The Truth about Guilt Meditations: 11. Looking for the Best
Ex 32:10 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.”
Recap: In the previous study we moved on from considering some misconceptions to thinking about how we respond to finding sin, either in ourselves or in others, what sort of heart we should have towards others around us who fail to come up to the mark, who stray off God’s path, who blow it, lose contact with the truth, or whatever other way we may soften the word ‘sin’. Today we consider another aspect of being faced with sin, what could come out of it (in one specific way).
The Example of the Golden Calf: Israel have arrived at Mount Sinai, have had an amazing encounter with God, received the Law and committed themselves to following the Lord. And then Moses goes up the mountain again – and stays there. He stays there forty days! i.e. over a month passes and no sign or sound from Moses or God. Israel down on the plain below the mountain are getting bored. Their leader has gone, the memory of hearing God has gone and some of them at least start getting restless. They want some visible sign of leadership, they want some visible sign of God in their midst and so rashly, despite what they have heard from God, they demand that Aaron does something. He is at a loss. He doesn’t know when Moses will be coming back – IF he will ever come back. He doesn’t know how to handle the situation and so concedes to their demands and he makes a calf of gold for them to worship. In retrospect, from our viewpoint, it is crass stupidity, but mankind does this sort of thing in the face of a crisis. It is wrong, it is idolatry but they are grasping at straws, they are not mature in their faith and do something stupid.
God’s Initial Response: The next part demands maturity of response because when Moses hears the sound of revelry down below – and initial wrong so often leads on to further wrong, and they are now indulging in self-centred revelry – God tells him what has happened and declares our starter verse above, that He will destroy them and make a new nation from Moses. So often our response would be ‘cut and run’ give up and go home, call it a day, but not so with God. Don’t see this as God giving up on Israel. He is first of all testing His man, how will he respond to this?
The Heart of a Man of God: Moses argues with God and pleads, don’t waste what you’ve achieved (v.11), don’t let the Egyptians hear about this and laugh at your inability to deal with these people (v.12), remember your big plan that started out with Abraham (v.13), don’t destroy this people (v.12b). And so God ‘relents’ (v.14), He appears to agree with Moses. (There is an accounting for those who instigated this, the revelers, but the vast majority will be saved.)
The Big Lesson: When we come across a fellow believer who has blown it, etc., let’s remember these three things, and remind God of them in prayer – although they are more for our benefit as we slowly comprehend the heart of God:
i) Consider the testimony of this ‘sinner’, what has happened to them before this fall, all that they have achieved, all that God has done previously in and through them. Will this be wasted?
ii) Consider how this will appear to the watching world. Will they just laugh with scorn at Christians who are really, “just the same as me!” and deride God’s name?
iii) Consider the ‘big plan of God’, His desire to redeem the world, to redeem individual ‘sinners’. That plan wasn’t just to sort you out when you first turned to Him, but to continue to keep on sorting you out throughout your entire life. As long as your heart is inclined towards Him, He will continue to work with you when you occasionally stumble and fall. His desire is to pick you up and restore you. And if it is that for you – and it is – then it is also for your sinning friend!
So what is the big lesson here? It is not to see this as an opportunity to write off this other person but an opportunity to restore and redeem them. Jesus didn’t write off
- the silly people who ran out of wine at their wedding in Jn 2, or
- obtuse Nicodemus in Jn 3, or
- the arguing Samaritan woman at the well in Jn 4, or
- the paralytic who had given up at the Pool of Siloam in Jn 5, or
- the five thousand who followed him without thought for provisions in Jn 6, or
- the adulterous woman in Jn 8.
No, in every chapter he redeemed the situation and the people.
And Us? Will we see failure in those around us, not as a time to exalt in their guilt, but an opportunity to seek the Lord for His wisdom and grace to bring correction, repentance, restoration, healing and redemption, maybe even bringing them into a better place than they had been before. That is the sort of Savior we follow. Let’s not disappoint him with heart responses that are less than his.