Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 21 2011 - E100.22b – Exodus 32:15-35, Judgment

Moses descended from Sinai with the two stone tablets in his hand representing the covenant between God and his people. These tablets had writing on both sides, and had been engraved by the hand of God himself.

Half way down the mountain, Moses met up with Joshua who had been waiting for him. As they got nearer the bottom of the mountain the sounds of the people's idolatrous celebration could be heard. Hearing the drunken shouts and cries, Joshua thought that the people were being attacked – that a war was going on. But Moses is quick to reply that it is the sound or revelry.

As Moses reaches the foot of the mountain and approaches the camp – probably as eyes turn towards him to discover whether it is really Moses who has returned – he dashes the stone tablets to the ground where they shatter. This is no angry or impulsive gesture. Moses is demonstrating that the people have broken the covenant and no longer deserve to be called the people of God.

Moses burned the golden calf – it was probably constructed from wood covered with hammered gold. Then he had the charred remains and melted metal ground into powder which was thrown into the water supply. By being slowly and unpleasantly consumed by the people the gold was placed beyond ability to salvage; there would be no more golden calf.

Like a naughty child caught in the act of doing wrong, Aaron is full of lame excuses. But Moses is concerned to purify the people. He asks who is prepared to stand with him on the Lord's side. The Levites quickly join him, presumably along with a shame-faced Aaron. They are told to go throughout the camp and put to death those who will not turn away from their idolatry. Three thousand are put to the sword that day.

Moses goes back to meet with the Lord. He wants to ensure that God will not reject the remaining people but will lead them into the land he has promised. Again, Moses engages in remarkable prayer on behalf of the Israelites. Like Paul in Romans 9:3, Moses is willing to sacrifice his own place in God's kingdom if only his people can be saved.

God's great anger is turned away from his people. They will not face the severity of his judgment at this time. Nevertheless, many are struck down by a plague – shades of Egypt.

On that day God's grace was displayed when only three thousand died rather than all the people being rejected; only those who had sinned and refused to turn from their sin were blotted out of God's book. How much more wonderfully is the grace of God displayed in the Lord Jesus. He, the spotless Lamb of God died for us that we might be forgiven – that our names might be written indelibly in the Lamb's Book of Life. Three thousand died on that day; but when Christ had died and been raised from the dead three thousand were added to his people in one day (Acts 2:41). Grace triumphs over judgment.

Gracious God, thank you for the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Thank you that he has written my name in his Book of Life and will save me from the wrath to come.

Peter Misselbrook