So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. (Exodus 32:19)
Within just a few verses we see that Moses, quick to stand in the gap for his people, became very disgruntled and agitated with his people. However, this wasn’t a blind anger — the kind that can be selfish and impulsive — but righteous indignation. In other words, the people hadn’t done anything to him, personally, which is what usually happens when we act out in blind anger. This was a reaction to a great wrong done against justice and what is right. At that moment, Moses realized that Israel — his countrymen — were not ready for the work of God.
Notice that nothing is said against Moses in regard to breaking the tablets. Compare that with when he struck the rock at Horeb the second time rather than speaking to it as instructed. Then he was prohibited from going into land; when he breaks the physical embodiment of the word of God, nothing is said. That suggests He didn’t do it impulsively in a fit of frustration and anger but as a demonstration of what had happened as a result of their rebellion. Not only were they ill prepared to do the work of God, but also they had broken the terms of the covenant they had agreed to keep. The terms of were the words engraved upon the tablet and, consequently, they were broken.
There are important lessons we can take away from this episode: first, there is such a thing as righteous indignation. Rash and unfiltered anger is not the same thing — that typically occurs when we allow our emotions to take over and run amok. What Moses displayed here is akin to what we see the Messiah doing when He ran the merchants out of His Father’s House. In other words, anger is displayed when we are offended for our own sake; righteous indignation is displayed when we see our Father’s House and Will being trampled upon. So then, as His agents, it is sometimes appropriate to show displeasure when people are insensitive to His standards.
It is also important to see what happens when someone breaks covenant; the fallout can be devastating. Whether they break covenant with man or with God, there is always a price to pay. Yes, there is forgiveness and restoration, but there is also consequences. So let us learn to appreciate just how sacred a covenant is, and especially the one we have entered into with the Almighty. The price of this covenant was costly — the Messiah paid it with His life — but the rewards are great. Therefore, be diligent to keep the terms of the covenant — to love and obey Him — and avoid being on the wrong end of His righteous indignation.
Blessings and Shalom,