Exodus 33 & 34
As a result of Moses’ impassioned intercession (Exodus 32:11-13), Yahweh does not destroy the Israelites; but that does not mean that what they have done can be brushed under the carpet. His presence is temporarily withdrawn – and the people mourn (Exodus 33:4-6). They realise that without God, life’s greatest blessings are not worth having – not even the Promised Land. From that time on, the Israelites wear no jewellery, as a perpetual reminder that they are unworthy of their God.
But God is “the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6,7) He always keeps His promises – and He will never totally reject the people He has chosen and redeemed. The stone tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments (representing the covenant between Him and Israel) have been broken… but He tells Moses to make some new ones, so that the covenant can be renewed. Israel are never to forget that they are a forgiven people.
Do we consider ourselves to be any better than the Israelites? “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (I Corinthians 10:12) Sooner or later during the course of our pilgrimage, all of us will let God down – and some of us will let Him down very badly. But that need not be the end of the story. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9) We may lose our sense of His presence for a while, or experience some other form of discipline; but we can be assured that He will not reject us. And so we will continue on our journey, more aware of our weaknesses – but still His people, despite it all.