Wednesday 02 May 2012

Bible Book:

"And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people." (v. 14)

Exodus 32:1-35 Wednesday 2 May 2012


This is the story of at least three different turning points. Itis a story which is dramatic and troubling, not simply because ofthe sin of the Israelites but also because it is God who threatensthem with punishment, Moses who pleads for mercy and God whoultimately backs down.

The people of Israel have promised: "All the words that the Lordhas spoken, we will do" (Exodus24:3). The story then continues as Moses goes up the mountainand receives instructions for worship (Exodus24:12 - 31:18), some of which we have looked at this week. However, in his absence, the peopleof Israel immediately forget their promise and create new gods andnew ways of worshipping for themselves. It is possible that thecalf is a symbol from Canaanite fertility religion. It is worthreflecting on how quickly the people desert God and the crisis thatthis story presents.

At the beginning of Exodus, Moses tried to avoid taking on therole of leading Israel (Exodus3-4) and the story has shown that he was right to be wary, theyhave been consistently difficult. Verse 10 therefore representsanother crisis, God offers Moses the opportunity to be rid of themand to start again with only his own family - and Moses turns Goddown. Somehow in the midst of this crisis, Moses recognises that nomatter how difficult the people he cannot walk away from them. Thethird crisis is a crisis for God. The Bible does not back away frompresenting God as angry and demanding justice. In an age which heldlife cheap and assumed that one who blasphemed against God deservedto die, it is clear that the risk of the Israelites beingextinguished is a real one. And God's mind is changed (verse 14) -one possible alternative translation is 'repents'. All of these canbe challenging ideas and they need to be balanced against otherpassages which stress God's love and mercy. But do we, today, alsoneed to be reminded that sometimes our image of God is tootame?

To Ponder

  • Moses prays and God's mind is changed - what does this say toyou about the human relationship with God?
  • How do you respond to biblical images of a God who isangry?
  • What is it about today's world that might make God angry?

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