Exodus 31-35 overflows with so much treasure and wisdom about God’s relationship to mankind. There are a lot of things I could pull out of these chapters. For instance, how Moses is a picture of Christ our Mediator. God was angry with the children of Israel for so quickly turning to idol worship when they made the golden calf, He told Moses He desired to destroy all of them and start over with Moses. God isn’t irrationally angry; the people deserved to die, to be judged for their sin. Moses intercedes, reminding God (as if He needed reminding) that this would cause the Egyptians to speak ill of God, as though He brought His people out to kill them. In his prayer, Moses also spoke God’s own covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob back to God. Praying God’s Word is a sure way to pray God’s will!
God relents. Scripture does say, “So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people” (32:14). Can the Lord change His mind? Apparently, yes, in response to the prayers of His faithful servants if He so chooses.
It’s interesting that Moses interceded before he got to the bottom of the mountain and actually saw the depravity his people had descended into. When he saw it in person, he seems to agree with God they deserve to die. More than three thousand men were killed that day by the hand of their own, the Levites, as a punishment. After this, Moses returned to the mountain to plead with God to forgive them, offering his own life as payment in their place to satisfy God’s wrath against the people. It’s in this act of sacrificial love for his people that Moses stands clearly as a type of Christ.
God does forgive His people.
God does not accept Moses’ life in exchange but promises to punish each person for their own sin. God knows there will be only one acceptable substitute for the sins of mankind, His Son, Jesus.
After this terrible mark on Israel’s history, they move forward with God’s promise to go with them. God replaces the tablets Moses broke in anger, and Moses goes deeper into intimate fellowship with God, speaking with Him face to face in the tent of meeting. When we leave this passage of scripture, the people are collecting all of the materials that will be used to construct the beautiful Tabernacle where God’s presence will dwell in their midst.
Fine linen in purple, gold, and scarlet. Items of gold that will be melted down and shaped into the furniture and vessels used for sacrifice and worship. Silver, bronze, spun material, gemstones, spices for the incense, and pure olive oil. Everyone whose heart was stirred gave what they had, and those in whose hearts God had filled with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship stepped up in obedience to do the work (31:3-6; 35:30-35).
Just reading the list of materials to be used, we can already see this will be a beautiful place for worship, and a far, far cry from hedonistic dancing around a golden calf roughly formed by Aaron. What a poor, sad, substitute we often settle for instead of waiting for what God has in mind! I’m reminded of the empty, vain, and hopeless lives that many live today instead of enjoying the abundant life Jesus came to give (John 10:10).
You might say, “Well, it’s my life and I can choose to live it as I please,” and that’s true. You can, but God reminded the people that their decisions didn’t just affect themselves. The choices we make will have an impact on those who come after us, for good or for evil.
Exodus 34:6-7 – Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “the Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindnesses and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression ad sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
We often create our own gods and bow down to them, thinking we know best. I’m so thankful that God provided a Mediator, Jesus, who stands in the gap for us. He offered His own life and took the wrath of God against our sinful choices on Himself so that we can move forward into a new life where His presence dwells with us.
Let us not be hasty and impatient while waiting for God to fulfill His promises.
Let’s not give in to fear and anxious thoughts when it appears to us as though He’s forgotten us.
Those thoughts only lead us to our golden calf experiences. Instead, let’s surrender to His timing and His plans. I can assure you that it’s worth the wait, and your children and grandchildren will be grateful you did.