Exodus and the First Break with God
what happens when God does not meet our expectations? We look for other gods.
The best example of the principle of the Church not meeting our expectations so we can create one the way we want it to be is actually in the Exodus.
This gives us a good reflection on this same principle.
Of course, what is commonly known as the Exodus event is when Moses led the Hebrews to freedom from slavery in Egypt.
The freed slaves saw powerful miracles and the power of God day and night as he freed them from four hundred years of slavery from the Egyptian government turned from friendly to hostile against them.
When Moses is up on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments, the people grew restless by his delay and eventually returned to pagan ways. They forced Aaron to build them a golden calf to worship. It was a new god whom they proclaimed their true god. Remember, they lived surrounded by the pagan gods of the Egyptians for their entire life. So some taught that Moses was forever lost on the mount and, therefore, they needed a god that would meet their expectations. They demonstrated their total mistrust in God.
If you think about it, we are talking about God here, the creator of the universe. He created the whole world in six days according to the scriptures. Now, we as Catholics believe the six days, etc. is symbolic but the Hebrews at the time would not think like this. Moses is now gone well over six days, in fact, weeks. Does this not raise the specter that Moses is dead?
God’s actions do not meet their expectations, therefore, they create a god that will. Once they create this deity sacrificing their most precious belongings to it their expectations for him are lower than what they would expect of God himself. He will serve them at least at first.
So, you can see right from the beginning of the Hebrew faith when it is now being really jelled there is this war between the expectations and the reality of the actions of God.
We can even see it in the battle between Moses and the pharaoh and we see it again with Moses on the mountain. What is God actually doing? He is not taking His time, He is changing their expectations so that they may come to know who God is. They are learning a new God and so that they will not live just by their expectation of God.
He is not going to meet their expectations because he is God and they do not know what to expect of Him.
In Catholicism, we call this being docile to grace. Accepting what God has in store for us even when it surprises us or even disappoints us. When we accept God’s will in our lives, we embrace his reality over our expectations.
Anytime we are disappointed in God and we find ourselves asking ‘why?’ something happened that is our human reaction to His actions in our life. It also reflects that God did not meet our expectations. The best way to understand our expectations with God is to understand He is the God of surprise. We know our world can change at any moment and in these days we saw this happen. However, with God, we know that He will be with us when he does.
This is what happens in the Exodus event. The people are below and Moses is on the mountain. God is not acting as they expected therefore it all must be a ruse. Moses must be dead and it is time to create a new God.
Understand that this happens prior to the receiving of the Ten Commandments, therefore, they have yet to receive the proscription against idolatry. Nevertheless, God is not meeting their expectations, they will have to learn. They will also have to learn to accept God’s will in their lives or they will reject both His will and God himself. So, it is a learning process that takes millennia and today we are still learning every day in our lives how to accept God’s will, what to expect and how to deal with our disappointment when he does not meet our expectations. It is a human process that we can see manifest right from Moses’ struggle to free the Hebrews from pharaoh.
It continues throughout the history of the Hebrews and the Christians. In fact, why did Judas Iscariot act the way he did? Jesus did not meet his expectations. He expected him to be a military leader who would overthrow Roman occupation. This is not whom Jesus is and so that break between whom Judas expected Jesus to be and whom Jesus is, caused him to act in a way that led to the apostles’ act of betrayal.
It happens over and over again.
Of course, the greatest break in this is when Jesus dies on the cross. I always maintain that Thomas does not doubt Jesus’ resurrection. He is angry because he could never imagine that Jesus would succumb to execution. Remember, this is the same Jesus who walked on water, who healed the blind, the lame, who forgave sins and claimed to be the Son of God. What we see here is not Thomas doubting Jesus’ resurrection but his refusal to believe in it. Jesus did not meet his expectations. He refused to believe beyond this.
How many today refuse to believe for the same reasons.
So, the break in expectations is central to the entire Judeo-Christian history.
When the break becomes irreconcilable as we see in the Exodus story then you have abandonment from God and the growth in the practice of idolatry. This happens over and over again. This is why when we believe and we trust in God we will be tested to the point that we will become severely disappointed. God did not act in a way that undermined his credibility but in a way that does not match who we thought him to be. Our trust grows not just when we accept his will but when we say how we do not understand but we will trust that somehow God is in whatever action that went wrong. This means even if it was caused by a disaster. It is one thing to trust God when you pray for a parking space and do not find one. It is another when you lose a child due to an accident, disease or even a criminal act. Both can be supreme disappointments but one is greater than the other, obviously.
Can you still believe in God when you do not find a parking space even though you prayed for one? Probably. When you lose a child? That takes a lot more trust and a deeper understanding of the break in expectations. Both require faith in knowing that God is with us no matter what. That can be difficult.