“And when He had finished speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, He gave Moses the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.” ~ Exodus 31:18
I have written next to this verse in my Bible, “Wow!” and every time I read this that is what I am thinking. God was speaking with Moses, and God wrote the words of the law and testimony with His finger upon those tablets of stone. Wow!
Exodus 32 opens with the people asking Aaron to make a god for them, because “‘as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'” Yes, Moses had been gone a long while- forty days- but did they so quickly forget the God Who led them out of Egypt? Hmm, I suppose we forget God too quickly sometimes…
What is perhaps even more amazing is that Aaron seemed happy to oblige them. He collected gold from them, shaped it into a bull, and set it up so that they might sacrifice to it. They feasted before this gold idol, and then an orgy began. And then Moses showed up.
The LORD knew what the people were doing. He is all-knowing, so there is nothing we can hide from Him. In fact, He also sees the future, so He knew they would do this. He sees our sins before we even decide to commit them, yet He loves us anyway. Now that is love!
God said to Moses, “‘Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.'” ~ Exodus 32:10
Moses entreated the LORD to spare the people. “‘Turn from Thy burning anger and change Thy mind about doing harm to Thy people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants to whom Thou didst swear by Thyself, and didst say to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever’.’ So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.” ~ Exodus 32:12b-14
Now, Moses didn’t persuade God to change His mind. God changed His mind and was sorry for His anger. Did He sin in His anger? NO! It was righteous anger. The people had made a horrible mistake and sinned greatly against God. Perhaps God was testing Moses, to see if he remembered the covenant was between Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and God, not between Moses and God.
I don’t understand it all, but I do know that Moses must have greatly loved the people. Wouldn’t it be tempting to say, “Yeah, get them, God! They have done terrible things, and I’m tired of their griping!” ? We are told in Deuteronomy 9:20 that Moses interceded on Aaron’s behalf, also, that God would not kill him for crafting that idol for the people. True brotherly love.
“Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. And the tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets.” ~ Exodus 32:15-16. Again, WOW!
“And it came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.” ~ Exodus 32:19. God’s handiwork, His engraving, was destroyed.
Moses was grieved and angered, and the law and testimony which God Himself had written was already broken between God and His people, which is signified in the physical breakage of the stone tablets. The people were punished, especially the unrepentant ones.
Oh, and Moses got to go hang out with God again on the mountain to get another copy of the law and testimony on stone tablets- lucky! Except this time Moses had to write them. 🙂