Fear or Belief

November 19, 2021

Exodus 32.7-14

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

“I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”

11 But Moses sought the favour of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

During the early parts of the European expansion into North America there was a theologian and preacher in the colonies, Jonathon Edwards.  In one of the periods of revival of the church he gave a sermon titled: “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God.”  Giving people cause for fear of punishment so that they would repent and believe in God.  Fear of hell and damnation as reasons for belief.

That all held for a while.  People did come to the church, but out of fear.  I don’t think fear is the best motivator, particularly long-term.  And I don’t think fear is the proper response when we look at this text.  It is not meant to bring fear to people that God will get angry and destroy the people as was seen in the flood.  We should look and see the God of mercy and grace in action.

The story is not about the anger of God, it is about the faithfulness and forgiveness of God.  God is faithful to his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Israel.  God is faithful to his promises to us today.  We have heard his promises about us, about our children and grand-children.  He will always be our God and he promises that to those who come behind us as well.  And he is faithful.

I grew up with a grandmother who prayed for her children and grandchildren.  One of the things I have been able to say to some of my cousins is that as Grandma has been in prayer for them and their future they should not waste time, but come to God in his grace as Grandma has already had those prayers for them.  That promise is not just to my Grandma and my cousins and I.  That is a promise for all.

Where are we standing like Moses in our prayers to God?  For whom are we praying that God will bring grace, mercy and forgiveness?  Family, neighbours, co-workers, friends, enemies?  Place the people of our lives before God and call on him to be merciful and gracious, giving faith and hope to those around us.

SongWonderful, Merciful Saviour


Eternal God, in every age you have raised up men and women to live and die in faith.  Forgive our indifference to your will.  You have commanded us to speak, but we have been silent.  You have called us to do what is just, but we have been fearful.  Have mercy on us, your faithless servants.  Keep before us faithful people for us to follow so that, living with courage and love, we may inherit the kingdom promised in Jesus Christ, and reign with him forever.  Amen.

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