Seemingly overnight our city, nestled in the sweeping bend of the Texas coast, has turned upside down. Grocery store shelves are empty. Police officers guard the milk and eggs making sure people only take one. People are hoarding toilet paper, soap, hand sanitizer, and anything else that brings them comfort. (Side note: why aren’t more people hoarding ice cream? I mean a carton of Blue Bell Cookies and Cream ice cream brings way more comfort than 50 rolls of toilet paper.)
But if we are truly honest with ourselves, all the hoarding and panic buying is our attempt at control. We are facing an unseen, uncontrollable foe which seems to grow more powerful and more sinister and more uncontrollable at the sharing of each news story. Our fear and worry escalate, and we rush around spastically exerting control wherever we can, hastily building a seawall of protection in an attempt to shield ourselves from the tsunami of fear growing off the coast.
I imagine the people of Israel felt this way at Mount Sinai.
Moses, the man they followed out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, and to the base of Mount Sinai, was no where to be seen. He had climbed the mountain to meet with God and disappeared into the cloud of God’s presence. And he tarried there for days. The people could no longer see him or hear him. All they could do was wait. At first waiting was easy. But after days of waiting and not seeing Moses, the tsunami of fear and worry began to build and churn off the coast until it drew near to the shore threatening to flood the entire camp.
Exodus 32 tells the story. The people gathered around Aaron and begged, “make us some gods who can lead us. We don’t know what happened to this fellow Moses” (Exodus 32:1, NLT). And Aaron acquiesced to their request, collecting gold from all the people, melting it down, and creating a golden calf for the people to worship. Control exerted. Seawall constructed. Copious amounts of toilet paper bought.
But what the people of Israel missed was the awesome, glorious power of God’s presence with them. The most high God, the one true God, the great I AM who led them out of slavery in the land of Egypt in dramatic fashion, who parted the Red Sea, who created all that is with a word was with them. This great God had chosen to abide with them. The people of Israel missed it. They didn’t need to create a golden calf to be their god and lead them. God was already with them.
And God is with us.
This same God who delivered the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and led them by a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, came to us and dwelled among us.
Centuries before his birth, the prophet Isaiah foretold, “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)” (Isaiah 7:14, NLT). Jesus is Immanuel. Jesus is God with us.
Before he ascended to heaven, Jesus reassured his followers, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NLT). Jesus is with us even as the tsunami of fear threatens our shores. Today, let us lean fully into this promise in these uncertain times. With each breaking news story, proclaim God is with us! With each wave of fear, proclaim God is with us! Let us declare together into the darkness- God is with us!