Monday, August 24 Exodus 32:1-14
“The golden calf”
Exodus 24:18 tells us that Moses remained on the mountain of God for 40 days and nights. Chapters 25-31 contain God’s words to Moses during that time, which are primarily concerned with the building and equipping of the Tabernacle, the portable tent which will contain the Ark of the Covenant and be the place of God’s presence with his people. But, while God is speaking with Moses, the people grow tired of waiting and convince Aaron to build them a golden calf idol, thus breaking both the first and the second commandment.
God reports the activities of the Israelites to Moses, calling them “your (Moses’) people.” This is an ominous movement away from the Israelites being “my (God’s) people” as they have been thus far. God’s response is to have his “anger . . . burn again them,” which will destroy them, and starting over with Moses as essentially a new Abraham. But, Moses argues with God on behalf of the people – rebellion is followed by mediation – and God turns from his anger and does not bring about the threatened disaster.
We must ever be patient, Lord, to wait for you. Amen.
Tuesday, August 25 Exodus 32:15-29
“Moses burned with anger”
Moses, “burning with anger” because of what he sees in the camp, throws the tablets to the ground, breaking them to pieces. Whereas Moses had been able to appease God when God “burned with anger,” he was unable to stop himself from following through on his powerful emotion. The breaking of the tables is more than just a graphic, even impulsive, depiction of intense anger. By smashing the tablets on which is written the law – by God’s finger, no less – the law is symbolically undone. Moses’ act says to the Israelites that if they are not prepared to obey the law, they do not deserve to have it.
In the wake of this disaster, it is the Levites who rally to Moses’ side, the same Levites who will be tasked by God with caring for the Tabernacle. Thus, there is faithfulness to God even in the midst of rebellion. God’s house is still in order. The rebellion is grievous and serious, but it is not the final word. The guilty parties will be put to death by those responsible for maintaining order in the community, the Levites.
In the midst of the world’s rebellion, Lord, there are some who remain faithful. Amen.
Wednesday, August 26 Exodus 32:30 – 33:11
“Moses pleads for the life of his people”
While 3,000 were killed for their sin with the golden calf, it seems that the rest of the Israelites are also guilty in some sense, otherwise Moses would not need to speak to God on their behalf. Moses pleads for the life of his people, essentially saying “take me instead.” The Lord responds by rejecting Moses’ offer, telling him to continue on the journey with the angel leading them. The guilt of the people, however, will not be swept under the rug: “The Lord struck the people with a plague.” We do not know how many or even if anyone died.
While the angel of God leads them as they leave Mount Sinai and continue their journey to the Promised Land, God announces that he himself will not be present with them. In response, the people mourn, and as a posture of mourning, they stop wearing jewelry and fine clothing. Moses pitches a tent and calls it a “tent of meeting” so that at least he can have access to God and be in communication with him. The people do not have such access; they simply watch from a distance and worship as Moses enters.
The result of sin, Lord, is separation from you. Amen.
Thursday, August 27 Exodus 33:12-23
“Whom will you send with me?”
Moses knows that God is highly displeased with the people of Israel, the very people he has told Moses to lead. In Moses’ conversation with God, he is trying to determine whether God still intends the Israelites to make it to the Promised Land. Moses acknowledges that God is with him, but is God also with the people in spite of their disobedience? Moses doesn’t want to end up being the only one to reach Canaan. So, he asks that God’s Presence go “with us,” meaning all the people, not just Moses.
In the end, God promises to do as Moses asks. Why? Because he is pleased with Moses and knows him by name. God will be present with the people for Moses’ sake. In reply, Moses asks to see God’s glory. Here he is not simply asking to satisfy his personal curiosity or to address some deep spiritual longing. He is in effect asking God for a demonstration of the promise he has just made. God responds by telling Moses that he will make “all my goodness” pass before you so that Moses will know that the mercy and compassion of God are with his people.
In your mercy and compassion, Lord, you continue the journey with us. Amen.
Friday, August 28 Exodus 34:1-17
“I am making a covenant with you”
God reestablishes the covenant between himself and Israel after the golden calf incident. Once again, Moses will have tablets of stone with the words of God’s laws written on them. The covenant that was nearly annulled with the breaking of the first set is reinstated and affirmed by God’s words in verses 6-7. God states that he is patient with his people and willing to forgive. But forgiveness does not mean overlooking their sin, nor will he leave the guilty unpunished.
Moses’ response in verses 8-9 seems strange. He appears to be petitioning God for what God has just granted. Perhaps similar to his conversation with God in chapter 33, he is asking for some added evidence or proof that God will be with his people. God responds to Moses’ request not by reprimanding him but by giving him what he wants, a sign of his continued presence with his people. Verses 10-11 repeat a number of things we have seen in previous sections of Exodus that indicate God’s presence and power on behalf of his people – God will continue to be evident through miracles.
Forgive my sin, Lord, for I am your child and you my God. Amen.
Saturday, August 29 Exodus 34:18-35
“Moses’ face had become radiant”
After Moses has received the second set of tablets containing the terms of the covenant, which are essentially the same terms as that given in the first set of tablets, he makes his way down the mountain. This time, however, he is not greeted with the sound of singing. Instead, the people are afraid. Why? Because Moses’ face has become radiant. Moses is God’s mediator, and the lack of respect the people had toward him in chapter 32 will not be repeated. Although the reason why Moses’ face shines is not made explicit in the text, it is probably to impress on the people that God’s authority and presence rest unequivocally with Moses.
It is only after Moses assures the leaders that there is nothing to fear that the people come near and hear him speak. Still, a little fear is good for them. They are receiving God’s law, and that is not to be taken lightly. The veil covering Moses’ face is not needed when he speaks with God; but when he speaks to the people, Moses’ radiant face causes a fearful reaction, and the veil helps to calm them.
In Jesus Christ, we have beheld the unveiled glory of God. Amen.