According to Jewish tradition, it was on this day that Moses ascended Mt. Sinai for the second time in order to intercede for the people because of the sin of the Golden Calf.
Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” (Exodus 32:30-32)
When Israel committed this sin, God was determined to destroy them and raise up a nation from Moses. To this, Moses responded:
“Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” (Exodus 32:12-13)
When it would have been just as easy to step aside and let God eliminate a constant source of frustration, Moses determined to stand in the gap and intercede for the people. It is amazing and inspiring that he was willing to do this, seeing that they had already been, and would continue to be belligerent, rebellious and hard-hearted. Yet, he was ready to be blotted out of God’s book along with them.
Seeing that God knows all, it seems unlikely that these developments, including the Golden Calf, took God by surprise. And if God knew in advance this was going to happen, is it possible that He had placed Moses in a position to see what he would do? In other words, did he position Moses in a scenario to see whether He would step aside and let the people be destroyed or stand fast and intercede for them? His decision would reveal whether or not he was a true shepherd of Israel. Frankly, I believe he was placed in this situation, not in order to test him, but to prove what he would do. There is a difference between the two.
In school, a teacher will administer a test to see what a student knows and to see what a student doesn’t know. But an athletic coach might put a player in a particular position and situation, knowing the player has ability to play the position, even when the player may doubt himself. So what I’m getting at is, God knew what kind of man Moses had the potential to be – even if Moses didn’t. So God placed him in a situation that was intended to demonstrate that he was such a man.
If it was true with Moses, then it might be that we are sometimes placed in situations, not necessarily to see if we will do the right thing, but in order to stir up the qualities and attributes that God knows to be within us. In this story, God’s invitation for Moses to stand aside and let Israel be destroyed provoked Moses to stand in the gap and intercede on behalf of his brethren, demonstrating that he had the heart of a shepherd. Furthermore, in so doing, Moses provided a glimpse of what the Messiah would accomplish on behalf of those who deserved death. While Moses stood in the gap on behalf of his brethren; Messiah did it on behalf of the entire world. So then, it appears that meekness, mercy and the willingness to intercede on others are characteristics of a true leader. I believe that is why Yeshua said:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.” (Matthew 20:25-27)
If we truly want to serve God’s purposes, then we must allow our purposes to take a back seat. Let’s put it this way: if you had been in Moses’ situation, would you have stepped aside and let Israel be destroyed or would you placed your life on the line and interceded for them? The Messiah stood in the gap and interceded on our behalf, taking upon Himself the punishment for our sins. Therefore, we who are called to follow in His footsteps, must learn from His example and become the kind of people who are willing to intercede on behalf of our brother, even when our brother is deserving of judgment. Like Moses, let us demonstrate meekness, mercy and the willingness to pray for those who, at times, come against us. In short, may we all be proven to be true servants of the Almighty.