Exodus 32-34; Psalm 28
So we’ve had these incredible passages of God describing to the Israelites how to rebuild heaven on earth. At this point we could be tempted to start thinking it’s all going to be good from here. God’s people are free and they are once again able to enjoy his presence, like Adam and eve in the garden.
Except, Moses has been up on the mountain getting these instructions for building the tabernacle, and apparently it’s been some time. The people become worried that something might have happened to him and they would have no way of knowing. So the people ask Aaron to make them gods so that they can speak to these gods and find out what to do next.
Aaron puts up no resistance, collects their gold, turns it into a golden calf and then the people worship it. In this moment we see how quickly and how far the people fall away from God. God tells Moses that he is so angry he’s going to destroy the people and start again with him.
Twice we get Moses seemingly change the mind of God here. The first time is at this point to stop God from destroying the people, and then second time is later when God says his presence will no longer go with the people.
We had a similar discussion when we looked at Abraham, seemingly changing God’s mind back in Genesis 18. Back then we saw Abraham remind God of his character.
Here we see Moses do the same. When God is threatening to destroy the Israelites, Moses pointed out that he wouldn’t seem like a powerful God if he leads the people out of Egypt but can’t lead them into the promised land and so destroys them instead. He also reminds God that he made a promise to the Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In other words, he was saying to God that destroying the Israelites would 1) dishonour his reputation, when God is an honourable God, and 2) brake his promise, when God doesn’t break his promises.
Moses reminds God of his character, and God decides not to destroy the people. Remember though, just as it was with Abraham, God never forgot his character. It was a test to see if Moses knew him well enough to remember his character.
So Moses goes down, sees the chaos, calls for aid and all those from the tribe of Levi come to him. He then commands them to start killing people, which they do, until the people stop this awful behaviour. This may seem barbaric now, but these were barbaric times. 3,000 people died the day the law came down.
Moses then goes back to the mountain and challenges God’s decision to no longer go with them, just as he did when God threatened to destroy them. This time Moses’ appeals to the fact that God has called them to be a holy people, which they can’t be if his present isn’t with them.
Afterwards, Moses makes new tablets, God renews his covenant to the people by giving us a quick reminder of all that’s in it. Within this passage, we get an important description of God.
“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation."
This description comes up again and again throughout the Bible, and so it is worth a study in itself. Make sure to check through the resources below for more on this. The summary of this is that God is faithful to his people. It takes him a long time to get angry, and while he is committed to punishing sin, his commitment to love, mercy, and forgiveness is greater.
Finally we get an interesting little description of how now Moses is so closes to God his face would shine after he had been in God’s presence.
This psalm fits into the category of lament psalm. There is the possibility that it was a prayer of a king, potentially king David, as they are going through potential threats to their life. We’ll see this at the end of the psalm.
Psalm 28:1-2 - A prayer for help
Psalm 28:3-5 - A prayer for the wicked to be punished
Psalm 28:6-8 - A declaration of trust in God
Psalm 28:9 - Final request
This lament psalm launches straight into asking God to intervene. The psalmist asks God to not ignore them; to not be deaf or silent to their troubles, because without God they will continue to fade.
The psalmist points out that they have been crying out to God and seeking him in his sanctuary. They have been faithful in seeking for God’s help, not trying to do it in their own strength.
Then comes the second request, punish the wicked. The psalmist clearly has enemies who are causing trouble, and so he asks God to give them what they deserve. These are people who pretend to want the best for others but who’s only care is themselves. They do not care about God.
Having made his requests, the psalmist declares their trust in God. God does hear. He is the strength and shield of his people. And then it mentions that God “is the saving refuge of his anointed” (Psalm 28:8). This is the little clue that the psalmist is a king, as kings were often referred to as God’s anointed.
Anchored one more in their confidence in God, the psalmist ends with one last request. May he save his people, like a shepherd who carries his sheep.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.