An Unworthy Exchange

This week, I was reading Psalm 106. It’s about God’s faithfulness and goodness despite Israel’s unfaithfulness. As I was reading, one verse caught my attention: “They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass” (Psalm‬ ‭106:20‬ ‭ESV)‬‬. When it’s put that way, it sounds absurd that the people of Israel made the choice to worship the golden calf (see Exodus 32).

It’s easy for me to sit back and judge their unfaithfulness, because I would never bow down to “the image of an ox that eats grass.” Right?! But I started to think about all ways I “exchange” God’s glory, His presence, for lesser things. What about that extra 20 minutes of sleep, instead of getting up to seek Him? Or how about the half thought out, half followed through commitment to fast? Or that one more episode of Star Trek: Deep Space 9, instead of cracking open my Bible before bedtime?

Psalm 105:4 says, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually” (ESV, emphasis added). If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have things we are seeking, other than the presence of the Lord. For me, it’s comfort, rest and peace. None of these things are bad, in and of themselves. But while I’m chasing them through extra sleep or one more episode of my current favorite TV show, I end up with a sorry replica of what can only be found in the presence of God.

Don’t get me wrong, God honors rest. He even set aside a whole day in the week for it. But when I seek that more than His presence, I’ve basically “exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.”

Matthew 6:32-33 says, “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (ESV). So that’s what I’m choosing to do–seek God first. When I do that, I can trust that everything else, including that coveted comfort and rest I so desire, will be added to me.

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