A horse is a massive creature that is both majestic and perplexing. To think how a tame and trained horse can be used is impressive, yet the muscle mass of this beast could easily create damage if the animal was unwilling to submit to the restraint, reins, or the will of the rider. One might pull the reins to direct the animal in one direction and the horse simply decides today is not the day and kicks the rider off its back.
I don’t have a tremendous amount of experience with horses but was able to connect with one horse in particular while on a retreat at a ranch in Wyoming in 2021. We bonded as horse and rider for several days and numerous rides. The moment came to test our relationship when the trail led across a river. With swift water and depths that would drip my stirrups in the water, the horse stood at the bank, and as I gave commands with reins and verbally, the horse stiffened its neck and, for the first time, seemed obstinate. Eventually, he surrendered, and we walked across, but at that moment, he was pushing against my will rather than trusting me as the rider.
This imagery paints a picture of the Hebrew language used in Exodus 32 when Moses calls the Israelites a “stiff-necked people.” After God had consistently demonstrated faithfulness and provision through the wilderness after His miraculous rescue from slavery, they waited impatiently at the base of the mountain as Moses met with God for 40 days and 40 nights. During this time, unrest and a group of influencers led the people to construct a golden calf and ascribe the name of Yahweh to this idol.
This act became a defining moment for the nation of Israel comparable to the original sin in the Garden that impacted their nation for generations. Rather than listening, waiting, and trusting the faithfulness of God, these people broke their covenant with God and defied the commandments recently delivered.
Before we point fingers, we must pause and consider how frequently we are like them. In our impatience to trust God, we take matters into our own hands, make decisions without prayer or patience, and even pollute our worship by defying the expectations of God and making worship more about humanity than Creator.
This is a moment to assess, reflect, and repent of our sinful ways and worship. We must return to the genuine heart of humility that trusts the heart of God to lead us into paths of righteousness for His name’s sake and not our own.