Exodus 32:15-20, 30-35
It is no small trial to come down from communion with God to battle with other men’s sins. This may fall to our lot this day. The Lord prepare us for it.
Joshua was a soldier, and therefore his thoughts ran that way, but Moses knew better. It would be far better to hear the noise of war with spiritual enemies, than the sound of rebellion against the Lord.
Exodus 32:18, 19
Moses is nowhere blamed for this. It was a symbolical action testifying his great abhorrence of sin, and his zeal for the Lord of hosts. He felt that tables written with God’s finger would be polluted by being brought among such a people.
Thus he put the utmost scorn upon their idol by making them drink it. Is it not beyond measure strange that popish idolaters of our day actually worship the wafer which they afterwards eat, and imagine that it is a religious homage to devour what they declare to be divine?
It is a wonderful instance of the influence of one man, that Moses was able in the midst of thousands of idolaters to tear down their idol, to deface it, grind it to powder, mix it with water, and compel the people to drink. God was with him, or he would have been resisted by the stiffnecked throng. He was very decided in his behaviour, and did not tolerate idol worship for a moment: this decision, no doubt, gave him great moral power.
His one thought was to do them good. He was like our Lord Jesus, a faithful Intercessor.
Exodus 32:31, 32
This was splendid self-sacrifice, of which we find a parallel case in the apostle Paul. Moses meant what he said, but we must not judge his expressions by cold-blooded logic: they were the warm outgushing of a tender heart.
This is the voice of the law threatening to blot out the sinner, but the gospel freely blots out the sin.
The Lord refused to be personally present with the tribes, but graciously promised to direct them by an angelic deputy. This was a sad threatening for Moses, who knew the value of the divine presence; and to the people themselves it was grievous news, especially the sentence that the Lord would visit them for sin.
They were the real makers—Aaron was but their agent: they are neither of them excused, but the guilt of each is clearly staled. It was sad to see such a man as Aaron so far astray. Lord keep thou each one of us by thy Holy Spirit.
Thou our sins, our hearts confounding
Long and loud for vengeance call,
Thou hast mercy more abounding,
Jesus’ blood can cleanse them all.
Let that love veil our transgression,
Let that blood our guilt efface,
Save thy people from oppression,
Save from death thy chosen race.