7 The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ ” 9 The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. 10 Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.” 11 But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” 14 And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people. (NRSV)
This time it was Moses who had to talk God off the ledge.
If you remember yesterday’s post was the first half of the Exodus reading for this week. Moses was up the mountain getting the Ten Commandments and he was gone a long time. It looked to the people like he was never coming back. They were afraid, out there in the desert without Moses, their leader and their access to God. Without Moses, they were really alone and wanted something they could see to help them deal. Aaron made the golden calf and called a feast. Now God sees the party getting started and sends Moses to hurry down the mountain and put a stop to it. They have done exactly what God is prohibiting by stepping out of their relationship of trust with the living God whom they cannot see and clinging to an object which they can see but that cannot see them. God knew what they were up to. God sees them and sends Moses to protect them from themselves.
But God is also sending Moses away so God can fume. I’m guessing you know it too, but fuming is best done alone when we can rehearse the injustices done to us and the harm we have suffered. Moses isn’t so obedient that he does what God has instructed at this point. This disobedience is for God’s own good, so God doesn’t commit a crime of passion against the people of Israel whom he so very recently rescued out of slavery. This is a big risk on Moses’ part, as so far, at least, Moses is still in God’s favor. God intends to keep Moses but do away with the people and start over. This is very reminiscent of the story of Noah and the flood. God said at that time that never again would God send a flood to destroy the creation but nothing had been said about any other methods!
Moses takes up the tradition of Abraham before him who dickers with God (see Genesis 18:20 and following) to save the innocent in Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses confronts God to consider the implications of the destruction of the whole people of Israel. Moses has to settle God down. Moses had to remind God that he is not a promise breaker. God had promised to create a great nation from the descendants of Abraham and that would never happen if God destroyed them. Besides, the Egyptians would surely discover that and make some assumptions about exactly who this God is. And Moses warns God they would be exactly the wrong conclusions. “You don’t want that do you?” is what Moses seems to be saying.
In the end, God relents. God is influenced by Moses’ pleas.
This story does a couple of things for us. It reminds us that God is approachable. God is responsive because of the relationship he has with Moses. And I am confident that Moses is bold because of his relationship with God.
Boldness is a good trait for a follower of God to develop. Trusting God takes boldness. Being willing to trust God when in fearsome or confusing circumstances is HUGE. Being willing to approach God with your truth and the way you see things is even HUGER!
I grew up learning that God was unchanging, but I don’t think that is entirely true. I know from the scriptures and from personal experience, God is enormously responsive. God is permanent, yes. God’s love is unconditional. So I would say God’s love and mercy are unchanging. But our God is a God who relents; who takes us seriously; who created us to be in relationship.
God wants to hear from you. Be bold in living your faith and your relationship with God.
blessings to you,
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.