Our Gospel from Chapter Five of John’s Gospel is an account of bickering between Jesus and the Jewish leaders. I don’t enjoy John’s argumentative chapters. So, please turn with me to the Old Testament reading.
It tells how when Moses was spending forty days up on Mount Sinai, conversing with God, the Israelites who were below in the desert, melted down their gold jewelry to form a golden calf which they began to worship. (Some scholars are of the opinion that they did not worship the calf, that they saw the calf as the thrown for an invisible deity.)
In our story from Exodus God interrupted his conversation with Moses to bring him a bulletin about the people’s sinful activity below the mountain. The story goes on to say that when God stated his intention of destroying this disloyal people the earnest pleading of Moses moved him to change his mind, sparing the people.
The story is recorded in the Bible to tell us that no situation is beyond remedy if we beg God for help.
Five centuries ago the great English poet George Herbert refered to that incident in a poem where he fantasized about how in ancient times people made God an ordinary part of their lives, while now we closet him up in a comer of our hearts where the devil and sin are always trying to push him out. Herbert playfully wrote:
Sweet were the days when thou didst lodge with Lot, struggle with Jacob,
sit with Gideon, advise with Abraham, when thy power could not
Encounter Moses strong complaints and moan: Thy words were then Let me alone.
One might have sought and found thee presently at some fair oak, or bush, or cave, or well: Is my God this way? No, they would reply: He is to Sinai gone as we hear tell. List, ye may hear great Aaron’s bell.
But now thou dost thy self immure and close in some one corner of a feeble heart: where yet both sine and Satan, thy old foes do pinch and straighten thee and use
much art to gain thy thirds and little part.
I see the world grows old, when as the heat of thy great love, once spread, now as in an urn doth closet up itself, and still retreat, cold sinne still forcing it, till it return
and calling “Justice,” all things burn.