The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a 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!” ’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.’ But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, ‘O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.” ’ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
Summary— Moses had spent forty days on Mt. Sinai, receiving further instruction from Yahweh. The children of Israel at the base of the mountain, not sure what had become of him and wanting some reassurance of Yahweh’s presence, had persuaded Aaron to fashion a young bull out of gold, to represent Him. Although they had not turned to another god, per se, they had presumed to represent Yahweh too concretely and unworthily. This kindled Yahweh’s wrath, so that He declared His intent to wipe them out and replace them with a new nation from the loins of Moses. Instead of grasping at this opportunity to be the New Abraham—instead of jumpting at this chance to father God’s People, called “the children of Moses”—Moses interceded for the children of Israel out of zeal for Yahweh’s reputation: Yahweh had delivered this people out of Egypt—if He destroyed them now, the pagan world would get the wrong idea about Him. What’s more, Yahweh had promised the land to Abraham’s decendents forever—if He destroyed them now, His faithfulness would be in question. Yahweh relented.
Insight— If God has planned the end from the beginning, ordaining whatsoever shall come to pass—and, if He is all knowing and all wise, and if man is not—then, how is it that He “relented” from His plans, at the pleading of Moses? Or, for that matter, how is it that our prayers ever “change” anything? The answer must be that God authors the entire story, including our prayers. He has planned the situations that we pray about, and He has planned that we pray about them, and He has planned His response to our prayers. In other words, there is a very real level on which God interacts with us, and there is an equally real level on which He has ordained all parts of that interaction.
Q: Does God really answer our prayers?
A: Yes, God has planned our situations, our prayers, and His answers.
Discussion— Why do you think that Yahweh “set Moses up” to intercede for Israel in the way that he did?
Prayer— Yahweh, You have ordained the end from the beginning, so that we need never question whether anything which comes to pass has been ordained by You. Not only does this not exclude our prayers, but it in fact establishes their importance: for, You have planned our free and heartfelt prayers, and Your answers, for You love to hear and answer us. Your ways are unsearcheable, and Your love everlasting, in Jesus Christ Your Son through Whom we pray. AMEN.
Contributed by Scott Cline