Day 19  Exodus 32 ... Something New, Something Old

The bright hope of Exodus 20 dies forever in Exodus 32; there is no more jarring contrast in all the Bible.  For forty days Moses visited with God on Mount Sinai, receiving the terms of the covenant, or treaty, that would open up an unprecedented closeness between God and human beings.  But what happened down below, at the foot of the mountain, almost defies belief.

The Israelites-people who had seen the ten plagues of Egypt, who had crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, who had drunk water from a rock, who were digesting the miracle of manna in their stomachs at that moment-these same people felt boredom, or impatience, or rebellion, or jealousy, or some such mortal urge, and apparently forgot all about their God.  By the time Moses descended from Sinai, the Israelites, God’s people, were dancing like pagans around a golden statue.

Moses was so mad that he hurled to the ground the tablets of stone signed by God himself.  God was so mad that he nearly destroyed the whole cantankerous nation.

This chapter has many parallels with the story of the very first human rebellion in Genesis 3.  Both times, people favored by God failed to trust him and struck out instead against his clear command.  Both times, the rebels devised elaborate rationalizations to explain their behavior.  Both times, they forfeited special privileges and suffered harsh punishment.

It appeared, for a moment, that something new in the history of humanity would take place among the Israelites: an entire nation devoted to following God.  Instead, the same old story replayed itself.  No matter what terms God came up with, people found ways to break them.  Only one ray of hope shines out of this dark scene.  Moses, the stuttering, reluctant leader, seems to grow into his position at last.  His eloquent prayers are answered, and God grants the Israelites yet another chance.

Point to Ponder: What do you think was really behind the Israelites' rebellion?