Exodus 32:30-35. 30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” 33 But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book. 34 But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”
35 Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made.
Having the presence of God among you can be a glorious thing but also a terrifying thing. Especially when you choose to worship something other than God. The idolatry of the people in Exodus 32 has brought the wrath of God into the camp, and God has half a mind to destroy the entire nation and start over with Moses.
Exodus 32:10. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.
But God is inviting Moses to intercede. To be the mediator between God and Israel. This verse could read “IF you let me alone my wrath will burn…” But Moses doesn’t leave God alone. He prays. He prays for the nation. His people. He doesn’t take God’s offer to be the new patriarch of a new nation. He embraces his identity as a Hebrew (something he has always struggled with). He embraces his role as mediator and appeals to the glory of God to save them from the glory of God.
Exodus 32:11-14. 11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, … 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.
It is the glory of God that demands that these wicked, rebellious people be destroyed. That’s the Sinai Covenant that God and the people just ratified with sprinkled blood. A conditional covenant that, if broken, requires death.
But there’s another covenant in effect here. The Abrahamic Covenant. The unconditional promises that God made to Abraham and his descendants. This is the covenant Moses appeals to. And so it is also the glory of God that demands he keep these promises and mercifully spare his people.
But how can God do BOTH of these things? How can he destroy their sin and yet keep his promises to them? How can he keep both covenants?
The answer is atonement. Covering.
And this is exactly what Moses, their mediator, offers to be for his people – And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.
Then Moses does something almost unthinkable. First he identifies himself with the sinners, then he offers his life for them – But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.
This is a prayer unlike anything we have heard before. Moses is offering himself as the human substitute for the sins of the people. Greater love has no man than this.
Cole mediates between the dead and the living. Jesus mediates between the living and the Life.
But then, in very anti-climactic fashion, God says no. He won’t kill Moses for the sake of the people. Instead he sends a plague. The people will have to suffer and die for their own sins. Moses can’t die for them. Why? Because Moses also deserves to die. He too is a sinner in need of atonement. He is not the Messiah. He is not the serpent crusher of Genesis 3:15. Simply put, he’s not Jesus.
Moses sought to satisfy God’s holiness and mercy by giving his own life. He sought to satisfy both covenants. But this is something that only Christ could do. The cross of Jesus is the atonement that humanity required. The sinless life of Christ alone could cover the sinful lives of the Hebrew people at Sinai and the sinful lives of you and me. At the cross Jesus was blotted out of the book so that our sins could be blotted out.
God will never blot us out because he blotted out Jesus.
But then Christ rose victorious!
Christ is now our greater mediator. The mediator who not only prayed for us but also died for us is now the mediator that lives for us and through us. The mediator that has placed his very own life into ours. Our lives are written into God’s book forever. Even when we commit a great sin, Jesus intercedes for us.
1 John 2:1. …if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
Hebrews 7:25. [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
Jesus saved us by his death and he IS saving us to the uttermost by his life. His life atoned for us and now that same life advocates for us.
Listen, Jesus our mediator is not standing in heaven begging and pleading with God to spare us. And God the Father is not sitting in heaven wishing he could crush us but constantly changing his mind every time he looks at Christ. Jesus our mediator is the enthroned King. He and the Father are One. They are united with one purpose – to save you and me by the life of Christ. The eternally efficacious life of Jesus.
Jesus our mediator doesn’t beg his Father to spare us. The presence of his life in the presence of God IS sparing us. His life is his prayer for us. His life is our life. That’s “to live is Christ.”
Remember, because Jesus is praying for you, you are forever saved and forever being saved. And because Jesus’ prayers for you are founded upon his resurrected and indestructible life, they will always prevail.