When I was reading Chapter 5 of The Story, something dawned on me that had not occurred when reading about the Israelites and their seemingly constant falling away from God. The presence of Godly mentors and leaders in our lives is vital as we make this journey. When good leadership is absent in our lives, we often regress to a state of being that is not good for anyone.
I can remember more than a few occasions in school when a teacher would leave the room, even for a short amount of time, and the results were always the same. Without someone to guide us and hold us accountable, something would always get broken or some other trouble would ensue. The same pattern follows us into adulthood, but with different consequences.
We begin Chapter 5 with God speaking to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Moses has led God’s people as he was asked. This should have been the beginning of a time of peace and growth. God was preparing his people to learn his ways for living a full and rich life with him.
It amazes me the physical closeness the Israelites were able to enjoy with God during this time. They could see his presence on the mountain. They could hear him speak, and yet they chose not to for fear of death. I think sometimes we miss the fact that we can have this closeness with God, but we choose not to for fear of much more trivial things.
Moses receives the Ten Commandments and relays them to the people. These instructions seem very straightforward and to the point. And yet, when Jesus expounds upon them many years later in the Sermon on the Mount, we see they are not so simple. There is a much deeper wealth of meaning that only becomes apparent through his teaching and is only understood and carried out by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But as crucial as these commandments are, Jesus gives us the key to living them out in Mark 22:34-40. The Ten Commandments and the others that follow are dependent on, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind….You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If you can follow these commandments all the others will fall into place.
The people agree to follow these new commandments and enter into covenant with God. There seems to be a peace among the people in following God in obedience. And then Moses leaves the Israelites to receive more instruction from God.
This brings us back to the earlier point about leadership. While Moses is away the people fall back to their old ways and seek to create gods to worship. They actively disobey a command that was given to them a short time ago in the very presence of God. Why? Because of the absence of their leader. The teacher had stepped out of the room.
Before we become too harsh with the Israelites, we need to realize that often our own lives resemble this pattern. When we don’t have relationships with godly mentors and leaders we tend to behave in a similar way. We descend into patterns that are harmful at best and at worst are directly disobedient to God. When we have these relationships we most often flourish in our relationship with God and others, and this begins to greatly change other aspects of our life. Influence at work and with family changes for the better. In turn we begin to grow in the direction that is our source of life, God.
Moses returns to the leaderless people who are now steeped in idolatry.Their rebelion is great. There are consequences for their actions. God is merciful. He redeems his people. The pattern that is found from the beginning to the end of the Bible is seen once again. Moses firmly establishes God’s covenant with his people. Godly leaders direct his people in his way. The teacher selects a student leader. God’s plan marches on.