Moses, the patriarch and liberator, was not a prophet in his land, or rather among his people. He has just liberated his people from the slavery of Egypt and the people repeatedly confront him with the difficulties of the road, a road that is desert. So much is the people’s disgrace to God and Moses that they say:
“I wish we had died at the hands of Yahweh in the land of Egypt when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread until we were full! You have brought us to this desert to starve all this Assembly.” (Ex 16, 13).
Even worse will be rebellion and unfaithfulness to God in the face of impatience at Moses’ delay on Sinai. They will make their own “god”, the golden calf, and give free rein to their most selfish desires.
But both in the desert and on Sinai God is going to show that when he said that he would liberate his people, he was referring so much to the liberation of the oppressor external as to the bondage of selfishness. And God is going to have a lot, a lot, a lot of patience with a people “complaining”, ungrateful, rebellious, unfaithful. He is going to do it with great patience and with great mercy, granting you one opportunity after another.
Perhaps the culmination of this mercy is visualized in forgiving the idolatry of the golden calf and re-granting for the second time his “Ten words” of happiness and salvation. Let’s think that the sin of the golden calf is much more than meets the eye. The great sin is not to attach an excessive cultural importance to the calf. No, the greatest sin is not in the calf itself. The most serious sin is the abandonment of God, the push that is given to him to leave their lives. Thus, the most serious thing will not be the debauchery but the hopelessness that leads to betrayal and the betrayal that leads to hopelessness. And therefore, the gravest sin that God will generously forgive from his mercy is a sin against God himself.
This chapter in the history of salvation reminds me of a well-known one. As with the deliverance from Egypt, joy also overflowed at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. A crowd clamoring “ Hosanna ” . But from that joy, in a few days, we went through sad and difficult moments. They have arrested Jesus, Pilate asks and many shout “crucify him” .
In some meditations it is questioned how those who said “Hosanna” can soon say “crucify him” . I have never thought that they were the same. In Jerusalem, at Passover, there were enough people for both. What I do wonder is where the former were, those of the “Hosanna” when the latter shouted “crucify him” . Where were you? Surely the same thing happened to them as in the desert and Sinai. Hopelessness led to the betrayal of abandonment.
And also on this occasion God will forgive that abandonment with mercy. He is going to do it for everything big. If at Sinai he gave away his “Ten words” again, here the second chance will be his risen Word. Jesus, the Son of God, who has been abandoned in the Praetorium, comes back to life and gives a second chance. This is the most merciful act of God towards us.
God forgives us everything. These days of savage violence against Christians we can ask ourselves, are we going to forgive?
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