April 4/Fourth Thursday of Lent
They made a calf at Horeb and worshiped a cast image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. ~ Ps 106:19-20
We don’t bow down much these days, do we? Outside of the images of faithful Muslims kneeling for daily prayer and candidates for ordination prostrating themselves before the altar, there isn’t much literal self-abasement in our lives. Indeed, embedded as we are in a culture of individual achievement and self-actualization, we take great pride in our own agency, bragging to ourselves that we don’t bow down to anyone or anything. But all of us, except for the most thoroughgoing nihilists, are subordinate to some desire or ambition. The desiderata, or things desired or needed, may be a job, a relationship, alcohol, intellectual superiority or material goods, but it is the rare person who doesn’t pay homage of some kind to a “cast image.” Even for those of us who believe and who have ample evidence of God’s blessings in our lives—and the ancient Israelites, newly rescued from slavery and on the way to a promised land, certainly would qualify—God’s way is not always easy. Nor does his plan for us always align with our own wishes.
And so—like our distrustful, impatient spiritual forebears—we cast aside the God who was and is and is to be, and we set our eyes on the shiny, alluring idols that we ourselves have fashioned. Sooner or later, though, those deified desires fall away; the grass-eating ox is short-lived and vastly inferior to the ineffable glory of the immortal God. In biblical Hebrew, the verb for “worship” also means “bow down.” If we truly want to be disciples of God, we must subjugate our proud selves to his will and bow down in obedience.
Almighty God, help me to worship wisely and well, and to set my eyes on your glory. Amen.
For today’s readings, click here.
To hear the King’s College (Cambridge) choir sing “O Worship the King, all glorious above,” click here.