Friday morning my morning devotional reading included Exodus 32. In vv. 10-11, I was struck with the relationship of Moses with his people. Exodus 32 is the crafting of the golden calf. God told Moses to "Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”
What struck me was this was a true test of leadership. In my theological understanding, God KNEW how Moses would respond. The purpose of God’s statement was not to change anything in God. But I believe it was to test Moses’ leadership capability. It seems a moot point to me as to what God would have done if Moses had said, "Sure God, go ahead…." God KNEW how Moses was going to react. But Moses needed to know how he would react. He needed the clarity that came from stating his position. He reminded God of the great wonders he had exhibited in liberating the Hebrews, he reminded God that this would make his people a laughingstock to the Egyptians (they worshipped a god who took them out and destroyed them!), and he reminded God of his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
He did NOT tell God how great the Hebrews were. He did not say, "Well they didn’t mean it." He didn’t pull a Lot on Him: (Will you destroy them if there are 50 righteous among them?") Their behavior was abominable. But it was not the main point. The main point was maintaining the glory and promises of God. I suppose you could say, he kept the big picture in mind. And because of that, he pled with God not to destroy the Israelite people.
Why this morning devotional? Because in every church I have served there come times when you are fed up with the people. There are times when you want to hear God say, "Stand back and let me smite them." (More often it is… "Why don’t you go out and start a new church and I will make out of you a great congregation.")
And yet we preachers need to learn the same lesson that Moses learned. He needed to keep the big perspective in mind. He needed to to seek FIRST God’s glory and God’s promises. And we need to do the same.
That did not mean that the people were spared painful discipline. Many DID lose their lives. But in the end, God was glorified, the people were purified (for now) and Moses had passed the leadership test of looking out for God’s best interest among the people. May you and I do the same.