When you feel the need to write a comment, first try to refactor the code so that any comment becomes superfluous.
In Exodus 32, not long chronologically after the giving of the Ten Commandments, we find Moses on the top of Mount Sinai conferring with God on behalf of Israel, and Israel down in the camp melting down all their gold to construct an idol. If ever you wanted a succinct summary of the early history of Israel, this particular moment gives you a pretty good idea of how things went.
In verse 7, God calls this to Moses’s attention, and lays out a proposed solution to Moses:
And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden 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!’” 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 I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” (Exodus 32:7-10, ESV)
This “scorched-earth policy” seems drastic, but we should remember that God, as Creator, King, and Judge, is fully within his rights to eradicate a totally-wicked generation of Israel. We should also note that by starting over with Moses’s descendants, God’s covenants to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would be preserved: a great nation would arise from their offspring.
The other side-effect of this plan would be to establish Moses as another “father of nations”, elevating him to equal footing with Israel’s patriarchs. For all history afterwards, the new replacement nation would speak of Moses with the same awed tones as of Abraham or Jacob. Let’s read on to see how Moses accepts this sweet gig:
But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” (Exodus 32:11-13, ESV)
Moses is not concerned with becoming revered in Israel; he’s concerned with God being revered in the whole known world. He weighs the scorn that God would receive if viewed as an arbitrary divine murderer as more significant than the glory that he would himself receive if viewed as the root of a holy nation. He implores God based on God’s own covenants with the already-established Hebrew patriarchs to show mercy on an undeserving people, knowing that the surrounding idolatrous nations would not understand the grave, death-meriting offense of idolatry.
And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people. (Exodus 32:14, ESV)
This is significant and should be read carefully. We see that God “relented”; does this mean that he changed his mind, subduing his will to that of Moses? If so, that would make him subject to change, and less than sovereign.
Since with God “there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17, ESV), it cannot be that he has changed his mind. And since “he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35, ESV), it cannot be that Moses has subdued the will of God.
Therefore, the only conclusion is that it was not God’s will to destroy Israel that day. So this episode must have been meant to test Moses and to instruct readers.
It is important when we say that God is testing Moses that we not make the mistake of suggesting that God is here tempting Moses; James 1:12-13 make it clear that God does send trials, but does not tempt us to evil — by definition, God is devoid of evil.
This passage does, however, teach us two attributes of God:
The nation of Israel did not deserve mercy. They blatantly said “Make us gods who shall go before us”, and said of them “these are your gods…who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” This is direct, conscious rebellion.
And yet, God shows mercy to them. He does not destroy them, even though they’ve directly defied two explicit commandments he gave them not long before. By no merit of their own, they are spared.
It is clear that God didn’t need Moses to speak up on Israel’s behalf. But when Moses did speak up, God heard him. The eternal infinite God listened to the voice of a man. That’s earth-shaking, and greater still is that we’re afforded the same privilege shown to Moses here. Matthew 6 teaches us not only how to pray, but that we can pray. We have permission to enter the throne room of God himself.
That beats human recognition. Smart pick, Moses.
Java 8 is almost GA, and since I’m fortunate enough to work at a startup that values keeping libs and platform current I thought I’d take an opportunity to put rubber to road with some of the new features.
Code sample is below; suffice it to say that compared to all the cumbersome work of using Java 7 with collections, Java 8 streams, lambdas, and aggregate ops are a breath of fresh air. Particularly nice: chainable
In the middle of the establishment of Israel’s new national laws in Exodus 22, we find this interesting verse:
You shall be consecrated to me. Therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs. Exodus 22:31, ESV
This is a case where we should take special note of the connecting “therefore”; the concepts presented here are causally related.
Because Israel was to be consecrated — set apart for the service of God — they were to have certain dietary restrictions (which are outlined in greater detail throughout the Pentateuch).
Much of the seemingly-arbitrary laws (and the corresponding, harsh penalties for transgressions thereof) of Israel were intended to distinguish Israel — tiny, otherwise-resourceless Israel — as a nation whose whole existence and growth was entirely reliant on God’s provision.
For this to succeed — and for messianic prophecies to hold unavoidably true — Israel must remain distinct, unassimilated from foreign nations and unentangled in political treaties (which at the time were often sealed by intermarriage, strictly forbidden in Israel).
So Israel was kept unique to be a testimony to God’s providence, grace, and might.
Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”
In Exodus 4, we get a glimpse of God prepping Moses to go confront Pharaoh as Israel’s advocate. Two things in this interaction and the confrontation that follow should stand out to readers.
First, Moses’s continual self-doubt and excuse-making, which eventually leads “the anger of the LORD [to be] kindled against Moses”, as Moses continues to protest after God reminds and admonishes him:
Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord ? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” Exodus 4:11-12
This is notable; here we see Moses, the great scribe of the law and future Hebrew emissary to God, irritating God with excuses and lack of faith. God hits the issue on the head both in encouraging Moses and allaying any patrolatry by pointing out that all the seemingly-wondrous things Moses is about to do (indeed, even Moses’s very existence) are wholly credited to God alone. No human deserves the sort of worship that belongs to Yahweh (“I am”).
The next notable refocusing of worship is a bit more subtle, in chapter 7:
Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” Exodus 7:8-9
In the chapters prior to this, God has had Moses drop his own staff and watch it become a serpent, even going so far as to call it “this staff, with which you shall do the signs.” (Ex. 4:17)
Why then does God choose to have Moses delegate the staff-metamorphosis to Aaron? It is likely to avoid assigning a “holy-relic” sort of significance or reverence to Moses’s staff (a move that was tragically lost on the pre-Reformation Catholic church). Again, God asserts that He alone is capable of performing these wonders; in contrast to the Egyptian magicians who compete with Him, He does not need to rely on any sort of power vested in inanimate objects, nor rely on trickery.
After all, who made snakes from nothing in the first place? Is it not He, the Lord?
Thy servant is of one of the most striking applications of probabilistic prime testing
Markov chains used to combine the King James Bible and The Art of Programming.