Some say, understandably, that it’s too late for mercy in God’s dealings with America. God will have to judge the USA or else owe an apology to Sodom and Gomorrah. But is this true?
When Abraham interceded for Sodom, God agreed to spare the whole place for ten righteous people. But what would have happened, had the intercessor refused to intercede? If he had said passively, “Sodom deserves this, and though I hate to see her judged, who am I to question the Judge of the whole earth?” Instead, Abraham pleaded, “Shall not the judge of the whole earth do right?”
These things happened for an example to us, and as we are in the same position as Sodom and Gomorrah, we would do well to study that example. The next exhibit involves Moses’ intercession for the people of God, and that evokes not only national Israel, but also the body of Christ, the church. What might we learn from this?
Moses stayed long on Sinai, receiving the oracles of God, and the Hebrew people got tired of waiting. Bad things happen to the impatient, and this particular bad thing was very, very bad.
This bad thing happened after YHWH spoke audibly to the whole tribe, thundering forth the ten commandments, and after His offer to make them a kingdom of priests; an offer delivered from a mountain smoking, quaking, and burning with fire. The Hebrews did not have the excuse of saying they had seen no persuasive evidence.
It happened after He led them through a corridor of towering waters and drowned their pursuers behind them. After He demolished Egypt by miraculous signs and wonders in order to set them free. After all those things and more.
The people rejected priesthood, saying to Moses, “You talk to God and whatever He tells you, we will do, but let not God speak with us again, lest we die!” Because of this, Moses was all alone on the mountain, communing with God on behalf of his people. But in the midst of this conversation, YHWH sent Moses away, saying:
“Go down at once! For your people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt have acted corruptly. (Exo 32:7 HCSB)
Note the “your people you brought up”. God sounds like a mother saying to the father, “Do you know what your son just did?” Despite the amusing turn of phrase, this was a serious situation for the Hebrews. They had made for themselves a golden calf and were worshiping it. Maybe this calf represented YHWH to them, and maybe it didn’t. In either case, YWHW was not amused.
The LORD also said to Moses: “I have seen this people, and they are indeed a stiff-necked people. Now leave Me alone, so that My anger can burn against them and I can destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” (Exo 32:9-10 HCSB)
God tells Moses in essence, “I’m done with these losers. They’re hopeless. I’m going to start over — with you.” Now God had made unconditional promises to Abraham. I don’t think He had any intention of wiping Abraham’s progeny out. If Moses had not interceded on their behalf, perhaps He would have, but He knew Moses, that he would intercede. Maybe, in the interest of developing him into the person He meant for him to be, YHWH backed His friend into a corner, so to speak, and Moses, like Abraham before him, answered as expected and as desired.
But Moses interceded with the LORD his God: “LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people You brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and a strong hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘He brought them out with an evil intent to kill them in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from Your great anger and relent concerning this disaster planned for Your people.
Remember Your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel–You swore to them by Your very self and declared, ‘I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and will give your offspring all this land that I have promised, and they will inherit it forever.'” (Exo 32:11-13 HCSB)
God did not forgo judging Israel any more than He had forgone judging Sodom. There were grievous judgments of sword and plague. But neither did He destroy them all as He had said to Moses at first. Later, Moses returned to the mountain and again began to intercede for his people.
So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Oh, these people have committed a grave sin; they have made a god of gold for themselves. Now if You would only forgive their sin. But if not, please erase me from the book You have written.” (Exo 32:31-32 HCSB)
Moses is not willing to be saved without his people. Like Christ, He offers Himself. The answer is more than the people of Israel had any call to expect, yet less than Moses was prepared to settle for:
The LORD replied to Moses: “I will erase whoever has sinned against Me from My book. Now go, lead the people to the place I told you about; see, My angel will go before you. But on the day I settle accounts, I will hold them accountable for their sin.” (Exo 32:33-34 HCSB)
Many of us would be inclined to acquiesce at this point. God has been gracious, and who could demand more from Him? Who would dare? Only Moses. He is God’s friend, who speaks with Him face to face. But even Moses backs down for the moment — to think perhaps, to ponder and to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
Now Moses took a tent and set it up outside the camp, far away from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. Anyone who wanted to consult the LORD would go to the tent of meeting that was outside the camp. Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would stand up, each one at the door of his tent, and they would watch Moses until he entered the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and remain at the entrance to the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. As all the people saw the pillar of cloud remaining at the entrance to the tent, they would stand up, then bow in worship, each one at the door of his tent. (Exo 33:7-10 HCSB)
God is here, but as you can see, He’s keeping His distance from the camp. Moses hasn’t forgotten that bit about God sending an angel, and he’s not satisfied with an angel. After a few days or weeks, Moses broaches the subject that’s been niggling away at his thoughts:
Moses said to the LORD, “Look, You have told me, ‘Lead this people up,’ but You have not let me know whom You will send with me. You said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ Now if I have indeed found favor in Your sight, please teach me Your ways, and I will know You and find favor in Your sight. Now consider that this nation is Your people.”
Then He replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
“If Your presence does not go,” Moses responded to Him, “don’t make us go up from here. How will it be known that I and Your people have found favor in Your sight unless You go with us? I and Your people will be distinguished by this from all the other people on the face of the earth.”
The LORD answered Moses, “I will do this very thing you have asked, for you have found favor in My sight, and I know you by name.”(Exo 33:12-17 HCSB)
Wow! Moses wouldn’t quit. He wouldn’t leave it alone. And YHWH never rebuked him! Not once. In fact, He gave Moses everything he asked for. Is it possible that God is looking today for an intercessor like Moses? Like Abraham? Will we passively accept impending judgment, and if we do, will our “respect” please our Father? Or does He desire mercy more than sacrifice, and the cry of repentance more than the weeping of the condemned?
More to come . . .