He could not believe what he was seeing! Moses had been in the presence of the Lord on Mt. Sinai for forty days receiving God’s instructions for the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the celebration of feasts for the Israelites. Returning from communion with the Most Holy God, Moses looked with disgust at the Israelites as they celebrated before a golden image. Their hearts had turned apart from God, and they were worshipping and sacrificing to a large golden calf. Moses’ brother, Aaron, was the one who had made the golden calf for them to worship, having been pressured by the huge crowd. Aaron was to be the High Priest for the Hebrew faith. How could this happen? (See Exodus Chapter 32).
Moses burned with anger toward the people and threw down the two tablets upon which the hand of God had written the Ten Commandments. They broke into pieces before the people. Moses, however, was not the only one who was angry.
Exodus 32:7-10 “They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I (God) commanded them; they have made them a molten calf and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, These are your gods, O Israel, that brought you up out of the land of Egypt! And the Lord said to Moses, I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people; Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and that I may destroy them; but I will make of you a great nation.” (Emphasis Mine)
If we had we been in Moses’ place, how many of us would have moved aside and said to the Lord, “Go right ahead”? Imagine how Moses must have felt after months of struggling with Pharaoh, back and forth, initiating one plague after another, and then relenting when Pharaoh said he would let the Israelites go. When they were finally released, he marched them through the Red Sea and they camped in the wilderness near Mt. Sinai. Historical writings determine there must have been approximately 2-4 million people for whom Moses was responsible.
Moses’ response to the Lord was remarkable. Exodus 32:11-13 “But Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why does Your wrath blaze hot against Your people, whom You have brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, For evil He brought them forth, to slay them in the mountains and consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from your fierce wrath, and change Your mind concerning this evil against Your people. [Earnestly] remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self and said to them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give to your seed, and they shall inherit it forever.”
Moses stood before the Lord God Almighty and interceded for the Israelite’s lives. He must have felt betrayed as did the Lord, and yet Moses interceded on their behalf. The Bible says Moses was the most humble man on earth. (See Numbers 12:3) It takes a humble person to intercede for those who do not deserve grace, but then we were all in their position before we believed in the Lord and received His grace. Moses again replied to the Lord, “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—and if not, blot me, I pray You out of Your book which You have written!” (Exodus 32:32) Moses was not only humble, he was bold!
I do not believe Moses changed the Lord’s mind; I believe the Lord allowed Moses to become an intercessor for His people. The Lord desires us to participate in what He is doing and wants to take us where He is going. In some cases, He even allows us to think it was our idea! When we begin to truly know Him, we are able to see the incredible grace He gives us to partner with Him in ministry to others.
The Apostle Paul spoke the same desire Moses had, when ministering to the Jews after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Romans 9:1-4, “I tell the truth in Christ. I am not lying; my conscience [enlightened and prompted] by the Holy Spirit bearing witness with me that I have bitter grief and incessant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off and banished from Christ, for the sake of my brethren and instead of them, my natural kinsmen and my fellow countrymen. For they are Israelites, and to them belong God’s adoption [as a nation] and the glorious Presence (Shekinah). With them were the special covenants made, to them was the Law given. To them [the temple] worship was revealed and [God’s own] promises announced”.
The sin the Israelites committed was a grave sin and had to be dealt with. Their rebellion was not only high treason against the Lord and all He had done for them; their unbelief would affect the entire nation if God had not enforced the consequences of their actions. Moses was willing to give his own life on their behalf. God knew the hearts of the people and rather than judging all of them, He sent Moses to judge the main instigators of the rebellion. After they were judged, it was time to move on.
In Exodus 33:2-3 the Lord spoke to Moses, “I will send an Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite, Amorite, Hittite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, for you are a stiff-necked people, lest I destroy you on the way.”
We see the true heart of Moses when he cried out to the Lord pleading with Him to go with them all the way to the Promised Land. Exodus 33:13 “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You [progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, perceiving and recognizing and understanding more strongly and clearly] and that I may find favor in Your sight. And [Lord, do] consider that this nation is your people.” After spending 40 days with the Lord on Mt. Sinai, Moses wanted more of God’s presence.
The Apostle Paul prayed two similar prayers which you can read in Ephesians 1:17-23 and Ephesians 3:14-21.
Moses led the stiff-necked Israelites (God’s words, not mine) for 40 years. Geographically, they could have arrived in the Promised Land within a few weeks, but the Lord led them safely around enemy territory. Many more unbelievers and idolaters were weeded out in the process. When they began their journey, Moses was 80 years old. He led them until he was 120 years old. The Bible says that no one knows where Moses was buried because the Lord buried his body. (See Deuteronomy 34:5-7) Now that was an incredible relationship!
What does all this mean for us? The Lord has been building a body of believers who are to be kings and priests. (See Revelation 1:6 & 5:10). Kings rule and priests minister. Jesus Christ is the Chief Intercessor and He has called all believers not to judge the lost, but to intercede on their behalf. A king ministering by the authority of the Lord has power in the spirit realm to bind the works of darkness and loose the plans and purposes of God by declaring the Word and will of God. The priest ministers first to the Lord, seeking His heart, His ways, and His will, making them his own. Then he also has the responsibility and privilege to minister to the people.
We are to hate what God hates and love what God loves. He loves the lost; those who do not know Him. He loves the broken, the poor, the prisoner, and the sinner. He hates sin, but desires to save and set the captives free. Every believer is called to this. The great commission is for all who believe, but we cannot accomplish this glorious calling unless we, like Moses and Paul, abide continually in His presence.
Moses and Paul both moved the heart of God because they both sought to know Him with all their heart. They made knowing the Lord their priority. Complaining about what we see happening around us will not change anything. Instead, we must wake up, rise up and take our place with the countless others like Moses and Paul, who are leading the lost and broken into freedom and rest. The Lord God Almighty came to the little tent Moses erected outside of the camp to sit and talk face to face with him. Today, the Lord is looking throughout the earth for those who are willing to give their lives away for the sake of others.
Moses built the tabernacle in the wilderness and the Lord came because Moses praised the Lord for Who He is and he interceded on behalf of those the Lord loved. We must lift our eyes higher than our own needs and wants, although they may well be legitimate. When our attention is off ourselves and turned to the Lord, He will show us great and mighty things He wants to do through us for others. There is no calling higher than the high call of Jesus Christ.
This life we have is not about us. It is not about our being blessed. It is about finding the heartbeat of God by knowing Him, and taking our place to help His will manifest in the earth. We are the ones who are to enforce His will and His Word in the earth today. Just as God used Moses and the Apostles, He is looking for those who not only desire to KNOW Him, but are willing to abide with Him in order to change the world.
If we build it, He will come. If we build Him a place where He is continually praised He will meet us there. If we build Him a place where we can agree with His will, and through intercession see it come to pass, He will come. The kingdoms of this world must bow to the name of Jesus! If our focus is to discover what is most important to Him, and we are willing to help bring it to pass in the earthly realm, He will come!