The Golden Calf, by Melissa Gibbs

The Golden Calf, Exodus 32-34

It's amazing how short our attention spans can be. I have definitely experienced this in my own walk with the Lord, so have no right to judge, but this rush to "make for themselves an idol" so soon after the giving of the Ten Commandments which forbade them to do so, is stunning. And that Aaron would go along with it, is even more stunning. When I read this last year, I was amazed that God had not killed Aaron for his disobedience, especially since so many others died as a result. Later on we will read that God only spared Aaron's life because Moses interceded for him in prayer. In today's passage, we also read that Moses' intercession saved the entire nation from suffering God's wrath. In fact, the text says that "the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on His people". This brings up an interesting theological discussion. Does God change his mind? The Bible clearly says that "I, the Lord, do not change" (malachi 3:6), but is that the same thing as changing His mind? Certainly his character and nature do not change. And neither does He change His mind, though it is often described as such for the purpose of human understanding. Since God has foreknowledge of how we will react in our circumstances, it can appear that we have changed His mind when really he simply knew how we would react and set up the situation accordingly. For example, it was not God's desire to destroy His people but it was his plan to prompt Moses' prayer on their behalf. He foreknew that Moses would intercede and therefore knew that He would not wipe out the entire nation. It was not God who changed but the circumstances. Initially, God was reacting to the disobedience of the people. But after Moses' intercession, God was reacting to the heart of Moses. His prayer did make a difference, but only because God knew that it would. Confusing. One of my books gave a good analogy of a chess match between an expert and a novice. The expert modifies his strategy in response to the moves of the novice, but he anticipates them, such that the game is never out of his control.

While on the topic of heavy theological pondering, did Moses see God, "face to face as a man speaks with a friend?" In many places, the Bible speaks of no man having seen the face of God. This came up a few days ago when Moses and Aaron saw the feet of God and the place where he stood. This passage refers to Moses meeting with God inside the Tabernacle, but just a few verses later, Moses asks to see His "glorious presence". So something was different about the two references. If Moses had truly seen God face to face as mentioned in verse 33:11, then he would have already seen his glorious presence. It seems that this "face to face" meeting involved some kind of representation of God, maybe the pillar of cloud, but not the full glory of God. And this is what Moses wanted to see. He knew he had not yet truly seen God. Because no one could see God and live, God would not allow Moses to look at His face. The description of Moses hiding in the cleft of the rock while the Lord covered his face with His hand, is anthropomorphic, as is the description of seeing the Lord's "back". Scholars suspect that what Moses actually saw was the afterglow of the Lord's passing by. knowing that Moses face was "brilliant" when he descended the mountain days later, gives a impression of how luminous the afterglow would have been. And whenever Moses would speak with the Lord in the tent of meeting, his face would be radiant. So much so that he kept his face veiled in between meetings. It was apparently too much for the people to look upon. They could see God all over him.

I can't help but equate this with the notion that we are to be "light" in this dark world and that we are to "let our light so shine before men that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven..." Is God all over us? Is his light shining through us such that others would take notice, much less be taken aback?

About Melissa Gibbs:

 Melissa is the mother of four boys and the wife of her junior high sweetheart, JD.  He is the President of Joe Gibbs Racing and the son of NFL Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs.  JD and Melissa have been married 16 years and are actively involved with Young Life, Motor Racing Outreach, their church, and other ministries.  Their youngest son Taylor is nearing completion of a 3 year treatment protocol for leukemia, which has been a powerful faith walk for their family.  Since his diagnosis, Melissa has been called upon to share their family's testimony with many local churches.

 Visit Melissa at

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