When the people realized that Moses was taking forever in coming down off the mountain, they rallied around Aaron and said, “Do something. Make gods for us who will lead us. That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what’s happened to him?”

So Aaron told them, “Take off the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters and bring them to me.” They all did it; they removed the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from their hands and cast it in the form of a calf, shaping it with an engraving tool.

The people responded with enthusiasm: “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up from Egypt!” Aaron, taking in the situation, built an altar before the calf. Aaron then announced, “Tomorrow is a feast day to God!”

Early the next morning, the people got up and offered Whole-Burnt-Offerings and brought Peace-Offerings. The people sat down to eat and drink and then began to party. It turned into a wild party!

YHWH spoke to Moses, “Go! Get down there! Your people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. In no time at all they’ve turned away from the way I have given them: They made a molten calf and worshiped it. They’ve sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are the gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt!’”

YHWH said to Moses, “I look at these people—what a stubborn, hard-headed people! Leave me alone now, give my anger free reign to burst into flames and incinerate them. But I’ll make a great nation out of you.”

Moses soothed the face of YHWH, his God. He said, “Why, God, would you lose your temper with your people? Why, you brought them out of Egypt in a tremendous demonstration of power and strength. Why let the Egyptians say, ‘Their God had it in for them all along—they were brought out to be killed in the mountains and to be wiped right off the face of the Earth.’ Stop your anger. Think twice about bringing evil against your people! Think of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants to whom you gave your word, telling them ‘I will give you many children, as many as the stars in the sky, and I’ll give this land to your children as their land forever.’”

So YHWH relented, and the disaster that threatened the Israelites was forestalled.

Exodus 32:1-14

This passage is terribly interesting. What kind of God can be negotiated or bargained with? The God of Exodus is a very human and very divine character. In some ways it gestures towards Jesus’ full human, fully divine.

I have not always understood God to be an all loving, all compassionate, all including God. When I first discovered God I discovered a God of liberation and restoration. A God that answered prayer but was jealous, demanding, and required a lot of attention. I first knew an angry disciplining God.

I can’t tell you how many times I have bargained with God. Begging, pleading, and negotiating with God was probably the second thing I did, right after asking God for patience. I remember the first time I bargained with God.

I am not sure what month it was. I have always believed it to be around Good Friday of 1997. I was dating a woman whose parents were very active in a church. It was a charismatic church that met in an old bowling alley. The pastor was sleek, handsome and young. The service was full of song and people spoke in tongues. It was the exact opposite of what I remembered as a child.

It had been at least ten years since I had intentionally darkened the doorway of any church. Church was important to my girlfriend so as our relationship evolved I would attend worship with her. I went a few times but not every week. I was not a huge fan of singing and they sang a lot.

One night I was at my girlfriends parents house hanging out or having dinner. My brother, Kevin, knocked at the door my girlfriend’s mom answered and beckoned me to come. With tears in his eyes and the color gone from his face he told me, “Grant is in the hospital. He Kelly, and mom are at UCLA. Grant was evacuated in a helicopter. He was paralyzed. They got in a car crash on PCH. Grant was not wearing a seatbelt.”

I fought back tears and made my way to my car. Kevin and my girlfriend followed. I could not drive so my girlfriend drove us. Along the way we chain smoked in that God awful silence. I wrestled with God. I begged God. I bargained with God. “Lord, if you heal my brother I will give you my life. If you make him walk I will believe in you and follow you.”

I arrive with worry on my heart and this bargain with God in the back of my mind. I go in to the ER and see my family there gathered. Worry across their faces. The accident had been bad. It was a wonder that everyone in the car was not killed instantly. My mom was in the front passenger seat. She had been battered and bruised but had not broken any bones. She looked like she fought Mike Tyson for 12 rounds.

My youngest brother, Kelly, had not a scratch on him. Apparently, Grant was not wearing a seat belt and when the accident happened he used his body to shield Kelly and was then thrown through the front windshield. He was the only one airlifted. He was in bad shape.

I made my way back towards where he was being treated. I heard a commotion and fighting. I thought it sounded like, Grant. I turned the corner to see my brother, Grant, standing there in a hospital gown, with tubes hanging from his arms and hospital staff trying to calm him down. He kept repeating, “I want a cigarette. Just one smoke. Look at me, I think I deserve it.”

I walked over and lead him outside to smoke. We did not talk about the accident or my bargain. I was relived. I let go of my bargain with little to no intention of going through with my deal with God.

I left that night with no care, my brother was healed. He had experienced a miracle. Like the kind from the Bible.

I tried to sleep that night and could not. I tossed and turned. I felt God prodding me as if to say, “I did my part. No it’s your turn. Keep your end of the bargain.” I fought this for hours. Finally out of exhaustion I sort of prayed something like, “Ok God, you win. I’m yours.” Then passed out.

I told no one what I had done. I went along with my life. Something’s changed but mostly I felt the same but not. I went to my girlfriend’s house one night for dinner and was meet by her mom. She stared at me with a big grin. She said, “Something is different about you. You did not get a hair cut. No new tattoos. Did you give your heart to Jesus?”

I think she may have been joking but I was relieved and awed by her question. I answered, “Yes! What do I do now?”

Bargaining with God is something that most of us find our selves involved in at one point or another during our lives. This is not the first time God bargains with creation. Sodom and Gomorrah is a point of bargaining between God and Abraham. If only 50 righteous people were discovered Sodom and Gomorrah would be saved. Then they bargain 45, 40, 30, 20, and finally 10 righteous people. God seems to be in a bargaining mood. It is almost like those old school late night TV commercials with Crazy Eddie hawking cheap, foreign electronics.

What are we bargaining for? Why are we bargaining? As we bargain with God and God with us there is a shifting of power and a fight for justice. As we bargain with God we are drawn deeper in to relationship with God and in to relationships with each other. It is the rule of bargaining that both parties win. A good bargain is one where the seller thinks they got the best of the buyer and the buyer believes they got one over on the seller. The hardest part of bargaining is being patient enough to get the bargain you always wanted.

What are you bargaining with God for? What would you like to bargain with God for?

Heard Them Stirring

I am a sucker for autobiographies, diaries, and secret or lost books. I love the human story. What is it about each other’s stories that captivates us and brings us closer to each other? Closer to God?

Continuing with our narrative journey through the Bible we are resting in Exodus. When you hear that I am preaching from Exodus your mind may go to “the Exodus.” Well then you would be right. I want to share with you a story about the Exodus.

We are all familiar with the Exodus story. The bondage of Israel. The baby Moses. The little reed basket. The burning bush. The ten plagues. The Passover. The wandering in the wilderness. The ten commandments. The covenant with God.

Exodus is a glorious story that sets the foundation of Israel’s identity. Exodus is a love story of the covenant that binds God and Israel together in mutual relationship and lays out the customs, practices, and guidelines for maintain that covenantal relationship.

As I was reading Exodus 12 and 13 I wondered, “what was going on with the other people in the story?” We get some of what happened to Pharaoh, Moses, and Aaron. We get the particulars of what went down. What about the first-born children? What did the average Egyptian have to say about all of this? What would the common Israelite have to say about all of this?

I have good news for you. I have discovered a collection of lost journals that talks about the Israelites and Egyptians during the times that lead up to the Passover and exodus. After extensive efforts to translate to our context and fill in the gaps left by time, for the first time in public I will share parts of this with you today. I bet you had no idea you were going to be a part of a world premier here today.

“Everyone’s running around. Something big is happening. I’m not sure what it is but it is big. After all of those crazy days of bloodwater, bugs, boils, and frogs I am excited and terrified as to what’s next. My father is so busy. He slaughtered one of the goats today but we don’t get to eat any of it. Lame! I got in trouble for trying to eat some of the meat while it was roasting. Whatever is going on I hope it doesn’t interfere with my game.” -Hadad

“My son doesn’t understand. He is just a boy. He is so focused on sports. He is very upset about what is going on. He just wants to play. He has worked so hard. I hope he sees that what is about to come is for the best. This will allow a better future for us all. The other night at the community meeting I was so confused at what we were supposed to do. Kill an unblemished sheep or goat, paint your doors with its blood, and do not eat any leftovers but burn it all in the morning. This sounds so wasteful. My husband is busy preparing all of this. If we don’t we will suffer the fate of the Egyptians.” -Deborah

“It was so gross. The bugs, the frogs, and the blood. I am totally thankful that the other stuff didn’t attack us. The house is filled with a delicious smell. Dad is roasting a goat. Hadad got in trouble for trying to eat it. All he does is worry about playing basketball. He’s not all that good at it. He needs to grow up. He is the oldest. He’ll have to go and help dad soon. His 16th birthday is coming in a few months. Mom and I had to take the blood dad collected from the goat and paint the door with it. GROSS! It got all over my hands and everything. I really wish I knew what was going on. Everyone’s all cray cray. I just do as I am told. Being a girl in this house stinks. My brothers get to do everything fun. I have to stay in the house and watch all the action go by.” -Ziba

“My children just don’t understand. My family doesn’t know but the Egyptians will all suffer a tragic loss tonight. They all will loss a child. This is why I am have killed a goat and am following the instructions of Moses and Aaron. I want no part of this tragedy. Our people have been in bondage for so long. Moses has brought us to a place of liberation. We will no longer serve the Egyptians. They have been harsh and cruel. There are some kind Egyptians but they are few and far between. These last few weeks have been packed with such great heights and such depressing lows. Why will the Pharaoh not let us go? We are not needed here in Egypt. The latest polls have shown that most of Egypt no longer wants us here. We are seen as a nuisance and a danger to the freedom of Egypt. I can’t go in to a store to buy anything without being watched like I am going to steal something. If I hang out with my friends in my neighborhood the cops show up trying to ‘check us out’ to make sure nothing is going on. You can’t drive near the Egyptians neighborhoods without getting pulled over. I wonder what they think about this plague business. I bet they are tired after all the bugs, boils, blood, and darkness. They are getting what they deserve as far as I am concerned. I hope what Moses said is right. We will be free soon, very soon. That’ll make all of this craziness worth it.” -Sodi

“I am so tired. These last few weeks have been the worst. First the well was filled with blood. Then frogs got out of hand and were everywhere. Everyone had lice. Flies blanketed the sky like clouds. Our livestock got sick and we lost many of them. My husband, my kids, and I got boils all over our bodies overnight. That was so bad. They hurt and I could not comfort my children. Then the hail came and damaged our crops. The thunder spooked our workhorses and they broke out of their pens and ran off. The locusts came and finished of what the hail didn’t take of the crops. Then darkness came over us. I prayed to Osiris to let Ra hear us. They didn’t. Now the Israelites are preparing for something else. You can smell and the roasting fire from here. I wish Pharaoh would just send them away. We don’t need them any more. Why does Egypt keep supporting them? Let them go away and we be done with each other. It would be best for all of us to be apart from each other.” -Safiya

“I can’t take these Israelites any longer. They talk back to me all the time. They act like they are my equals. I will be happy to see them gone. I curse them and these plagues we have suffered by them. All I ever tried to do was be good to them. And this is how we are treated. I regret their presence in the land of Ra. They celebrate over there with roasted meat. I would roast meat of my own but I have so few cattle left. I get so angry just thinking about them. I will dance the day they leave. My message to the Pharaoh is, “Let those people GO!.” -Yafeu

The worst of all plagues certainly visited Egypt that night and the firstborn of all houses of Egypt were struck down. The Israelites fled at the prompting of Pharaoh and passed through the sea into the wilderness. Departing from 430 years of bondage towards the Promised Land. Here we are 2,000 plus years wandering in the dessert still looking for our Promised Land, awaiting a dream, and a mountaintop. Trusting, knowing, and hoping that we may not all get there together but we all will meet up on that mountaintop and our eyes shall see the glory of the Lord.