The second to last study in Explore the Bible‘s study of Exodus is “What If You Falter? (Exodus 32:1-34:35).” The title of this one is particularly curious. As can be seen the Exodus 32 Israel does more than falter. This is willful disobedience to God’s second commandment. It is serious enough that God proposes destroying the Israelites and starting over from Moses. Fortunately God continues to condition a good mediator, after the likeness of Christ, to plead God’s glory to God’s face.
Compared to other sections, this one is short. I will still comment in the outline to fill out the portions I don’t discuss more fully.
- The sin of idolatry(32:1-29)
- Idolatry, conceived and committed (32:1-6). The Israelites press Aaron into making an idol for them. Notice that they do not give God credit for their salvation but man, “Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt.” Notice Aaron’s willingness to make the idol. Also, application is offered by Paul from this passage in 1 Corinthians 10:6-8.
- Moses hears the news from God and God’s proposed solution (32:7-10).
- Moses intercedes on the basis of God’s glory, His name and reputation (32:11-14).
- Moses sees the people in sin, grows angry, destroys the covenant tablets, and destroys the idol (32:15-20).
- Moses confronts Aaron who had been over the people in Moses’ absence (32:21-24).
- Moses delivers the judgment God has determined. By their obedience to execute it the Levites are chosen to be the priests of Israel (32:25-29).
- Moses intercedes before God on behalf of Israel (32:30-33:23).
- Moses sets out to be the mediator between God and man (32:30-34).
- God punishes the people with a plague (32:35).
- God threatens not to go with the people to the Promised Land (33:1-3)
- The people respond with mourning and obedience when Moses tells the people God will not go with them and to take off their ornaments (expensive, party attire) (33:4-6)
- Moses describes the tent of meeting where his intercession before God took place (33:7-11).
- Moses successfully intercedes for the people and asks to see God’s face, which God grants (33:12-23).
- God calls Moses up to Sinai to re-establish the covenant (34:1-28)
- God reveals His glory to Moses (34:1-9).
- God renews the covenant with Israel (34:10-28).
- Moses face shines after speaking to God (34:29-35). Compare the shining face of Moses to the exposure we should have to Christ and what that does in 2 Corinthians 3:7-18.
There are two topics that tend to come up through this section: Moses as mediator and God’s immutability (unchangeable-ness). The first is a great topic to view in the light of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment. The second misunderstands God and His interactions with His creation.
To look at God not changing first, we see verses like 32:14, “And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.” Some versions translate “relented” as “repented” (KJV) or “changed His mind” (NASB). This is a difficult verse so we need to interpret it according to other verses whose interpretation is easier. We know God knows all things (Proverbs 15:3, Psalm 139:12, 16, Hebrews 4:13). So God is not surprised by Israel’s actions nor is He ignorant of Moses’ intercession for them. We also know God is holy, which means wholly other, and we cannot know anything about Him unless He reveals it to us because of His high, exalted, majestic wisdom and knowledge (Job 11:7-9, Isaiah 55:8-9, 1 Corinthians 2:16, John 1:18). So if God is displeased with a situation and speaks to the problem on a level that can be understood and that speech evokes a response which pleases the Lord, why shouldn’t the Lord look differently upon it? The circumstances have changed to God’s liking. So we can actually see God prove His faithfulness and immutability because circumstances must change relative to Him in order to gain His approval.
The other topic, Moses being a mediator, is another place where we see Christ alluded to in the Old Testament. In 32:30 Moses says to Israel, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” Moses anticipates the need for the mediator to make atonement before God for the sins of the people. Jesus fulfills this by atoning for His people on the cross. Moses also pleads the glory of God (32:11-13) as Jesus does for the cross (John 12:28). But Christ is the far better mediator and of a better covenant, one where He gives the Holy Spirit so that our hearts may be changed!