Poor Moses. He’s called to lead the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt when he never campaigned for the job. He stutters and he has a temper. Not exactly the marks of a good leader. Yet he serves a God who continues to give him a second chance.
The first time his temper gets him into trouble is when he kills an Egyptian in anger. We could say the anger was justified because the Egyptian was mistreating one of the Hebrew slaves. Nevertheless, Moses goes into hiding – and that’s where God meets him and tells him that he has been chosen. Beside that burning bush that never burned up, God tells Moses the plan He has for him.
Moses finally agrees to lead these stiff-necked people, and they set out for the land of promise. Three months after their departure God takes Moses up in a mountain. Moses doesn’t know – because God doesn’t tell him or the people – that he will be gone for forty days and forty nights.
The people get tired of waiting and complain to Aaron, who helps them make a golden calf they can “worship”, using their jewelry. Finally, Moses comes down the mountain.
In his arms, he carries two tablets of stone, tablets on which God had written the commandments they are to follow. Both tablets, both sides. On tablets made by God Himself and written by the finger of God on both sides, Moses carries those stones down the mountain. He knew before he left the top of the mountain that the people had sinned, for God told him so.
Obviously, he wasn’t prepared for what had happened in his absence. He saw the golden calf and the people, naked and dancing. This was not what he expected or envisioned – in spite of what God told him just before he came down the mountain. In his anger and frustration, he threw the tablets to the ground and the tablets broke. Oh, my! Was that righteous anger?
Interestingly, a short time later, God sends Moses back up the mountain. This time, Moses has to hew out two tablets of stone. Moses has to carry those tablets of stone up the mountain. Is there a reason God doesn’t provide the tablets the second time? Is there a reason Moses has to carry them up the mountain? Surely the Lord God could have given him another set of tablets, or certainly provided a way for Moses to get them back up the mountain without needing to carry them himself. [Parents: our Father in Heaven has ways to make the “punishment fit the crime.” We can follow His example.]
Interestingly also, Moses spends another forty days and forty nights on the mountain with God. Was this for Moses, for the people, or both? Was it for God to show him what it means to get a second chance?
Of one thing I’m sure: Moses never forgot the work hewing out those two tablets of stone. He never forgot the journey going back up that mountain to meet with God, carrying those stone tablets. He probably also remembered that both visits up that mountain lasted forty days.
I have to smile when I envision Moses hewing out those tablets of stone. It had to be hard work. I don’t think he grumbled or complained because he knew exactly why God was asking this of him.
When was the last time God had you doing something that was unpleasant – but you knew exactly why He asked this of you? If it’s never happened to you, then maybe you should consider why.
If you’ve found yourself on your knees hewing out stone because God told you to, be glad for a God Who gives second chances. Be grateful that our God is merciful and gracious, even while He is just.
Moses continued to lead the people for the next forty years. He made his share of mistakes. One of those mistakes cost him entrance to the promised land.
Even so, God never gave up on him. Jehovah never stopped using Moses. The Almighty God gave Moses another chance to do those Ten Commandments. He continued to meet with him and continued to guide him as he led the Israelites.
God doesn’t give up on us, either. We keep getting a second chance.
Sometimes we have to re-climb that mountain. Sometimes He requires us to cut out new tablets of stone.
Forever and always, He doesn’t give up. He keeps providing. He continues to give us a second chance. He keeps extending grace.
This is the God we serve!