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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, September 13, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Exodus 32:7–14

The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!  The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.” But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’“ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people. (NRSV)

The flock of Moses became anxious when their leader didn’t return to camp as soon as they expected. In no time, they went to Moses’ brother Aaron, asking that he make a new god for them, one they could see with their own eyes and follow around every day. Aaron was more than ready to do their bidding, ordering that all their gold jewelry be melted to create a golden calf. Once finished, the crowd proclaimed the calf was the one who brought them out of slavery and proceeded to worship it, with sacrifices and revelry. Incredible. Just like that!

No wonder God became fiercely angry. So angry God wanted to burn them all up and start all over with a new nation under Moses’ leadership. Amazingly, Moses boldly reminded God of the previous promises God had made to this very people and their ancestors. Moses audaciously turned God’s attention to how God had already invested a lot to liberate these folks. Moses even spoke as if God cared about God’s reputation—think what the Egyptians would say if God brought disaster upon the Hebrew people!

Moses was daringly forthright with God to protect his people from wrath. Just as amazing is that God changed his mind. God cooled off. God remembered, then honored, who God was and the deep commitments he had made with this band in the wilderness.

I love that Creator God chooses to be in an ongoing, dynamic—not static—relationship with us. God expresses a wide range of emotions, yet at God’s core is steadfast compassion. Thank goodness, or we all would have been obliterated by now.

Forgive me, God, for all the times I have worshiped false gods instead of you, gods of accomplishment or materialism, control or certainty. Have mercy on me. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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