The First reading at Mass today, the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, presents a people in revolt, and a step towards reconciliation.
In this passage – part, of course, of a much longer and complex narrative – God seems reluctant to forgive, seems persuaded to relent until persuaded by Moses.
The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’
But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: “I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.”’
So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
It is interesting to note the grounds for Moses’ argument. God must be faithful to his promises, is about God not losing faith. The argument is not about love – which is the quality which comes to the fore in the Gospel of the day.
Wherein lies the development? A change in God? Or a change in understanding of God?
As for ourselves, our motives are often mixed. Sometimes we act for self interest. Sometimes for love of the other. Which predominates at present?
Poussin, Adoration of the Golden Calf. National Gallery London. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.