We can certainly imagine the scene. Moses, the leader of God’s people, comes down from the holy mountain with two stone tablets. On them are written the Ten Commandments, the basic teachings of God about holy living. But the scene here is tainted, because this is not the first time Moses has come down from Mount Sinai nor is this the first time he has brought tablets.
Earlier Moses had received the Ten Commandments for the first time, but misbehavior in the camp below interrupted his meeting with the Almighty. The people back in camp had constructed a golden calf and begun to worship it as a god, thereby violating God’s first commandment that they serve no other gods. Yet while Moses stands in God’s presence, even as the glory of God covers the foot of the mountain, the people disobey. How can they break the first commandment with God so near?
And what about us? How many times do we break God's commandments at such moments? How many times on the way home from church do we speak ill of the pastor or worship leader or lose patience with our children? How often are we so near to God and yet so far away?
As we learn from this story, these moments grieve God—but note the divine response. God does not withdraw from the mountain or write off the Israelites. Instead, God sends Moses back with new tablets, as if to say, “Why don't we try this again?” Just as with the Israelites at the foot of the mountain, God offers us mercy again and again.
Dear Lord, thank you for not giving up on us. Amen.