The golden calf. Moses is up on the mountain so long the people of Israel assume he’s dead and demand a replacement. Some of the language suggests that perhaps the calf was a replacement for Moses rather than God: not so much a new deity as… a new point of access. So, a violation of the second commandment rather than the first. Still pretty bad.
Aaron, the genius, doesn’t seem to resist their request or try to talk them out of it. I’ve always kind of wondered whether his ‘you know what these people are like’ defense was honestly why he gave in. He was there when they complained about leaving Egypt to die in the desert, over and over. Maybe he just didn’t think it was worth it. Still doesn’t speak well of him, and it certainly doesn’t explain his attempt to convince Moses the calf formed itself.
The part I don’t get is why God offers to kill them all and start over with Moses. I mean, I get the anger. I’m not sure I understand the… depiction of God.
Moses is later said to meet with God as a neighbor. They talk. God meets Moses when Moses enters the tent, not just when Moses is summoned. Yes, God is still God. Moses can’t see his actual face and survive, but he’s allowed to see God’s back as he walks past. They are described as friends. The power dynamic can never be forgotten, but God steps down and meets with Moses, allows him far more familiarity than their stations alone would dictate.
Was God’s expression of anger a window on that relationship? God allowing Moses to see his emotions? His heart? Was it a chance for us to see how God feels when he is betrayed? To help us understand that his forgiveness is not empty, the emotional truth behind his mercy?
God is not impersonal, unemotional, cold, or utterly beyond us. I mean, he is utterly beyond us, but our experiences are not foreign to him. He feels the pain of betrayal, the anger, irritation. He chooses love and mercy. Let’s meditate on that a bit more.