Monday, August 6, 2007

the anger of Moses

My lesson yesterday was on Exodus 32:15-24 (part 3 of the "Golden Calf incident").

First, a few modest moments...

Who's the worst sinner in the Bible?
Moses. He broke all ten commandments at one time (32:19)!

In 32:19, Moses seems to get angry when he sees the calf AND the dancing. I wonder it he was a Baptist? ;-) Actually, it's probably indicative of the fact that seeing something generally has much more impact than hearing about it.

In 32:15, I was reminded to make a trivial but interesting point: The Ten Commandments were produced as two copies of the same covenant-- with Israel carrying its and God's copy around with them in the Ark. Most of the time, people think that the Ten are divided int halves-- with half of the commandments on each stone.

It's also interesting that the stone on which God wrote the Ten was more valuable than both the gold of the golden calf and the precious stones in the priestly garments.

OK, lame jokes and smaller points aside, the biggest topic was the anger of Moses. Was it justified? Apparently so. Neither God nor he speaks ill of later (Dt 9:17; Ex 34:1). Beyond that, from the life of Christ, we know that (acting out in) anger can be appropriate when other people are being harmed and God's good name is being trampled.

As the old bumper sticker says: if you're not angry, you're not paying attention. The problem is that we don't get angry at the proper things and get angry at a whole bunch of improper things. Take "road rage"-- or the more frequent and more modest "road irritation"-- if someone drives slower than you, then they're a moron; if someone drives faster than you, then they're a maniac. Either way, it bothers a lot of us. (For an absolutely awesome on anger, I highly recommend Garret Keizer's The Enigma of Anger: Essays on a Sometimes Deadly Sin.)

More amazing, the anger of Moses is in balance with his impassioned defense as Israel's mediator in 32:7-14. The challenge for us: can we go to bat for those in our lives while going off on hypocrisy-- another version of loving the sinner and hating the sin? (For those who are skeptical of this tired phrase, consider C.S. Lewis' observation that we do this all the time , adn usually successfully-- with ourselves.) This is modeled best in Jesus' response in John 8-- don't chuck any rocks, but "go and sin no more".


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