Daily Devotions – Moses intercedes for the idol worshippers



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Exodus 32:7-14 (NIV)

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” 11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Later in the Bible, there is a famous scene where Moses is on the mountain receiving the 10 Commandments on the stone tablets. But he is on the mountain so long that the people get restless, and decide to make a golden calf and worship that instead in place of God. This is an especially bad sin, because the people are giving an inanimate object credit for the rescue from slavery which God has delivered. God resolves to destroy them, and start over by making a great nation out of Moses (see verse 10). Moses’ prayer of response is remarkable in several ways. Moses shows his humility by rejecting God’s offer to make a great nation out of him. By praying for his wicked people, Moses is identifying with them, even in their sinfulness. When we pray for other sinners, we should let that remind us that we ourselves are sinners too, just as much in need of God’s mercy. Like Abraham in yesterday’s reading, Moses in v. 13 also reminds God to keep his promises. This is part of how we pray “according to God’s will;” we quote God’s own statements of his will from God’s Word. Finally, this story anticipates how Jesus not only identified with us as sinners, but he interceded all the way, “he became sin who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). Luther vividly describes how on the cross Jesus become Judas the traitor, David the adulterer, etc.

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