The point of the text is not to paint God like some Roman deity. God is not moody. God isn’t temperamental or vindictive. God is not emotionally erratic and unreliable. Exodus 32 should not cause the saints to doubt God’s faithfulness, rather, just the opposite. God’s covenant faithfulness is unfailing. Everything that happens in Exodus 32 is part of God’s sovereign plan. Consider four things.
First, read this singular instance in light of the whole of Scriptures that show God as sovereign over all things. Israel’s sin and Moses intercession are both part of God’s plan.
Second, Moses has pleaded with God on the basis of God. Moses has not spoken of how good the people are. Moses has not bartered with God as Abraham did, asking that if there are just ten righteous that God would spare them. Moses pleads with God upon the basis of what God has done (Exodus 32:11), out of zeal for God’s glory (Exodus 32:12), and because of what God has promised (Exodus 32:13). This isn’t Moses changing God’s sovereign will, but instead, revealing it.
Third, God set Moses up. When God says, “let me alone (Exodus 32:10)” the implication is that if Moses does not leave, then God will not consume them. Moses doesn’t disobey God. He stays upon the basis of who God has consistently revealed Himself to be and what He has promised to do and he implores God based upon the implication of what God has threatened and who God has called him to be—an intercessor.
Fourth, Why is Moses who he is? At the beginning of this book, when Moses was first on this mountain speaking with God, he argued with God in a sinful way, offering up various excuses for not obeying God and going to Egypt to deliver God’s people. Previously, Moses argued with God in a sinful way for selfish purposes that would leave Israel in bondage. Now, he implores God in a holy way for unselfish purposes, that will preserve Israel. So who has made Moses who he is? Who does Moses look like? Into whose image is Moses being conformed? Moses looks like Jesus, which is to say, he looks like God.
The point of the tabernacle is that man is sinful, God is holy, and that a mediator and sacrifices are thus necessary. This chapter, sandwiched between the instructions for and construction of the tent, not only amplifies those themes, it unites them as the mediator puts himself forward as the sacrifice (Exodus 32:30, 32). Saints, this text should cause you to hate sin and it should show you the ugliness of sin, but it should not cause you to doubt God’s faithfulness. One better than Moses pleads for you. He died. It is finished. He rose. He is at the right hand of the Father. You are united to Him by the Spirit. It is the Father who gave Him. You cannot be cast away unless Christ be cast away, meaning you are unmovable. Oh great sinners, take comfort in your great Savior.