Immediately following the announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, there was chaos, fires, looting, vandalism, and violence in Ferguson, Missouri. It was a mob scene reminiscent of one in the Bible, in the Old Testament, when another group of people, Israel, got out of control after they bowed down to a golden calf (see Exodus 32). As we compare these two events, we will find at least three similarities.
First, there’s a lack of law. After the Lord had rescued Israel from Egypt, He gave His people the Ten Commandments and the civil law, which were given so that God’s people would show by their obedience they were God’s covenant people. When Moses went up Mount Sinai to receive the tablets on which the Law would be written by God, he stayed there for forty days and nights, and left his brother Aaron and a man named Hur in charge. The people grew restless as they waited for Moses to return from the mountain, so they decided to make a new god to worship, which was a blatant violation of the first two commandments. After the idol was made, the people presented offerings to it and celebrated with an out-of-control pagan party. The people of Israel used the delay of Moses as an excuse to live contrary to the law. Is that not what happened Monday night? The people of Ferguson used the decision of the grand jury to rebel against the law to destroy property and steal from businesses. The reality is, because of the sin nature of man, lawlessness is our natural state, for the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “You once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness” (Romans 6:19, English Standard Version). Israel and the people of Ferguson merely acted out the worst instincts that are in each of us.
Next, there’s a lack of leadership. The people of Israel wanted gods they could touch and hold, so they gathered together to intimidate their leader, Aaron, who was also their high priest, to make their kind of gods for them. Instead of standing firm against their plan because it was a clear violation of God’s law, Aaron chose to appease the crowd by making the golden calf for them. The leader did not lead and the consequences were devastating for Israel. Three thousand would die by the sword, plus more by a plague sent by the Lord. Haven’t we also seen that dreadful absence of leadership in Ferguson as it pertains to primarily the black community there, and aren’t we seeing the devastating consequences when leaders don’t lead in the ways of the Lord? The failure to lead was also visible within the media who convicted and condemned Officer Wilson and publicly declared so without knowing all the facts of the case. Like Aaron, the leaders in this nation, who are supposed to want the best for the people they lead, actually stoked the fires to cause the explosion of violence we saw Monday night.
Finally, there’s a lack of the Lord. The people of Israel lost their restraint because they forgot the Lord who had just brought them out of Egypt. We know this because they attributed their release to the Lord’s servant, Moses, when it was clearly the Lord who had brought His people out (see Exodus 32:1). Was it not clear that those people who acted out Monday night have either forgotten the Lord or they just don’t care about Him and what He says about loving Him and our neighbor as ourselves? This Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ, is not only our lawgiver, but He is also our life-giver and Savior from all of our lawlessness. Because of your lawlessness and mine, we are born enemies of God, but the good news is “for if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10, ESV). Ferguson is certainly not the only place in need of the Lord today; it is only the obvious place after the recent events. If you are living apart from Him, you need Him today because you are still an enemy of God in need of His salvation and peace.