“…So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.”…Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control – for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies – then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him… Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin – and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You has written!”…Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” Exodus 32:14;25,26,31,32; 33:11a
Moses, human though he was – showed great responsibility in leadership. He pleaded the case of his people to the LORD, being so persuasive that the LORD changed His mind. Minister Matthew Henry (1662-1714) penned in his commentary, “The power of prayer; God suffers himself to be prevailed with by the humble believing importunity of intercessors. The compassion of God toward sinners, and how he is ready to forgive.”
Moses begged God not to act out of His anger that He felt . Yet, when God gave Moses the request of his heart, Moses turned around and got angry himself with the people, moving swiftly to see that justice was carried out. He did on his own, in part, what he begged God not to do.
Then acknowledging the people’s sin before the LORD, Moses adds that if the LORD is going to blot people out of His book – to blot out himself as well. Moses, in a sense took on the responsibility for the sin of the people even through he was not a participant in the blatantly rebellious acts they performed. Moses identified with the people he led, being willing to take punishment along with them. Perhaps Moses understood, given different circumstances, he could have succumbed as well. If we understand the nature of temptation and the truth of our humanness, we know that none of us are immune to falling. “There but by the grace of God, go I.” Maybe Moses could identify with the people because of the humbleness of his spirit. Even though what they did was awful, and justice needed to be carried out, Moses was able to appeal to the mercy of God’s character because he understood he also needed God’s mercy for himself.
Moses was a peacemaker and reconciler between God and the Israelites. Moses was a friend of God and a leader of the people.
In leadership, sometimes people will disappoint us. We may grieve when they sin, and part of our grief is in realizing that we could be in that other person’s shoes. As a leader our job is to pray to the LORD on behalf of the people we lead, and then be responsible to do the right thing in the eyes of the LORD. We may have to lovingly discipline people. We may have to turn away (Romans 16:17) those who cause division. But for those whom we are called to lead – we identify with them and bring their needs before the LORD. We shepherd, we nurture, we admonish, we love. We exhort people to stay true to the LORD. We lead responsibly.