Here’s the choice. You can be top dog, your family can become the greatest nation on earth and all your current problems can be whisked away instantly. OR you can wear yourself out trying to get a huge group of stubborn, unruly scoundrels to behave themselves and conform into some sort of society. Which would you choose?
That was the choice set before Moses in Exodus 32:7-14. The people of Israel had got antsy when Moses had gone to meet with God; and when he didn’t reappear after a few weeks, they decided God and Moses had abandoned them, so used their own gold to make an idol for themselves and worshipped it. God saw what was going on, and was understandably angry.
The choice God gave Moses is an interesting one. On the surface, it was a no-brainer, and it’s hard to imagine why Moses didn’t take him up on the easy offer. But by threatening to entirely wipe out the ‘stiff-necked’ lot, it subtly pushed Moses to take up their cause, to want to protect them, to want to take up the hard, hard, path of leading this rabble and shaping them into a nation worthy of the calling God had put upon them.
God loved that people, he had invested a lot in them, and knew that in spite of their weaknesses, he could use them as a nation. For all that, he knew Moses had one monumental job ahead of him, and he would need all the guts and determination known to man. He knew the people would run Moses ragged, that there would be times he himself would want to give up, so he had to make Moses sufficiently doggedly resolute to see the job through.
The threat to destroy them worked. Moses chose the hard path, and committed himself to the task of leading the people.
I’ve often got worried about making the right choices in life – what does God want me to do? But God wants us to do the things that are on his heart, even more than we want to do them! He is clever enough and loving enough to help us to come to the right decisions, sometimes without us even realising how we got there. If our lives are submitted to God, and our hearts are in sync with him, we don’t have to worry about getting it wrong.