God’s Unassisted BookkeepingMarch 15, 2016 at 3:21 pm | Posted in Exodus | 1 Comment
Tags: Book of Life, Book of the Living, commentary on Exodus, Exodus 32, God's books, God's mercy, Moses, price of forgiveness, Romans 9, Sunday School lessons on Exodus
And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold.
Moses acknowledged the seriousness of the people’s sin, and he admitted that it was not just a vague general sin, but a specific breaking of God’s revealed law (“made them gods of gold”).
Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.
He broaches the idea of forgiveness, but does not make excuses or rationalizations (“forgive their sin”), and he leaves this thought incomplete, because it is too amazing a thought that God would forgive sin, and because, really, what can we possibly offer as an exchange for God’s forgiveness? How can we “pay Him back?” Or bribe Him? We are bankrupt when it comes to righteousness.
Moses was forced to bring up the alternative: “if not…” And he then stated a desire to be judged with the people – to lose his own life. For all Moses knew, he could have been referring to eternal life. This reminds us of Paul’s statement in Romans 9:3: “For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:” As a missionary to the gentiles, Paul saw many converted, but his own people – the Jews – were for the most part rejecting the Gospel. He wished he could be accursed if it would mean salvation for Israel.
Moses referred, in Exodus 32:32, to “Thy book,” which lets us know that God keeps books. From the entirety of Scripture we can glean that God keeps at least four books: The Book of the Living; The Lamb’s Book of Life; a book of sins; and the Bible. (There is possibly also a book of works and rewards.)
This was a very pious and unselfish plea by Moses, and there is no reason to think he was not being sincere, but God set him straight:
And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.
God is in charge of deciding who will and who will not be blotted out of His book. God also distinguished Moses’s relative innocence compared to the idolaters.
Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them.
God was telling him that it was time to get moving toward Canaan. Having the “Angel” lead the way was an invitation to see how people would react to having God’s presence somewhat removed from them. “The day” referred to a future time when God would allow the nation to be taken captive to Babylon. This was a yet-to-come judgment against the nation for its sin. Their immediate consequence was a plague.
And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.
People probably got sick and some may have died. In this plague even the bystanders were affected – not just the active participants in the idolatrous revelry – because passive onlookers who fail to speak out against their nation’s sin are sinners, too – just as the spectators of a violent crime who did nothing to help the victim would be next in line for punishment after the perpetrators.