When God Relents
Living Lord, You fashioned me to serve and worship You. Today, I surrender to Your voice and call.
Read Exodus 32:1-14
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“We must not cast stones at these people. We also have short memories for the revelations of God in our lives. We must learn the lesson that God’s lovers have set themselves dead against the rush of popular feeling” (Alexander Maclaren, 1826-1910).
The seriousness of Israel’s sin tempts God to change his mind, go back on his covenant promises, lose his reputation as a God who is able to deliver his people and choose another nation apart from Israel. Or so it seems from Moses’ prayer. The Israelites who asked Aaron to “make us gods” (1) mirror the opposite process to the building of the Tabernacle. There God gave instructions, the Israelites contributed materials and Aaron instituted divine worship. Here, with Moses away, the people demand an alternative, make their own contributions and begin their own false worship. Before the ink is dry on the writing of the commandment against idol-worship, the Israelites are doing just that.
Nevertheless the punishment that Israel deserves is removed through Moses’ prayerful, passionate and personal appeals to God’s character, covenant promises and the cost to his reputation. Moses’ prayer teaches us that although God knows all things and his sovereign purposes will not be changed, yet we are invited through the relationship of prayer to influence circumstances and affect human history. Like Moses, we are called not to judge but to pray for our people, and to bring before God those who would appear to deny him or be alienated from him. Just as Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34), so should we bring our prayers to God for those who seem to oppose him. To say that God relents (Gen. 6:6; 2 Sam. 24:16; Hos. 11:8; Jonah 3:10) is not to say that he has sinned in being angry or that he is inconsistent. The Hebrew nicham is not primarily about turning away from moral failing, but rather changing one’s inner disposition. It is only as we enter into the path of prayer and intercession that we are involved in God’s own compassion and concern, and are used as instruments to bring that about.
List the ways God would judge your nation or society, and bring your own intercessions to him for both justice and mercy. What response do you think he gives?
Lord, at times it is hard to be in the world and not of the world. I need encouragement and strength to live in You and for You while navigating the landmines of life.