Broken Tablets | Devotion 6: 3,000 Dead
I noticed something that I never noticed before in the story of the golden calf at Mount Sinai. I remember that Moses was so mad when he got back that he threw the tablets down and broke them. I remember that he melted the calf down, ground it up, sprinkled the gold dust into the water, and made them drink it. However, I did not recall that Moses had all the sons of Levi kill 3,000 of the men right after all of that. The crazy part about that display of violence is that Moses had just pleaded with God a few verses earlier. He pleaded for God to spare them rather than wipe them out for making the calf and being a “stiff-necked people.” However, when Moses comes face to face with their sin, he is forced into action. Exodus 32:30-35 says, “The next day Moses said to the people, ‘You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.’ So Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.’ But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.’ Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.”
It is hard to believe that Moses would offer himself up in place of the people who have just sinned so greatly against God. Perhaps Moses felt he had dealt with enough of their punishment, and now he could try to persuade God to go easy on the rest of the Israelites. I cannot help but feel like Moses is coming to God and saying, “Hey God, I dealt with this sin in my people. Really, I have handled it. Are we good?” In a surprisingly, gentle way, God tells Moses that justice will always be brought by God alone, and it will always come exactly how and when He decides. Moses brought his own justice by way of the Levites, but God blots them out of His book and later on brings a plague to them. How many times do we try and play God when people close to us sin? We are instead called to love and point people to Jesus. We can leave justice to God.