Make Us A God (part 2)

Today’s article is a continuation of our study from Exodus 32 and the sin of the Israelites as they craft a golden calf.

“And the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.”

This is religion on their terms! No more rules and regulations! No more scrounging around in the wilderness like rats! This is a religion based on the things they wanted to do; eating, drinking, and playing. The modern application to all of this is, of course, the perversion of religion today. Consider Romans 10:2, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” Just like the Israelites, a lot of very religious people want to believe in God and feel very spiritual, but they are unwilling to seek true knowledge and obedience.

“Your People Have Corrupted Themselves”

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the Land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves” (32:7). Notice how God gives Moses the possession of these people (“your people”), which is meant “to awaken the tenderness between” Moses and the Israelites (Pulpit Commentary. Vol. I, Rawlinson, 327). Essentially, God is about to give His prophet a choice, and He wants Moses to keep in mind the close relationship between himself and this assembly of “obstinate people” (32:9). “On the mountain… God has really given Moses a choice: either not intercede in behalf of guilty Israel and have himself honored in being made head of a new nation; or intercede for them and spare them” (Wood, 147). It really boiled down to how elevated Moses wanted to be – to become the head of a new nation, all Moses had to do was not try to stop God from what He was about to. “Now then let me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation” (32:10). The response given by Moses is commendable, for it shows the care and selflessness of this man. He is not interested in his own personal aggrandizement, but only in two things: the safety of the Israelites (32:11) and the reputation of the Lord (32:12).

“So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” (32:14). We must not take this verse the wrong way, because many will look at it and assume that anybody can change the mind of God, or that the Lord sometimes forgets details and needs reminding. No, He did not need to be reminded of His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Isaiah 46:8-11, Joshua 21:45) nor did He need to be told about His reputation in the eyes of the  Egyptians. What this passage does show, though, is that God is interested in listening to what the righteous have to say about the world and its ways. It is for this reason that we pray when a friend or relative is sick (James 5:16, Philippians 2:27), and also that we pray for the success and peace of worldly governments (1 Timothy 2:1-2). In the end, though, we do not know what God’s answer will be. Perhaps He will change His mind (Joel 2:12-14) but it is just as likely that He will not. Whatever the end result, we must always learn to accept the will of God and not become angry with Him when one thing or another does not end the way we want it to end.