EXODUS 32 – The Day God Changes God’s Mind
What happened since last week’s reading? We know the Israelites made the exodus out of Egypt; out of slavery. They are in the wilderness at Mt. Sinai, where Moses is up on the mountain-with God; and where God is giving the Ten Commandments (plus other commands) so that they might learn how to live as God’s holy people. Throughout Exodus, Moses is the mediator and intercessor. He speaks God’s message to the people. He takes the peoples’ cries and complaints to God. Aaron is his brother and helper.
Digging Deeper: 1. The Golden Calf incident is not the 1st time the people have gotten into trouble out in the wilderness. This story-while not good-may not be as bad as it sounds. The people in this moment, had no access to Moses and therefore no access to God. The idea of crafting a god they can see and touch is understandable. The Hebrew word translated ‘gods’ in most English Bibles, is elohim, one of the Old Testament names for God, usually translated “God”. So the people may be asking Aaron to make an image of God, rather than fabricate some completely new god. The celebration that gets carried away, is apparently a festival for Yahweh, the LORD. (See v. 5). At minimum, they are guilty of making a false image of the one, true, God!
2. God, however, is not amused. God is angry! God says to Moses your people, the ones you brought out of Egypt have done this great sin. God is fed-up and done!
3. But Moses intercedes, and argues with God. Moses says truthfully “these are your people, LORD”. Moses boldly speaks and a) questions God’s anger; b) asks “what will the neighbors think if you destroy your own people?”; and c) holds God to the promise God made to Abraham and his descendants. How bold do you dare to be with God? Will you say to God what you honestly need to say?
4. An interesting thing happens: v. 14 And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster he planned to bring on his people. Wow! In what ways is it good that God changes God’s mind? In what ways is that unsettling? How does this reality challenge our stubborn resolve when we come up against an issue we swore we’d “never change our mind” on? If God can change, how must we?
5. This story does not have a nice, neat, ending. When Moses comes down the mountain, he is irate, and dishes out some violent punishment. And Aaron and the people have to beg for forgiveness and start over. The tension and difficulty of doing things God’s way, or doing things our way seems to never go away!