Forty days of Lent can go by quickly. A lot can happen in just forty days, for good or for ill. It did for Israel. That was the exact length of time Moses spent high on the mountain. And, that was all the time it took for the Israelites to reach their own heights—of complaining. That was all the time it took for the people to become filled with ingratitude, to grow callous toward their leader. They smirked: “As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him” (Exodus 32:1). It took only forty days to handcraft a new god, a metal calf forged in desert fire.
The people had just sworn their faithfulness to God (Exodus 24:7). They welcomed all the blessings he promised but they could not follow through with their honor-bound promise. Israel’s national shame hit a low point that would not be their last.
Concurrent with the people’s new low was a remarkable high-water mark for Israel’s leader. When God threatens to wipe out the nation, Moses pleads with him to stay his hand. Moses does not say, “God, they don’t deserve this.” Instead, he appeals to God’s glory, his promises, and Moses’ final urgent request is for God’s forgiveness (Exodus 32:30-32).
Moses makes no excuses for the people. There is no excuse. Yet Moses sees himself as being so joined to his congregation that he tells God that if he punishes Israel that he himself would like to be included in that discipline. Moses was a true leader. He stood fully in the gap for his people when they shrunk to their faithless low (cf. Ezekiel 22:30).
Jesus stands in the gap for his church. May we fortify ourselves, in this season of Lent, to be faithful and not fickle. May we look like Moses, yea even Jesus.