Who Is This God?November 8-12
The God Who Forgives Idol Worship
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” – Exodus 32:1 (ESV)
According to Steven Cole, Exodus 32 is one of the scariest chapters in the Bible. It ranks up there with 2 Samuel 11, where David, the man after God’s heart, fell into adultery and murder; and with the Gospel accounts of the apostle Peter’s denials of Christ. It’s scary because prior to Exodus 32, Aaron had some spiritual experiences that far exceed anything that any of us have ever had. He had seen God bring the ten plagues on Egypt. He watched God part the Red Sea for Israel and then bring it back over the pursuing Egyptian army. He saw the pillar of fire and the cloud that God provided for Israel’s protection in the wilderness. He had eaten the daily manna and had drunk water from the rock….But then, after all of these displays of God’s glory and power, while Moses was on the mountain meeting with God, Aaron quickly yielded to the people’s request and fashioned the golden calf for Israel to worship.
We might wonder, “How could Aaron do that?” Yet, Exodus 32 is a reminder that any of us can stray in our walk with God. It also reminds us that none of us are capable of keeping all of God’s laws. How we handle God’s ordained delays is a good measure of our spiritual maturity. If we allow such delays to make us drift off into sin then we react poorly to His ordained delays. If we allow such times to deepen our perseverance in following God, then they are of good use.
Exodus 32 also reminds us that God is willing to forgive repentant sinners. What are the things in your life that could become idols? How do you typically handle God’s delays? Do you turn to other people or other things when God doesn’t move the way you want Him to?
Thank God for not immediately punishing you when you stray. Ask God to show you any false idols in your life and how to remove them.
The God Who Forgives Quickly
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden 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!’” – Exodus 32:7-8 ESV
Thanks to Internet technology, I can watch ice building up on Lake Michigan from my warm office 30 miles away. The changing angle of the sun’s rays in winter chills the earth. Frigid temperatures turn surging water into rock-hard ice in a surprisingly short time. Witnessing this rapid transition reminds me of how quickly our hearts can turn cool toward God.
That happened to the ancient Israelites. After God miraculously rescued them from slavery, they became impatient when Moses climbed Mt. Sinai to meet God and didn’t return according to their timetable. So they got together and created their own god. The Lord told Moses to hurry back down the mountain because the people had so quickly turned away. (Julie Ackerman Link)
It is not uncommon for Christians to have mountain top experiences with God and then backslide before they can get out of the church parking lot. Exodus 32 is easily relatable for those who have been Christians for a long time. God’s initial response was going to be quick judgment but instead, God eventually forgives the people who so quickly forgot all that God had blessed them with.
Sometimes we slowly drift away from our intimacy with Jesus. Other times our drift is swift and even in a moment’s poor decision. Would you describe your heart currently as cold toward God or warm? What are some of the ways you can keep your heart warm toward God?
Praise God for His patience with you. Praise God for some of the things that caused you to first fall in love with Him.
The God Who Forgives and Intercession
But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? – Exodus 32:11 (ESV)
Readers’ Digest Magazine contains the story of an employee who confided in a co-worker: “I told her about a problem in our office and my fear that I would lose my job. She was concerned and said she would pray for me. I know she keeps a list of 10 people she believes need her prayers the most, so I asked her if she had room for me on her list. ‘Oh yes,’ she replied. ‘Three of the other people have died.’”
Typically, if someone is praying for you you are hoping for a higher success rate. In Exodus 32 Moses successfully interceded on behalf of the nation of Israel. Moses begged God not to punish Israel for idolatry. Exodus 32:11 says, “Moses implored the Lord.” The word “implored” in Hebrew is actually two words which are more literally “soften the face of the LORD” which brings out the idea of his seeking to pacify and persuade God to show favor instead of wrath. God uses the prayers of believers when we pray for others.
Who are some of the people you know that might benefit from you taking the time to intercede with God on their behalf? Who are the people who have interceded for you in the past?
Read James 5:13-20. Thank God for the people who have prayed for you. Praise God for the ability to make a difference with our prayers.
The God Who Forgives is Unchanging
And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people. – Exodus 32:14 (ESV)
When Lloyd C. Douglas, author of The Robe and other novels, was a university student, he lived in a boarding house. Downstairs on the first floor was an elderly, retired music teacher who was unable to leave her apartment. Douglas said that every morning they had a ritual they would go through together. He would come down the steps, open the old man’s door, and ask, “What’s the good news?” The old man would pick up his tuning fork, tap it on the side of his wheelchair and say, That’s middle C! It was middle C yesterday; it will be middle C tomorrow; it will be middle C a thousand years from now. The tenor upstairs sings flat, the piano across the hall is out of tune, but, my friend, THAT is middle C!” The old man had discovered that he could depend on one constant reality in his life, one “still point in a turning world.” For Christians, the one “still point in a turning world,” the one absolute of which there is no shadow of turning, is Jesus Christ. (Source unknown).
God “relents” in Exodus 32:14 because He is unchanging. Alan Cole helps us understand the LORD changed His mind writing The meaning is not that God changed His mind; still less that He regretted something that He had intended to do. It means, in biblical language, that he now embarked on a different course of action from that already suggested as a possibility, owing to some new factor which is usually mentioned in the context. In the Bible, it is clear that God’s promises and warnings are often conditional on man’s response.
If you repent, God consistently forgives; if someone refuses to repent, God consistently judges. He is unchanging in His nature, His plan, and His being. How does it make you feel knowing that God will never change His mind about giving you grace?
Thank God for His unchanging offer of grace. Praise God for His consistency in your life.
The God Who Forgives Great Sin
The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” – Exodus 32:30 (ESV)
Two elderly southern women were sitting together in the front pew listening to a fiery preacher. He was banging the pulpit and the ladies were cheering him on. When he condemned the sin of stealing the two church ladies cried out loudly “AMEN BROTHER.” When he condemned the sin of lust they yelled again, “PREACH IT, PREACH IT!” And when he spoke out against lying they jumped to their feet and screamed, “RIGHT ON, BROTHER! TELL IT LIKE IT IS. AMEN!” But when the preacher-man condemned the sin of gossip the two got very quiet. One lady turned to the other and said, “Well, he’s done quit preachin’. Now he’s just meddlin.’”
In Exodus 32:20 Moses was “meddlin.’” He told the people they had committed a “great sin.” Three times Moses referred to their idolatry as a great sin. Moses offered his own life as an atonement for the people. Moses was even willing to give up his own salvation for the salvation of the nation. God would not accept the blood of Moses, but He did accept the life of His only Son Jesus as an atonement. God forgives great sins because of the great sacrifice of Jesus.
What are some of the big sins you tend to be very vocal in condemning? What are some of your own private sins you tend to remain silent about? Jesus died for the “big” sins and for the “little sins.”
Thank God that there is no sin too great or too little for Him to forgive. Thank Jesus for paying the price for all of your sins.