Please Forgive Their Sin, but if not,

Blot Me Out of the Book You have Written

32: 30-35

    DIG: What is Moses’ role in setting things right again? In what sense is he an army general? A prophet? A priest? A sacrificial lamb? What exemplary qualities were evident in his plea bargaining with the LORD?

    REFLECT: Have you ever paid the price for someone’s sin at your own expense? You did nothing wrong. But you made it right voluntarily. The cost would be high. The ones you love. Maybe everything you have in this world. Can you imagine yourself doing something like that? How would you feel? How much love would it take?

    The next day Moses announced his intention to go up on the mountain to make atonement for the sins of the people. So Moses went back to ADONAI and said: Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods out of gold. The Hebrew word for atonement is kafar. As the high priest would enter the Sanctuary and make atonement for the people, Moses, once again, climbed the mountain to make atonement for the Israelites.

    There seems to be two levels of guilt in the making of the golden calf. The more guilty party, those directly involved, had been put to death by the Levites. The rest of the Israelites were apparently also guilty in some sense, otherwise atonement would not have been necessary, but they were not so guilty as to deserve death along with the three thousand (32:28). Perhaps the remaining Hebrews were guilty by virtue of the notion of collective guilt so prevalent in the TaNaKh, or maybe because they engaged in the partying to a much lesser extent. However, it is hard to avoid the clear statement by Moses that those who remained after the Levites purge were guilty of having made gods out of gold.678

    In his attempt to make atonement by pleading for the lives of his people, Moses’ argument essentially amounts to, take me instead. He said: But now, please forgive their sin – but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written (32:30-32). The book he is referring to is the book of life, or the names of all those who were ever born (Psalm 69:28; Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 20:15, 21:27). If a person dies unsaved, his or her name is blotted out of the book of life. Those who are saved have their names retained in the book of life. What Moses is asking is that if God would not forgive the sin of the nation, would He blot Moses’ name out of the book of life, or take away his salvation rather than Israel’s. The Lamb’s book of life contains all those who have been born again, and therefore, it is impossible to be blotted out in that book. Paul’s similar readiness to be separated from the presence of ADONAI forever for the sake of his Israelite kinsman was perhaps inspired by Moses’ remarkably selfless statement.679

    The LORD replied to Moses by telling him that each sinner must die for his or her own sin. This became an emphasis with the later prophets who ministered during the final years of the southern kingdom of Judah (Jeremiah 31:30; Ezekiel 18:1-32). Moses was still God’s choice to lead the people to the Promised Land, although they continued to be stiff-necked and stubborn.680 To insure his success, God would send His Angel before him. This can only be Yeshua Messiah, or the Angel of ADONAI, who appeared to Moses at the burning bush (3:1-6). Whenever the phrase: the Angel of ADONAI is seen in the Hebrew Scriptures, it is always the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.

    However, the guilt of the people would not be swept under the rug. God told Moses, when the time comes for Me to punish, I will punish them for their sin (32:33). So a compromise of sorts was reached between the LORD and His servant. Moses would continue to lead the people to the Promised Land with the Angel of ADONAI going before him, but God reserved the right to punish later on. And the means He used to punish the people later on was a plague. This was not due to any failure on the part of Moses, but rather because of the lack of repentance on the part of the people. And ADONAI struck the people with a plague (probably hoof-in-mouth disease) because of what they did with the golden calf Aaron had made (33:34-35). Therefore, in the final analysis, God held the people and Aaron mutually responsible for the golden calf incident.

    Moses’ offer to exchange his life for the forgiveness of the sin of the Hebrews, and for the staying of God’s wrath from coming upon them, is rejected by ADONAI. His life simply could not serve as an atoning sacrifice for the Hebrews. Thus the Israelites needed to bear the punishment for their own sin. As believers, that ought to make us extremely thankful for the sacrifice of Messiah on the cross. As the apostle John says: This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (First John 4:10); he also states: My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world (First John 2:1-2). The point is, that Jesus Christ was able to take His people’s sin upon Himself, and therefore, took the punishment for those sins by going to the cross and the tomb. Paul put it this way: When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us. He took it away, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).681


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