Summary: Exodus 32 tells us God changed His mind. But He can’t do that can He?
OPEN: The story is told of the sharecropper who was charged with stealing his landlord’s mule. The landlord was a rich and domineering man who had few friends among the common people, but the evidence against the defendant was overwhelming. When the jury retired to consider the verdict, they were out only 5 minutes.
"Have you reached a verdict, Mr. Foreman?" asked the judge.
"We have, Your Honor," the foreman replied, and handed a paper to the clerk.
The clerk read: "We the jury find the defendant not guilty, provided that he returns the mule."
The judge brought the gavel down sharply, saying, "Folks that’s not a proper verdict. The defendant is either guilty or not guilty." He told the jury to retire and come back with a lawful verdict. So they left the room and returned again in another five minutes.
The verdict was handed to the clerk who unfolded the paper, and read the following: "We the jury find the defendant not guilty. He can keep the mule."
APPLY: You might say that jury was engaged in some creative decision making. They were not comfortable with the options they had, so they came up a verdict that was new and unique.
In today’s text (dealing with Moses’ prayer for Israel)… we’re faced with something uncomfortable for many of us. It’s a teaching from scripture that seems to go against everything we’ve ever been taught about God. But a teaching which might just help us look at prayer in a way that is entirely new & unique
I. First, let’s look at the setting for Moses’ prayer
About 4 months previously, Moses had led the Israelites out of Egypt, and it seems - from the moment they were freed from slavery - the Israelites did nothing but complain.
· They complained at the waters of the Red Sea because they were afraid of the Egyptians
· They complained in the desert because
o … 1st they didn’t think they had enough to eat
o … and then, they didn’t think they had enough to drink
· When they got to Mt. Horeb and saw the power of God displayed in lightning, thunder and smoke and they heard the voice of God as He spoke declared the 10 Commandments they (in essence) told Moses – You go talk to Him… we can’t stand to listen to Him anymore! (20:19)
Ever since they left Egypt, the Israelites had done nothing but complain and grumble. And finally, while Moses is up on the Mountain top with this all powerful God, the Israelites decide that they’re bored and they talk Aaron (Moses’ Bro.) into making a golden calf for them to worship - IN SPITE of the fact that this was a direct violation of the 2nd commandment had proclaimed to them a little over 40 days before!
The Israelites have been nothing but trouble ever since God freed them from their chains… and now – it appears – God has had… enough. REREAD Exodus 32:7-10. God tells Moses “I’m going to wipe them off the face of the earth and build a new nation around you.”
II. Was God serious? Did He really intend to annihilate the entire nation & rebuild a new nation from Moses’ offspring? Yes… I believe He did!
ILLUS: One thing I learned long ago as a parent - never threaten any punishment that you don’t intend to follow through on. Kids begin to pick up on that!
Moses certainly took God seriously. Moses was so convinced that God intended to do what He threatened, that he offered up an immediate, and extremely intense prayer. AND - as a result of Moses’ prayer – God changed His mind and decided NOT to destroy the Israelites.
(pause) He did WHAT??? God changed His mind? He’s not supposed to do that!
In Numbers God Himself tells us “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” Numbers 23:19
ILLUS: While I was working on the sermon with another preacher (a few of us preachers work together on our sermons and use the same texts) he frankly told me “I’m real uncomfortable with this…” He said: “My theology tells me God is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient. God is supposed to know all things. But if He knows all things - why make this threat if He knows He’ll not do what He’s threatened?”
III. (pause) It is a problem.
We’re taught that prayer is a powerful force.
Jesus said: "…I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:19