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God saw what was happening with the cow idol, and His anger started burn, burn, burning. It had only been a few weeks and these people were already breaking the first two rules of their Covenant with Him!
God spoke to Moses, “Moses, you better get down there and see what your people are doing! Stand aside! Leave Me by Myself so that My burning anger can get hot, hotter, hottest. Don’t try to get between Me and the people, and don’t try to convince Me not to totally destroy them all. I’ll make a great nation out of you instead, Moses. In fact, I will make you into a stronger and more numerous nation than they are.”
But Moses didn’t want that… and he didn’t leave! In fact, Moses did exactly what God told him not to do. He got right between God and the people. “Lord, Lord,” Moses said, “have mercy on these people. Don’t let the enemy Egyptians say that You led the people out of slavery only to kill them in the desert! That would make You look bad. And remember, You promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that You would make from them a great nation, as many as the stars. Remember Your Promise, God? Remember?!?!?” Moses begged.
So Moses was able to change God’s mind. He wouldn’t destroy them after all.
It may seem like Moses disobeyed God. But one thing to know is that good friends understand each other. Moses knew that God loved the people and didn’t really want to destroy them. And God knew that Moses loved the people. They could help each other cool, cool, cool down. (Plus, God probably knew Moses would benefit from the conversation, too. Sometimes it helps you as you are helping a friend.)
Then Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two stone tablets of the Law Agreement in his arms. Both sides were written on, front and back. The stone tablets were the work of God, the Laws written in God’s own handwriting. What a wonderful thing to have!
As Moses and Joshua got close to the camp, they heard a strange shouting sound.
Joshua told Moses, “I hear the sound of WAR in the camp.”
Moses said, “No, it’s not war. It’s foolish singing.”
The people were shouting and being completely out of control with their golden cow party.
When Moses approached the camp and saw the people dancing around their false god cow, guess whose anger started burn, burn, burning then? Moses’! His anger burned so hot it boiled over!
He threw the stone tablets he was carrying onto the ground, breaking them into pieces.
Then he rushed over to the cow idol, burned it in the fire, scattered it on the water, and made the people drink it!
“Aaron, why did you lead the people into sin?” Moses asked.
“Don’t be angry,” Aaron answered. “You know how bad these people can be. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us because we don’t know what happened to Moses.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then I threw their gold into the fire, and out popped this calf!”
Talk about blaming others and lying. Aaron was doing both. Moses saw that the people were running wild. Aaron had let them get so out of control that their enemies were laughing at them. (This is dangerous. When your enemies laugh, their next step is usually to attack you! Moses had to do something, and fast!)
So, Moses said, “Whoever is on the Lord God’s side, come to me!”
I’m thinking all of those people better run over to Moses right away! But would you believe that only the Levites came to God’s side.
Then Moses told those who had come to him, “Strap on your swords and go through the camp, each killing your brother and friend and neighbor.” The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.
Then Moses said to the Levites, “Because you obeyed God even though it meant you had to go against your own sons and brothers, you have set apart yourselves today. The Lord will bless you for what you did today.”
The next day Moses told the people, “Let me go see if I can convince God to forgive you.” So Moses went back up the mountain to God and said, “Yes, the people have sinned in a terrible way, but please forgive them. If You won’t forgive them, then erase my name from the book You are writing.”
God answered, “Whoever has sinned against Me, that’s whose names are getting erased from My book. But, go ahead and lead the people to the land I promised, and when it comes time to punish them, I will.”
So God caused terrible things to happen to the people because of what they did with the golden cow Aaron had made. God was mad for a pretty long time.
During that time, God was still thinking about destroying both Aaron and the people. But Moses continued to ask God not to destroy them. He lay on his face for a long time and begged God for their lives. And once again, God listened to Moses and answered his requests.