And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people. (Exodus 32:14)
It must be frustrating being God sometimes. Human beings have been created in God’s image and charged and entrusted with the work of caring for the world God made and loves. But we go off the rails all too often. And the Bible shares more than a few stories of how people have made God furious more than once.
In the verse above, we are at the end of the story about Moses being up on the mountain with God and not coming back down by the time he was expected. People thought something had happened to him. There was no point in waiting for him to come down – he was probably not going to survive up there anyway. Moses’ brother Aaron then led them in melting down their gold and using it to make a golden calf for them to worship. As you would expect, God is not happy!
But Moses does survive the time on the mountain and comes down to see what has happened. Seeing how angry God is, Moses intervenes to try to prevent God from acting on the anger. Moses reminds God of all the people have been through and all that God has done and promised. It would make all of that for naught to lash out now. So God rethinks the actions and decides not to destroy the people. God will show some restraint and not act on the anger.
The text reminds us that we routinely make God disappointed and even angry. But God’s commitment to us is immense and when God steps back and reflects, often God chooses not to act on the anger but to exercise patience instead. Ultimately, the patience and persistence of God finds its way to the cross, where the death and eventual resurrection once again show us how God simply refuses to give up on us.
When you catch yourself feeling like you have let God down, perhaps even angered God, hear the words of grace in this text. Even when humanity has chosen to intentionally disrespect God, God has chosen to stick it out with us anyway. That means, you can be confident that, even in your lowest moments, God will not give up in you either.