I read Exodus 32 today, as part of my Daily Reading, as I am reading through the Bible again. In the last couple of years, I have heard so many accusations made against my God for His actions in the Old Testament with the Israelites. These Atheists accused Him of being childish, given to temper and a God who changes His mind! For these, they say, He is not a God, and certainly not one that is worthy of worship.
I wonder if they know that God is a Person! No, He is not a human being. But He is a Living Being. And as a Being, He has a personality, He has character, He has a mind and a heart. When He made us in His likeness, these were the qualities we gained from Him, not a physical appearance, for He does not have a physical body. We need physical bodies, He does not. However, when He came as Jesus, He took on our physical form!
So my God is a Being, the Supreme Being. And He is entitled to change His mind, if He so deems fit. No, He is not fickle like men. He doesn’t change His mind with the wind. He is not temperamental. He is indeed wise. And in His desire to have a relationship with human beings, He has had to adapt to us and accommodate us at times… And yes, He has CHOSEN to heed the counsel of men. Emphasis on the word ‘chose’!
But, one might ask, why should God who knows all, and is all wise and good, ‘repent’ at the rebuke of man, who He created? I would say, He would because He is wise and good, compassionate, considerate, understanding etc. God is not unreasonable, which would be the only reason why He would never change His mind…because as the saying goes, “if you can’t change your mind, why have one?” As much as God gave the Israelites free will to worship and serve Him, He had to put up with their willful disobedience, and make compromises to maintain a relationship with them, rather than consume them, which would have been within His prerogative!
So, this is was what happened. Moses was gone for long, talking and listening to God as God taught him His statutes. God even wrote on the tablets Himself. While Moses was long gone, the Israelites became restless, and rebelled, by pressuring Aaron to make gods for them to worship. They made sacrifices to this golden calf and danced naked before it.
God knew what had happened, and told Moses, while Moses was still on the mountain with Him. His rage was hot against His people, and He wanted to give them their DUE reward. They had been testing Him with their faithlessness all along, and this was the last straw. He would start again with Moses.
So, Moses, being His friend, God told him of His intentions. Now, Moses had not seen, but only heard of this evil that the Israelites at done. He was sympathetic and stood as an advocate for them. In his case for why God shouldn’t go ahead with His plans to destroy the Israelites, he considered what others would think of God. That He delivered the Jews only to destroy them in the wilderness.
What I see here is that God is not big on PR (public relations). He has never needed anyone else’s consent or approval to do His thing. Yet, He wants to walk with men. He could start again at this point, just as He did when He wiped out the world with a flood… But how many times would He start again? God decided to forego His rage and compromise and find another way to deal with the Israelites, so that they will learn His ways. He listened to Moses! He was not too proud to do so.
Now, it is written that “the Lord repented of the evil” (v14). Moses wrote that. It wasn’t God. And this is why (one of the reasons) I have an issue with the teaching of the infallibility of the Bible. Because Moses wrote that God repented of His evil, men can stand up and open that mouths and accuse God of evil!!! And mock Him that He repents… That He is not always good or wise. But Moses is not infallible, and neither is the Bible.
I reckon that Moses was wrong to say that God’s thought at that time was evil. It was not. And He didn’t repent of evil. He was humble enough to consider things from MOSES’ perspective, and also the perspective of the other nations, who did not know Him, and would not understand His judgement against His people. BECAUSE of them, He decided to withhold His rage, and be more long-suffering with the Israelites. But if He had visited them with judgement, He would still have been within His rights… He would just be a God that cannot relate with humans…and He wants to relate with us.
Eventually, Moses goes down himself and sees the wickedness of the people. Now, he is the one enraged! He destroys the work God had done on the mountain, and orders the killing of the people by their own brethren. He said “thus saith the Lord” (v27) when he gave commandment that those with him should pierce their brothers. But then, it is also written in verse 28, that the people did according to the “word of Moses”. I do wonder if indeed Moses had heard God say that the people should pierce one another, or if Moses was acting on his own rage?
Now Moses could relate to God, and understand God’s perspective. After all the mighty wonders He had done for them. After all the ways He had provided for them. They easily forgot His commandments, and began to act like the pagans, who had held them captive for centuries. Moses went back to God, knowing how great an offence the people had done, and pleaded forgiveness on their behalf.
Did God forgive them? I don’t think so. Not at that point in time. He withdrew His presence from them, and left them with His Angel. He promised that He would still visit their sin upon them, when He visits them again…and it is written that He plagued them thereafter (v35). His judgement was not immediate destruction or consummation as originally intended, but prolonged separation and condemnation. They were cursed, and few of those people saw the promised land.
What did God repent of? Was God evil to curse them? What should God have done differently? How should one deal with an adulterous spouse?
I cannot stand and judge God, because I have never worn His shoes. I don’t know the great scourge of betrayal He would have felt, after all He did for those people. It seems, the more He sought to be familiar with them, the more contemptuous they were of Him. So His distance was earned and needed…and with His separation comes cursing. They chose their fate. Yet, God had mercy on their children, and the world, because of Abraham.
If God has a fault…if any weakness, it is that He loves willful men, and desires to live in harmony with mankind. That is the thorn in His side…that and the free will He also bestowed on us. And so, for the joy of fellowship with Man forever, Jesus Christ endured the Cross (Heb 12:2)!
“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalms 8:4)
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