Moses heads up the mountain in chapter 24 and enters the cloud of consuming fire for forty days. In chapters 25-31, God dictates extensive instructions concerning the building of the tabernacle to Moses. I mean extensive… and detailed!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Aaron and the people were dealing with their abandonment issues. “Where’s Moses?” “We’ve been deserted!” “Has he been consumed in the fire?” Aaron the priest maybe thought he was out of a job. Restlessness among people and clergy is not good: “Ah, let’s build us a god whom we can see and take along with us who won’t cause us anxiety, a god who won’t forsake us!”
THEN, God reveals to Moses the infidelity of the people and threatens to cancel the covenant by wiping them all out. God is royally ticked. Moses intervenes. God relents. Moses comes down the mountain with the two tablets. He sees what’s going on and HE gets royally ticked. Aaron intervenes. Moses doesn’t relent. Instead he arms the clergy and they kill 3000 of their own.
Three things are of interest here:
First, I see that it’s the people’s abandonment issues that led to idolatry. I wonder whether those have an effect on us today (!)
Second, it’s interesting that Moses averts the wrath of God, but Aaron could not turn aside Moses’ heated anger. Hmmm. What might that tell us?
Third, and I think this is the key... When we read into chapter 33 and beyond, the upshot of it all is that God reveals the divine Name to Moses: “The LORD, the LORD, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity,continuing his love for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin...”
This last piece may help us understand the wonderful and slightly scandalous line in the Exultet (Easter Vigil): “O happy fault! O necessary sin of Adam that gained for us such a savior!” Lent is all about the mercy of God, which we see in today’s reading only if we take it in its larger context. Happy Lent!
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook