Proper 19 Year C 9/11/2022
Exodus 32:7-14; Psalm 51:1-11; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-10
Rev. Mark A. Lafler
Our first reading today comes from the great book of Exodus…
The second book of the Bible.
Exodus begins with the birth of Moses…
The great deliverer of his people…
It tells the narratives of the famous scriptures of…
Moses and the Burning Bush
And the powerful signs and wonders that Moses did as he declared the will of God to Pharoah…
Let my people go!
In Exodus 12 we have the sacred story of The Passover.
Where the children of Israel were kept safe because of the blood on the doors, while the night of dread filled the homes of the Egyptians.
This led to the exodus out of Egypt.
The people of God crossed the red sea…
While the Egyptian army suffered in the returning of the waters to their normal occupied space.
Exodus tells us the story of how God provided for the people with bread from heaven – Manna as it is called…
And with water from the rock at Horeb.
The Israelites make their way to Mount Sinai…
Where we read in the 20th chapter of Exodus the law…
The Ten Commandments…
And various laws and details about the tabernacle that followed over the next twelve chapters.
And while Moses received the law and all the details about the Holy Place and the priests that serve there…
The people grew restless and weary.
They formed a golden calf and began to worship the statue.
While God and Moses were drawing up plans for a new sanctuary,
the Israelites had made some plans of their own.
And it is here that our reading takes place…
With Moses preparing to go down from Mount Sinai to deliver the Law of God.
And God says to Moses:
Go! Get down there!
Your people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt have fallen to pieces.
In no time at all they’ve turned away from the way I commanded them: They made a molten calf and worshiped it.
They’ve sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are the gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt!’”
God said to Moses, “I look at this people—oh! what a stubborn, hard-headed people!
Let me alone now, give my anger free reign to burst into flames and incinerate them.
But I’ll make a great nation out of you.”
God’s righteous anger burned…
He told Moses that he was ready to obliterate them.
He threatens judgment.
God calls them stiff-necked…
A phrase that is used many times in the Old Testament…
It is a farmer’s metaphor…
As it describes a beast of burden that is too stubborn to wear its master’s yoke or do what its master says.
What it is saying is that the people are stubborn.
They want to do things there way and not God’s way.
Sounds familiar right?
How many times in our world, our nation, our community…
Do people want to do things their ways instead of God’s ways.
The people of God…
We may often choose to do things our way instead of God’s way.
Instead of loving God…
We choose our own way of thinking about money, about sexuality, about time, about our life goals.
Instead of loving each other…
Instead of serving each other…
Sacrificing for each other…
We find ourselves gossiping about one another…
Tearing down each other…
Doing what makes best since for us and not the best for our neighbor.
In similar ways, we can be stubborn, stiff-necked just as these people were in the wilderness.
Of course, contrary to God’s commands the Israelites were doing their own thing.
God says: Hey Moses! I’m done. I will start over with you.
As tempting as it may have been for him to get rid of the people and start over…
Moses implored God to have mercy.
He interceded for the people.
He became the mediator between God and the people of Israel.
He talked with God.
Simply put, Moses prayed.
And this is the lesson from our reading…
Moses prayed for the people.
So how did Moses pray?
Well, first Moses did not try to minimize Israel’s sin.
He did not offer any excuses…
He did not say, well maybe they didn’t know…
He did not try to defend his people on the basis of their own merits.
He did not say, well they really deep down are good people…
He did not argue with God that his anger was not fair.
On the contrary, he assumed that the Israelites were guilty, and God had every right to wipe them out.
Why, God, would you lose your temper with your people?
Why, you brought them out of Egypt in a tremendous demonstration of power and strength.
Why let the Egyptians say, ‘He had it in for them—he brought them out so he could kill them in the mountains, wipe them right off the face of the Earth.’
Stop your anger.
Think twice about bringing evil against your people!
Think of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants to whom you gave your word, telling them ‘I will give you many children, as many as the stars in the sky, and I’ll give this land to your children as their land forever.
You see Moses does not whine and complain to God.
He doesn’t beg and give excuses.
What he does is appeal to God’s mercy and lovingkindness.
First, Moses appeals to God’s relationship with Israel.
Moses calls them God’s people, whom God brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand.
He tells God of God’s self-chosen relationship to Israel.
He tells God of all that he has already done for them in the past.
Second, Moses appeals to God for the vindication of his own name.
Moses suggests what the Egyptians would say…
Is this the God of mercy and love?
Moses appeals on the basis of God’s public reputation.
Save them not just for the people’s sake, but for God’s own good name.
He appeals to God’s mercy.
Finally, Moses appeals to the great patriarchal promises.
He appeals to God’s everlasting covenant…
Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…
The covenant you made with them and their descendants.
This prayer is an appeal to God by the consistency of His own nature,
It is a declaration of confidence in His revealed will.
Our reading ends with God relenting on his threat to judgment.
Keep in mind this last verse is a literary device known as anthropopathism.
That is, an analogy…
It is stating God’s activity describing it in human terms.
This verse is not suggesting that God changed his mind or that he regretted something that he intended to do.
It is stating that God carried out his original plans of mercy and love…
Not because Moses was able to convince God that he was wrong…
Not because Moses used the right formula of prayer…
Moses did not change God’s plan; he was carrying them out as the mediator.
Moses was telling God exactly what God wanted to hear…
Exactly what God wanted Moses to profess…
God does not willy-nilly change what he is doing…
He will not some day decide to change his laws, his justice, his love,
Throughout the Bible the scriptures declare that God does not change.
In the book of Numbers, it is written:
God is… not a human being, that he should change his mind.
In Hebrews (13.8) it says:
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
St. James writes in his epistle:
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
And thank God that he does not change.
Most of us would be in a bad position if he did.
Scholar and minster Philip Graham Ryken writes:
Our salvation is not made secure by our own obedience,
which is bound to fail,
but by the unbreakable promise of God.
Which brings us to how this Old Testament reading for today points toward Jesus Christ our Lord.
You see, Jesus declared that he was the new Moses…
The better Moses…
The new giver of the Law.
That happened in the most famous sermon of our Lord,
The Sermon on the Mount found in the Gospel of Matthew.
Jesus declared himself as the new law giver when he quoted Moses saying, you have heard that it is said… but I say to you.
And then we find out that Jesus is the new…
Mediator between God and man.
The scriptures declare:
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind,
the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.
(1 Timothy 2.5-6)
Our prayer book picks this up in our Rite One liturgy when it declares after the prayers of the people:
Grant these our prayers, O Father, for Jesus Christ’s sake, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen. (BCP, 330)
And what does Jesus do as the mediator?
Romans 8.34 declares:
Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
And he does not plead for us on the basis of our righteousness…
Our good works…
He intercedes for our salvation on the merits of his own saving work.
On the basis of his grace and mercy found on the cross of calvary.
Our salvation is secure because the mediator we have does not change…
Our salvation is secure because our mediator did the saving work…
Our salvation is secure because we believe in a God who is full of grace and mercy.
And not only do we have Jesus Christ interceding for us…
We are called to intercession as well.
We pray for those in this world that do not yet know Jesus Christ.
And we pray for those who know Jesus yet have fallen into sin.
And we are to pray like Moses…
We appeal to God’s mercy and lovingkindness.
We appeal to God’s actions and his saving work.
We appeal to God’s desire to vindicate his own name.
We appeal to God on the basis of his covenant – his eternal promise to save sinners in Christ Jesus.
This is our calling to pray for unbelievers to come to faith.
This is the example Moses gave us.
This is what Jesus does for us in the throne room of God.
Praise be to God!
This is good news…
Our salvation is secure in the faithfulness of God.
And in light of that…
May we pray that many more would believe in the name of Jesus Christ.
 Philip Graham Ryken, Exodus, Preaching the Word (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2005), 989.
 R. Alan Cole, Exodus, TOTC (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1973), 217.
 Ryken, 992.