Questions & Observations
Q. (Exodus 32:1): The Israelites seem to be so impatient. But, 40 days does seem like an eternity. I guess with that many people, the unrest would spread rampantly. But, I am surprised that Aaron caved so quickly.
A. Yea, this isn’t Aaron’s best moment. He caves to the pressure quickly — some extra-biblical traditions say his friend was murdered or his family was held hostage, etc. — but there is no excuse for his sin. Worse yet, he lies to Moses about it when Moses comes down: really, the calf formed itself. Sure it did…
Q. (32:9-14): It seems like I always here that our Lord is exact, true and unwavering. But we have seen several times where His chosen have pleaded with him to spare His people. The conversation sounds like two old friends who confide in one another. I always thought of God’s directions as final, “It’s my way or the highway.” But, God makes exceptions. Last Sunday, our minister talked about giving God some of your time — not just making a date for 15 minutes, saying “Hi, how are you?, the kids OK, and here’s my list of requests, gotta go, amen.” He said to give him an hour, a half day, even a whole day and just walk with Him. In these passages, Moses spend days with Him. Our lives don’t really make room for such a long visit, but we should give him the time. He is here to help us, counsel, listen and just talk to. When we spend more time with something meaningless as TV than God, that has to hurt His feelings. Rob, can you comment on God changing His mind and on how he has, to me, almost human emotions?
A. There is, as one might expect, a lot of discussion about whether God really changed His mind in the sense we are familiar with, but there are important things we can derive from this passage. To me, God appears to test Moses as He tested Abraham, except this time, there was a whole nation in the balance. God tells Moses, “go away so I can get angry and kill them,” but Moses is quick to speak up for his people. They screwed up, Moses says, but its not in your character to wipe them out, you don’t really mean what you’re saying, right God? It appears Moses was willing to be bold even to God in fighting for his people. No wonder the writer proclaims Moses and God talked as friends!
Q. (Exodus 32:27-28): Moses just told God to spare the Israelites. Then, he goes down from the mountain and commands the Levites to kill everyone. They only killed 3,000. Can you explain these two conflicting statements — the sparing and not killing everyone?
A. It appears that Moses and the Levites killed in order to re-establish order among the ranks and stop the madness. That had to be done, or there would be no chance of making amends with God. What God was suggesting was the wipe out the ENTIRE nation and start again with Moses. So while Moses’ actions seems violent, it certainly was more desirable then losing the whole nation.
Q. (32:34): What is the Lord referring to when he says, “when I come to call the people to account, I will certainly hold them responsible for their sins.”
A. It appears to be directly tied to the plague that strikes the people in the next verse.
Q. (32:3): From earlier Exodus reading, it sounded like God wanted to reside among the Israelites when he was giving the particulars of the Ark and Tabernacle construction. Now, he has changed his mind because of the Israelites actions?
A. Like the decision to destroy the nation, God will heed Moses’ pleading to not abandon His people and will travel with them. Hang on for the end of the story: it’s really cool.
O. (33:16): LOVE THIS VERSE: Moses says, “For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.”
Q. (33:21-23): We have talked about this before, but can you remind us of the differences between God talking to Abraham and to Moses. God appeared as a traveling man to Abraham, but here God says he is too glorious to be seen.
A. Moses is asking for the full deal: he wants to see the full extent of who God is. And God tells him, you’re asking too much for any person. God chooses to reveal himself in different ways to different people — I’m thinking of Isaiah, Joel, and Ezekiel, among others — throughout His story, so it is clear that people do, in some form, see the Lord, but they do not see the full weight of who God is. That is the implication to me about what would be “too much” for poor Moses to handle. Still, Moses appears to be able to handle a lot of seeing most of God truly is — as close as any person ever has according to the text. This is a big part of the reason that he is such a revered figure in Judaism, even bigger than Abraham.
Q. (34:7): I don’t understand “I forgive iniquity, rebellion and sin. But I don’t not excuse the guilty.”
A. Actually, I think that this is a profound statement of God’s mercy and grace (what He desired to share with Moses about His nature). I like the way that NIV renders it: “forgiving…rebellion and sin. Yet, He does not leave the guilty unpunished.” I think they “yet,” rather than the “but” of NLT, makes the message more clear: God is willing to forgive our sins, but the sins themselves often come with natural punishment that God does not prevent us from suffering. As we talked about some days ago, it is often children who suffer the worst consequences for the sins of their parents, which is what the end of the verse talks about. So in this profound statement, God is basically saying, “you and I can be reconciled” by Me forgiving you, but you must still deal with the consequences of your actions. To me, this points to the reality of God’s grace, but also that God does not wink at sin and say, “oh well, boys will be boys” or whatever. God takes our sins very seriously — mostly because of their deadly effect on us — even when He grants us forgiveness.