ago, and the other party hasn’t yet emailed back yet.

<tick-tock, tick-tock>

There is great spiritual treasure to be found in waiting—the practice of cultivating patience. It’s a practice that raises faith to a profound trust that God is working, and moving even when things seem to be going nowhere. And that God’s good time, is the right time. That glaciers move, even against all appearances to the contrary.


Click on the image above for the reflection on the Gospel Lesson for this week.

It’s a practice which forces us to put our own needs to the side for a bit, and focus on seeing the world and the unfolding of God’s plan and revelation as God sees fit to unfold it.

It can be frustrating. But, it can also be beautiful.

And…you have to love the divine irony, that’s God’s response to the impatient children of Israel is to make them wait FORTY YEARS to get to where they’re going. Forty years to travel a few hundred miles.

Just breathe. Relax. Take a load off.

And have some patience. God will get us there in God’s own good time.

The Author

follower of Jesus, father of two, husband of one, Episcopal priest, with one book down, one blog up...surrounded by empty jars of nutella


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