Scripture: And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.” Exodus 32:9 ESV
Observation: Having informed Moses of Israel’s apostate actions (worshiping and making sacrifices to a golden calf), the Lord threatens to consume Israel and restart with a new ancestral line from Moses (32:7-10). But, similar to the dialogue between Yahweh and Abraham over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, Moses plea bargains with God to relent based on three points of reason:
- You have brought them this far by your power and might; you can’t give up on them now (verse 11).
- The Egyptians will slander your name, questioning whether your motive is of evil intent (verse 12.
- Remember your covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that you will multiply their offspring and give them the land of Canaan as an inheritance forever (verse 13).
Without explanation, the author summarily tells us that Yahweh relented from the disaster he threatened against his people (verse 14).
Takeaway: As with Abraham, we need to read this story within the framework of God’s sovereignty. We do not change the Creator of the universe’s mind; instead, he changes our perspectives. Indeed, each of Moses’ points addresses a different attribute of God: his might, goodness, and faithfulness, respectfully. And as with Abraham, here the negotiations further reveal the Lord’s holiness in contrast to the insidious nature of sin and thus the importance of obeying his commands. Indeed, Moses will soon discover the horrid outcome of violating the first two commandments when he sees how quickly “stiff-necked” Israel (who refuses to bow to their one true God) bends in merriment to a handmade, lifeless idol.
So what’s our takeaway? The text begs the question: Are we stiff-necked? Sin demands that we refuse to bow our heads to our King. Instead, it entices us to make idols of ourselves and our material world and bow and worship them. As we do, we discover the weight of sin is more than we can bear and that we are helpless to stand upright. But his all-sufficient grace mercifully convicts us when we lean toward our golden calves and empowers us to repent and flex our once stiff necks to behold his glory and reverently worship him in spirit and truth.
Prayer: Father God, we confess that we are a stiff-necked people who daily need your all-sufficient grace. Would you please help us submit to your Holy Spirit’s work when he convicts us of idolatry and leads us to repentance, bowed to you in humble worship? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling