Focal Passage: Exodus 32:7-20, 25-26
I follow professional football probably more than I should. One benefit, however, is observing leaders in action. It is not always about talent, but about how one composes oneself and performs in difficult situations. An example might be Kurt Warner. He spent years as a journeyman quarterback, never giving up and most importantly, standing up for Jesus whether his team won or lost. God would bless Warner with a Super Bowl victory and MVP accolades. Recently I’ve been watching Tony Romo, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He’s botched his share of plays, but I’ve never heard him blame someone else. I have heard him take personal responsibility for these failures because he recognizes he is one of their key leaders.
At this point in Moses’ life, he was granted a unique opportunity. God was giving him the portion of the Law that would be known as the 10 Commandments. At this moment life was “better than good” for Moses. He was with God. Meanwhile, at the base of the mountain, the people were turning to idolatry. Worst, his trusted brother Aaron was complicit. In an instant glory had turned to disaster. It would be Moses’ obligation to leave the presence of God to solve the problem below. What we find striking, however, is not so much what would later happen on the ground, but what was happening between God and Moses.
Moses was angry, and God was angrier, so angry that He wanted to “destroy” the idolaters. One zap and Moses would have an easier path to lead all compliant followers to not only obey the law, but to complete the pilgrimage to their physical destination. Moses, however, stood up for the people even in the face of God’s wrath. He petitioned God to spare the Hebrews.
Because Moses stood up for his people, God “changed His mind.” To Moses’ credit, just because he wanted mercy for his people, he did not compromise his faith. The calf was destroyed, the people would pay penance, and Moses would steadfastly stand for God.