When the Cat’s Away…

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That’s just what mice do, right? This clever and popular idiom is known by most, from the hardest working hand to the constant slacker. The phrase embodies the idea that, in the absence of the one in a position of authority, the subordinates will engage in the least amount of work possible while also acting out all the normally disallowed activities that the “leader” would normally apply the swift kibosh to…IF the cat were only there.

It would not be often that we might have the chance to make a Biblical analogy with such a phrase, mush less draw any practical, spiritual applications from it for our lives. But in the Book of Exodus, specifically the events surrounding the giving of the Ten Commandments and the making of the calf, we have such an opportunity. We read from the Word:

Exodus 32:7‭-‬9 KJV
And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves:  They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.  And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people:

Moses had been up on the mountain for days. No one had seen or heard from him. The only one who might have a clue of his whereabouts and disposition was Joshua who, unfortunately, was also WITH Moses and so he could not have helped in dissuading the licentious activities of the people. Moses, too, was just as unknowing as to the current condition of the people. It was God who clued him in.

In clear and beautiful verbiage, and without a hint of reserve, the Lord immediately disowns the people. God calls them “thy people”, and the people “thou broughtest out” to Moses. There is something here to be said for how God feels about the mice playing when the cat is away; He just does not tolerate it. But Moses, being the faithful steward of the flock he was, begged God NOT to destroy Israel, and so the wrath of God was turned aside just one of many times at the request of the man of God. There is something here to be said for the cat who begs for forgiveness of lazy, indifferent mice; thank God for Pastors who pray for us harder than we sometimes pray for ourselves.

The rest of the story is similarly well known for Moses, in a fit of rage the likes of which Israel had probably never seen, proceeds to cast down the tablets to their destruction at the site of the people’s reckless abandon and attire (or lack thereof):

Exodus 32:19 KJV
And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.

At this instance the preached Word has brought forth much that may have been in the mind of Moses. Why did he destroy what God had just written with His own hand? The conjecture is probably endless. But great men of God have preached how that Moses, in the moment, had a flash of understanding of all that the Law was, and what people could never be. Perhaps he realized immediately that the Law showed what was wrong, but not how to fix it. By chance Moses felt that, in all of it’s sovereign perfection, the average Joe didn’t deserve the Holy Words at all. But perhaps there was a bit more too.

Any leader can tell you, whether they would freely admit it or not, what failure feels like. Moses, with so many as his responsibility, probably felt absolute despair for the state of the nation as he rounded the corner of that last jagged rock and the sweeping scene of debauchery overtook him. Moses probably felt worthless. I believe there was a moment just before the “thwap” of the stone hitting the ground when the man of God felt ineffective and unsuccessful. And as the Word lay there shattered, I believe the weight of the Words then lay squarely upon his shoulders. He had failed. He had not instilled in them what needed to be there. He was unable to keep them from falling. They had seen plagues wipe out the seat of authority and power base of the greatest nation on earth, and they walked away without a scratch. They had heard the muffled screams from the work of the death angel , and yet
their own children now witnessed the failure of fathers. An entire enemy force had drowned in the place where they walked across on dry ground, and still, faithfulness could not be found.

There is now something to be said for faithful people. There is something to be said for the mice who do not play when the cat is away. Thank God for people who love to pray, who go out of their way and schedule to come to a special service just for prayer, even when the man of God is out of town. Thank God for people who love preaching even when the preacher is not around. Thank God for people who love the work of the House of God even when the Pastor isn’t there to look over their shoulders. Thank God for people that can make the labor and burden of the Church go on successfully in the absence of the leader. Thank God for people who do right, live right, and love right even when there’s no one around to remind them what right is. Thank God for the cats, but thank God for the mice who aren’t part-time partyers. Thank God for the cat who brings the fear, but thank God for the mouse that remembers and loves the message without having to be made afraid all the time. Thank God for the cats when they’re here, and thank God for mice who don’t lose their purpose when they’re away.

Luke 12:43 KJV
Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

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