Passages like Exodus 32 make me uncomfortable.
While Moses is up on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God, The Israelites decide Moses is taking too long and they convince Aaron to make the Golden Calf and they begin worshiping it. Only days after experiencing God’s salvation from the Egyptians, Aaron has the audacity to make the Golden Calf and say, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you out of Egypt.”
That’s messed up. That’s wrong in many ways.
I get that. But it’s the rest of the story in Exodus 32 that make me uncomfortable.
First thing that makes me uncomfortable about this passage is what God says. He wants to destroy the Israelites and start all over with Moses. Nothing new. God did this with Noah. And he tells Moses that he wants to do the same thing. It is Moses who has to convince God that this is not a good idea – rescue a people from Egypt just to destroy them when they are free.
Where is grace? Where is the opportunity for repentance?
The second thing that makes me uncomfortable about this passage is what Moses does. After he comes down the mountain, he sees the people worshiping the Golden Calf and loses it.
That much I get. It’s next part that’s hard to swallow. He then asks, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” Then he commands the Levites to slaughter about 3,000 people!
What do we do with that?
Some reflections on this passage.
First, I have issues with this passage because I value human life. That’s good thing. That’s a Biblical thing. Life is a gift from God and no one ought to destroy the life God has given. The thing is, the Old Testament doesn’t seem to have the same world view regarding human life. I don’t know what to make of that.
Secondly, the reason why passages like this trouble me has to do with me. I don’t take sin nearly seriously enough. It’s not that I underestimate sin, it’s just that I don’t take sin and it’s consequences seriously enough.
God absolutely detests and hates sin. It’s not that God hates sin for sin’s sake. God detests and hates sin because of what sin does. Sin separates us from God. Sinners cannot stand in the presence of a holy and righteous God without being destroyed.
The reason why God hates and detests sin is because of what sin does to sinners. God loves sinners. The proof of God’s love is Jesus on the cross. God loves us so much that God had to make a way to undo sin. God transforms sinners to sons and daughters by the cross of Jesus.
Thank God for that!