Pericope: Exodus 32:7-14
The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, `These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'” The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.”
But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said, “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, `It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, `I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'” And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.
Did you catch that last line? Read it again—God changed his mind. This isn’t something we associate with God. God’s supposed to have it figured out—that’s why he’s God. But that’s not all that’s going on here. God didn’t change his mind because he slept on it or took a couple of deep breaths. He changed his mind because Moses talked him into it (remember this is the guy who is slow of speech and slow of tongue). That’s right, a guy convinced God to do the right thing.
God does have a legitimate complaint. After bringing the Israelites out of Egypt all God has gotten in return is disobedience and ingratitude. To top it all off, they even replaced him with a new god. And adding insult to injury, it’s a calf. A calf! God calls them perverse and it’s hard not to agree with him. Still, killing them all and starting over again with Moses seems a bit extreme.
You can see Moses tap dancing faster than Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers combined. He starts off by telling God that wiping out the Israelites will cause a feeding frenzy in the Egyptian media that no amount of spin will be able to control. God’s not buying it. Then Moses appeals to God’s sense of justice and that does the trick. By quoting God’s own promise to Abraham, Isaac and Israel, he relents—he changes his mind.
There’s something to learn here. Next time you burn with white hot rage, or seethe with anger, think before acting. Listen to the folks around you. It may be the voice of someone who works for you, your kid, an acquaintance or someone totally unexpected. If they’re telling you to slow down—listen. Rage is never a good response. Lashing out only produces a backlash. Don’t destroy relationships or burn bridges. If God can do it, so can you. Change your mind. Then love kindness and do justice. —Ebert