God ordains the ends as well as the means to the end (chapter 3, paragraph 6). The ends were that Israel would be spared and the promises made to the Patriarchs fulfilled. The intercession of Moses, in light of the people’s conduct, was the necessary means thereto. Critics of Reformed Theology often ignore the means in relation to God’s sovereignty, which we, Reformed people, stress very much.
Most importantly, we should not miss the Christological significance of this text. This passage points ultimately to the intercession of Christ before the Father on behalf of the elect. Christ stands before the Father, holding back His judgment against His people, taking their punishment upon Himself as their Substitute. The Lord did bring judgment upon Israel; 3000 people were killed by the Levites at the command of the Lord (Ex. 32:28), but He did not bring a total judgment because of Moses’ intercession. The point of this narrative is to teach about intercessory prayer and not to teach us that God changes His mind when we come up with a brilliant idea as if God needs the councils of men. Shane Lems writes on the application of this passage, saying:
Application: God has stooped down to show us that prayer in accordance with his will is effective. Exodus 32:14 teaches us, through Moses’ intercession and mediation, that God shows mercy to sinners. “You in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness” (Neh. 9:19). In this anthropomorphic and accommodated way, God illustrates that he shows mercy to sinners. And this, in turn, points us to Jesus’ intercession and mediation, which appeases God’s just wrath for those who trust in him. God is not inviting us to peer into his secret counsel in Exodus 32:14, but he is pointing us to himself as revealed in his Son, whom Moses typified.
Of Christ, it is said that the Father always hears Him (John 11:42) and that by His intercession “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him” (Heb. 7:25). His intercession is also connected to His atoning work on behalf of His people (Rom. 8:32). Those for whom He dies, He also intercedes to save. So, as God listened to Moses and relented of the disaster which He pronounced, so, all the more will the Lord listen to Christ’s intercession for His people.
To maintain that Scripture teaches that God changes in His nature, plans, purposes, or will, is to ignore the plain, straightforward, unqualified, and didactic teaching on the immutability of God in both testaments, both explicit and by implication. Passages which seem to teach a change of mind in God must be interpreted either as 1) conditional warnings, and not actual prophecies of judgment; 2) anthropopathisms, that is, attribution of human passions and emotions to God; or 3) accommodation, that is, God stoops low to speak to us in a way that we can understand.
The Spirituality of God
“God is spirit” means that He is immaterial, invisible and immortal. He is not limited by space. He is not a man who has body parts, but He chose to enter into His creation as a man (Phil. 2:5-11). When we are told that we are created in the image of God, this does not mean that we look physically like God, but that we represent God. We, in some measure mirror God in what He does, and not that we look like Him. See more on the image of God here.
The spirituality of God...