The extent of one's relationship with the Living God is directly related to the desire one has to know God. Those who know the Lord and have a developing and maturing understanding of Him through scripture are those who desire to know God. Those who remain ignorant concerning the things, purposes, and will of God usually desire other things more than God and pursue those things rather than nurturing a relationship with Him through the Word. Hence, it is not that God is unapproachable or unknowable, but instead that people are distracted and more concerned with other things. However, the Bible teaches that those who have legitimate desires to know the Living God are able to partake in some of the greatest blessings known to mankind!
In Exodus 33:18-23 the Bible explains that when God promised Moses that He would continue to lead the children, but from a distance, Moses was excited by the promise of God. In his excitement, Moses made an intense request to the Living God. Moses asked God if he could see His glory! Moses desired God so much that he was not content just to see the pillar of fire go before the people. Moses desired God so much that he was not satisfied with just seeing the cloud rest before Mount Sinai. Moses desired God so much that he continued to crave more of the Lord. Moses wanted to know his God. Moses wanted to see his God. Moses knew enough about the Lord to know that Yahweh was amazing to a degree that he wanted to understand more fully. The temptations of the world were not a concern to Moses. Instead, the thing that Moses wanted most at this moment of his life was to see the glory of the Living God!
The scriptures explain that God responded in an interesting way. Though Moses was a sinner that was speaking to the Creator of all things, God did not deny Moses his request. The Bible explains that God was willing to reveal more of Himself to Moses even though God is holy. Though the He is the Lord God Almighty, Exodus 33:18-23 explains that God was willing to reveal more of His glory to Moses on account of his desire. This is an incredible reality! Though Moses was a flawed man that possessed a tainted heart that was corrupted with sin, God recognized the humble and earnest desire of Moses anyway and scripture shows that God was willing to honor the request of Moses. Hence, the glory of God is not hidden and inaccessible. The scriptures teach that the glory of God is available "on demand" so to speak, granted the person seeking the glory of God is doing so in the manner of Moses - with a humbly repentant heart.
The Bible explains that Moses was ill equipped to receive what he had requested. Moses wanted to see the full glory of God, but the Lord informed Moses that he would not be able to endure His full glory. The scriptures explain that the Lord could not show Moses His face. The face of the Living God is that which contains the essence of God's glory, which the Bible teaches is too much for human beings to handle. The sinful nature of all human beings keeps all human beings from being able to see the face of God where His glory resides. However, God was willing to reveal more of His glory nonetheless.
The scriptures teach that, while God could not show Moses His face, God was willing to reveal "all of His goodness." Exodus 33:18-23 explains that God agreed to make "all of His goodness" pass before Moses. So while Moses could not see the full glory of God, he was able to get a heavy dose of the goodness of God. The Bible teaches that the goodness of God that would pass by Moses was "the name of the Lord." Hence, the goodness of God is equal to the name of the Lord, which refers to His identity and character. The goodness of God is not at all related to the perceived benefits of physical circumstances. The goodness of God is not explained as how one interprets favor in one's life. The scriptures plainly state that the goodness of God is simply the name of the Lord.
The Lord's prayer in John chapter 17 explains that Jesus revealed and fulfilled the name of God showing that Jesus is the physical revelation of the name of the Lord. Jesus explained to His disciples that those who have seen Him have seen the Father, showing that Jesus is the manner by which people can know the name/character of the Living God. In this way, Jesus is the embodiment of the goodness of God. Therefore, while Moses was unable to physically endure the face of God, the Lord promised to allow His "goodness" to pass by Moses; and since the goodness of God is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, the scriptures show that God presented Jesus to Moses as a manifestation of His name and goodness. The full glory of Yahweh was too much to handle so God revealed Himself as the Christ in order to connect with those who desired Him. This shows that God's method of connecting to His people is the same in both the Old and New Testament!
Exodus 33:18-23 explains that God told Moses that He as His goodness passed by, He would take Moses with His hand, place Moses in the cleft of a rock, cover Moses' face, pass by, then uncover Moses' face allowing Moses to see only His back and the residue of His glory to ensure Moses lived. Thus, one must consider that, while the full glory of God is such that cannot be seen by sinners, the glory of God's goodness in Jesus is not any lesser in magnitude. Moses still had to be protected by the cleft of the rock, the covering of the hand of God, and still only permitted to see the back of God's goodness since the goodness of God in Jesus Christ was too much for Moses to bear. Though Jesus is the image of God that mankind is supposed to look upon, this does not suggest that He is any less glorious than the Father. In fact, the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ as documented by the Synoptic Gospels explains that when Peter, James, and John saw Jesus in His glorified and transfigured condition, they passed out! It is also good to know that before they passed out, Peter, James, and John saw Jesus speaking in His glorified state with Moses.
The Bible is clear to show that God is willing to give as much of Himself as His people can handle according to how much His people desire Him. It was impossible for Moses to see the face of God and live, but that didn't stop God from revealing some of His glory to Moses. This shows that God desires for His people to know Him, to see Him, and to be in awe of Him. God is willing to do whatever He needs to in order that His people can see the greatness of His being. God is willing to change His appearance, speak our language, and manifest His attributes in miraculous ways in order that His people would recognize Him, desire Him, and worship Him. One's knowledge and connection to God cannot be distant on account of God. The testimony of Exodus 33:18-23 shows that God is more that willing to do whatever needs to be done to fulfill the desire of His people to know Him more closely. Instead, one's knowledge and connection to God is dependent on one's humble desire to know God and seek Him in His glory in fear and meekness, recognizing the greatness and holiness of God.
When Jesus spoke with the disciples at the Last Supper and explained to them what life would be like without His physical presence in the world, He told the disciples, "If you love me, keep My commandments." The statement is very simple. Jesus did not tell the disciples to keep the commandments in order to love Jesus. Instead, Jesus told the disciples that a natural consequence of the disciples' pre-existing love for Jesus should be their desire to do what He says. The statement of Jesus explains that one's affection and appreciation for the Lord should be observable through one's desire to do as He says. Jesus said it a different way in the Gospel of Luke. He told some of His followers, "Why do you call me 'Lord' if you don't do what I say?" The point is, one's affection for the Lord should be based on one's understanding of who the Lord is. One's understanding of who the Lord is demands a certain type of response that the scriptures define as obedience, which stems from a desire to please the Lord that one has grown to know.
These concepts are not limited to New Testament doctrines. These concepts go back into the Old Testament showing that God's expectations for His people to know and desire Him have been constant throughout time. In Exodus 33:12-17 the Bible explains that since Moses was privileged to speak with God face to face in the tabernacle that resided outside of the camp of Israel, he was compelled to make a demand of God. As Moses met with the Lord in deep and awesome ways, he demanded that the Lord remain with the children of Israel, lead the children of Israel, and stay connected to the children of Israel. Moses had learned about the goodness of the Lord by communing with Him and so he told God that if the Israelites had to move forward without God, he wasn't going to lead the people. In other words, Moses told God that he wasn't going to go anywhere to do anything apart or without Him.
Exodus 33:12-17 explains that Moses had gained a deep appreciation of the Lord due to his maturing understanding of who He was. Moses told God that he was willing to lead the people as God commanded, but was concerned about the changed dynamics of God's relationship with the people. By this time in scripture, God was dwelling outside of the camp of Israel and distant from the people. This concerned Moses. The scriptures suggest that Moses wondered if God would send the people off on their own and be further distanced from the people and Moses was confused. He inquired of God why he was told to lead the people, but was not also told how the people would be led. Previously God went before the people in the pillar of cloud and fire. Moses wondered, "Who will You send with me?" Moses wondered if God would still lead, and how. Moses demonstrated great concern concerning the Lord's leadership.
Moses stated that his confusion was on behalf of God's previous statements. God told Moses that He had found favor in Moses and that He was willing to show Moses grace. Thus, the relationship between Moses and God was predicated on grace, not works, even in the Old Testament. Such has always been the case. It is for this reason that Moses was confused. He knew that God was gracious to him, but wondered why the dynamics of how God showed His grace had changed. Sin caused distance between the people and God so that God's grace looked different than it did before. Since Moses desired the grace of God, questioned God about how grace would appear before the people and if it would continue to be shown towards Israel.
The scriptures explain that Moses was stern in his position. He would not continue to lead Israel in the manner that he had if God was not with the people. He basically stated that if God was going to depart from the people, then so was he. Moses pleaded with God to show Moses the way that God wanted the people to go. Since the children of Israel had been camped out before Mount Sinai for 40 days, and God was preparing the people to move again, Moses wanted to ensure the people went in the direction that God desired them to go. Moses did not want to lean on his own understanding and opinion. Moses only wanted to go in the direction that God desired, no matter what direction that was. More importantly, Moses expected that the Lord go with them and go before them to ensure they were going the right way. Moses wanted to please God and demonstrated His desire to do so by explaining that he wasn't going to move unless he knew where God wanted him to move, and knew that God was also going to move with him.
God responded favorably to Moses' desire to be with Him. The Bible explains that God promised that His presence would go with him, and the result of God's presence leading the people would be "rest." Thus, the Bible teaches that rest, and the peace and satisfaction that comes with rest only comes when one is in the presence of God. Equally as important, the Bible teaches that the presence of God only come upon those who desire to be in His presence. The scriptures show that God was already willing to show grace, and had been showing grace to Moses for some time. At the same time, the Bible explains that God was willing to amplify His grace by sharing His presence with those who desired it so that the results of His grace would be "rest."
Exodus 33:12-17 then powerfully explains the extent of Moses' appreciation for God and desire for God that should be modeled. The scriptures teach that Moses again swore that he would not go anywhere that would result in his separation from God's presence. Moses only wanted to be where the presence of God was. His desire for God's presence and grace was so great that he swore to remain in connection to God, apart from the world, so that others would have an accurate representation and understanding of God's gracious nature. Moses explained that if he were to separate himself from God's presence in any sort of way, the people around him (Jewish and Gentile alike) would not know that Moses had received God's grace, would not know that God gives grace, would not know that God's nature is gracious, and the people in turn would not really know who God is. Thus, it is one's connection to the presence of God (by His Word) that ensures one's witness of God as a gracious God.
One cannot simply say that God is gracious and expect others to understand the nature of God as gracious. The Bible explains through the testimony of Moses that the grace of God is demonstrated through the intimate relationship Moses had with the Creator of the universe. The grace of God is shown in that Moses, a mere man, was able to fellowship and learn from the Living God. The grace of God is shown in that a sinner was able to speak "face to face" with the Creator who is holy. These are truths that define the essence of unmerited favor. Moses had such a mature understanding of God's holiness, power, and grace, that he refused to separate himself from the presence of God, knowing that the witness he provided of God would not be accurate if he were disconnected from God. Hence, Moses vowed to be separate from the world in order to remain connected to the presence of God. Moses vowed to try to keep the Israelites separate from the ways of the world and the flesh in order to ensure the nation was portraying an accurate picture of the Living God who is holy. In this way, the Bible teaches that one's witness of God is dependent on one's knowledge of God's holiness, greatness, and graciousness. One's witness of God is dependent on one's understanding of God's identity, which one develops by seeking His face. One must seek to know the person of God, not just seek the rewards of God's works. Upon seeking God, one is able to know God as one knows a friend, and upon developing that relationship, one will naturally desire to please God by abiding in Him, staying connected to His presence, and ensuring that one's life is an accurate representation of who God really is. The way that one goes about developing the relationship that Moses had is through the Word of God - plain and simple.
The scriptures show that there are some tremendous benefits and rewards that come to those who trust in the Lord and pursue Him in humble obedience! The Bible reveals testimony after testimony of men and women in the Bible that are super blessed by the Lord as a result of their trust in Him in which the scriptures reveal that those people were genuinely fulfilled. In fact the Bible even teaches that it is impossible to please God unless one believes that God is a rewarder to those who diligently pursue Him. While one's pursuit of the Lord does come with difficulty, the Bible teaches that one's willingness to embrace and endure those difficulties is rewarded with satisfying peace!
In Exodus 33:8-11 the Bible explains the dynamics of God's relationship with the children of Israel after God moved outside of the camp. Since the Israelites rejected God and built up for themselves their own gods and idols according to their fleshly desires, the relationship that they had with God was significantly altered. The Bible explains that God told Moses He would be faithful to fulfill His promises, but He would do so from a greater distance than before. The sin of the people manufactured distance between God and His people. Thus, God dwelt in a small tent that Moses constructed as a tabernacle that was located outside of the camp.
The scriptures explain that even though God's relationship with the general population in Israel was altered, God's relationship with Moses was constant. Moses continued to stay faithful to the Lord. Moses continued to desire the Lord and sought to know God by meeting with Him. Moses continued to seek to live according to God's commandments and apart from sin for an example to the people. Moses continued to humbly approach the Lord seeking His mercy. Moses continued to focus on the eternally unconditional promises of God rather than chase after the desires of his own mind and habits. Consequently, the Bible explains that God continued to meet with Moses.
It is true that Moses had to travel a little farther to get to the Lord since the presence of the Lord moved outside of the camp, but Exodus 33:8-11 is sure to mention that Moses made the trips daily anyway. The people responded to the diligence of Moses. As Moses continued to pursue God, God continued to meet with Moses and the people began to demonstrate signs of repentance. The faithfulness of Moses provided two-fold benefit. Moses was able to be in the presence of the Lord, and the people began to follow in Moses' example. The Bible explains that the people would daily watch Moses as he ventured out to the tabernacle outside of the camp, and would see the presence of God reside over the tent while Moses was in it, and the people would humbly stay in front of their tents and worship God. The people observed the faith of Moses, respected his diligence, and in turn, honored God in worship. Since Moses desired for the children of Israel to have a relationship with God, it would have been rewarding for Moses to see the people worship the Lord in front of their homes rather than continue in their idolatry.
The Bible also shows that Joshua the son of Nun followed the example of Moses in a deeper way. Joshua was not content to worship from his tent. Instead, Joshua went with Moses to the tabernacle outside of the tent and went in with Moses. The Bible even explains that when Moses would leave the tent and return to the camp, Joshua would remain in the tabernacle. The Bible states that Joshua did not depart from the tabernacle. The reason why is that scripture reveals that when Moses went into the tabernacle, the Lord would meet with Moses "face to face as a man speaks to his friend." It wasn't just that God spoke from a distance to Moses or that God sent messages to Moses, but instead rewarded the faith of Moses by meeting with him as a friend. Joshua desired this same relationship and so never left the tabernacle in pursuit of it.
The scriptures teach that God created human beings with the intent to dwell with His people. God wanted to be intimately connected to His people in exclusive worship so that His people would learn of Him and know Him through a relationship based on reverent and fearful worship. The Bible teaches that the essence of eternal life is knowing God and being connected to Him through His Son. The essence of a "blessing" is in one's understanding of who God is. The road to peace and satisfaction lies within one's knowledge of God based on the method He chooses to reveal Himself by and one's willingness to pursue that revelation in humility and faith.
The blessing and reward that Moses received in the opportunity to speak to God "face to face." Moses had the intense privilege of speaking with the Creator of the universe! Moses spoke to the Maker of all things as one would speak with a friend! Moses was connected to the Living God that gives life to all things, that reigns supreme over all things, and that is almighty over all things through conversation. This means that Moses knew God well enough to recognize the sound of His voice and the rhythm of His language. Moses knew God well enough to recognize His habits and tendencies. Moses knew God well enough to recognize His holy and righteous nature. Moses knew God well enough to know that he needed God, the people needed God, and so Moses responded to the One he knew in a manner that allowed their relationship to thrive - humbly.
To some people, speaking to God is not very exciting. To some people, knowing the Creator is not as a fulfilling of an idea as some of the fleshly offers of vanity that the world promotes. Some people would rather go to man made cities of purposelessness than the kingdom of the Living God. Those people end up empty and sorely disappointed in regret. The scriptures teach that Moses understood the difference between the world's offerings and the consequences associated with rejecting God's offerings of grace. The rewards and opportunities that were given to Moses were evident so that the people stared at Moses every day as he was graciously privileged to speak with God. Joshua had such an understanding of Moses' rewards and blessings that he didn't even want to leave the tabernacle where God dwelt to speak with Moses. Thus, the Bible explains that in order to receive the benefits and rewards of God, one must have proper perspective in life through a focus on God and recognize the futility and emptiness that comes with the pursuit of man made ideas, concepts, philosophies, and products.
The Bible teaches that God is merciful and gracious. The Bible teaches that God is patient and long-suffering with His people. However, these truths do not mean that there is no affect or consequence towards God's people when they sin. There are very real and very dangerous consequences that come to those who sin, regardless of one's position in salvation. While the Bible does teach that God is merciful, gracious, patient, and loving, the Bible also teaches that God is holy and righteous. This means that God is separate from sin and will not connect Himself in anyway to sin. Thus, the Bible provides lesson after lesson, and illustration after illustration that sin separates people from God. Regardless of one's position in salvation, when sin is committed, there is distance put between mankind and God; especially when the sin is idolatry.
This reality is made vividly true in Exodus 33:1-7. The Bible explains that after the Lord told Moses that He would cause the people to pay for their wicked idolatry, God told the people that He wanted the tabernacle of meeting moved out of the camp. God told Moses that He would send His Angel before the people in order to prepare them to enter the Promised Land, but He would not dwell in the midst of the people as He did before. The idolatry of the people caused God to distance Himself from them. The idolatry of the people proved to God that the people desired other things and the appetites of their own flesh instead of Him. Thus, God gave the people over to their desires and distanced Himself from them.
Exodus 33:1-7 states that Moses moved outside of the camp of Israel, and considered his tent the tabernacle of meeting since that was where the Lord was speaking to the children of Israel. The Lord explained that He would not dwell with the people as the great consuming fire anymore. The Lord explained that He would not dwell as the cloud that led the people anymore. The idolatry of the people changed the dynamics of the relationship that the people had with God. Though God continued to make efforts to fulfill His promises, He would not be as closely connected to the people because of their choices. Though God promised to assure victory to the people over their enemies while overtaking the land, God would do so from a distance. As in the beginning when Adam decided that he wanted to satisfy his flesh rather than obey God, sin put distance between God and His people.
The scriptures provide a picture for the way that God would stay connected to His people in order to fulfill His promises. While His presence would not be observed through the fire and the cloud any longer, God assured the people that He would send His Angel. Recall that the reference to God's "Angel" is a reference to "the Angel of the Lord," which is an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ. The Bible shows that, while the presence of the Father was outside of the camp of Israel, God stayed in connection to His people to protect them, lead them, and fulfill His promises to them through His Angel, which is Jesus Christ. In this way, the mercy and grace of God is magnified!
Exodus 33:1-7 explains that the children of Israel were "stiff-necked" referring to their stubbornness, hardened hearts, unwillingness to listen, unwillingness to learn, and unwillingness to obey. The scriptures plainly state that God had the right to utterly destroy the children of Israel for the abominations that they committed with the golden calf. God was genuinely angry that the people desired their own ways that were destructive rather than His ways that were right, helpful, and good. The people were even humbled and shocked at the response of God that they took off all of their jewelry and pleaded with God to accompany them into the Promised Land. Yet God clearly communicated that the dynamics of their relationship were changed. Their lack of appreciation for God caused God to connect to the people in a different way. Yet still, God was willing to connect.
The Bible teaches that as Moses moved his tent outside of the camp and met with the presence of God there, some of the people went outside of the camp with Moses to meet with God. Some of the people recognized their mistake, and while God was farther away, they made efforts in humble repentance to seek the Lord and close the distance. God could easily be seen by all the people before the golden calf, but after, the people who desired God needed to make greater efforts to seek Him outside of the camp. It was not that God was unable to be sought, but that sin caused God to be distant making the quest to seek Him more laborious. The Lord would be present with the people through the Angel of God, but the power and magnitude of God would not be seen in the same way. God could not be seen in the same way as a result of idolatry.
Today, nothing has changed. Today the Living God is still connected to His people through the Angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Since sin separates the presence of the Father from His children, the Father gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes upon Him can look unto Him to see the Father. The presence of God can still be seen but it requires effort. The effort required is manifested when one denies one's self and one's flesh in order to pursue God through faith in Jesus by getting into the Word of God with a humble and repentant heart. This is why God seems so invisible to so many people. Should God show up as the consuming fire that was present on Mount Sinai, as with the children of Israel, all would know and all would fear. Yet sin separated God from His people so that God was forced to connect with His people in another way. Since God is faithful to fulfill His promises, He assures His people connection and life through that connection, but there is only one way to do so, and that is through the manner described in the Old Testament scriptures as well as the New Testament - through Jesus Christ.
It is true that the Lord brings discipline to His people. It is true that the Bible shows God pouring out judgment for the sins of people. It is also true that the Bible explains that God is fair in the amount of judgment He gives, and to whom He gives judgment to based on individual accountability. However, the Bible also always shows that God provides opportunities for forgiveness. God always provides an opportunity for repentance when He disciplines. The Bible teaches that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. Thus. the Bible shows that while God does discipline sin, He is always able to do so while offering His grace at the same time, which is what makes Him unique as God.
In Exodus 32:34-35 the Bible explains that God told Moses that the children of Israel would be individually accountable for their sins. As a holy and righteous God, He would have to judge the sins of the people when they fashioned and worshiped the golden calf. God could not let that wickedness go without consequence. Hence, The Lord told Moses that, while He might not completely destroy the people at that moment as He originally told Moses He would, the people would most certainly suffer the consequences of their bad decisions at some point in time. The Bible explains clearly that God did indeed plague the people because of their sin.
At the same time, the Bible also teaches that God provided grace to the people. The scriptures explains that God sent "His Angel" to go before the people. This is a reference to the Angel of the Lord, which is a reference to an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ. Though God stated that He would be fair to discipline the people for their mistakes and evil, He would also provide leadership and direction through the Messiah. Though God rejected Moses' offer of himself to sacrifice on behalf of the people, and told Moses that each person would be individually accountable for their actions, God provided a Leader for the people and an example for them to follow. God demanded righteousness, but He also provided a model in Jesus. God demanded repentance, but He also provided a focal point to pursue upon turning from sin. God would be just, but He would also be merciful and gracious to show the people an example of the type of conduct that He desired. Thus, God sent the Angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ, to go before the people.
It is important to recognize that, though God does have expectations that prove difficult to the flesh of His people, His expectations are not unreasonable and unfair being that He adequately provides all of the necessary tools and processes to meet His expectations. The reality is that the Bible teaches that God does all the work on behalf of His people. While it is difficult to be accountable to the Lord, the difficulty only lies within one's choice to die to self in order to pursue the tools that God provides that ensure spiritual success in His Son, His Spirit, and His Word. The only difficulty one really faces is whether one will deny the desires one has to do other things in order to pursue the Lord in His Word through faith. This is why God is fair to hold each person individually accountable. This is why God is fair to administrate fair discipline to each person that denies Him.
Since the children of Israel were well equipped to do that which God had commanded - wait - the children of Israel paid for their transgressions against God. Yet at the same time, the Lord provided His Son as an example of conduct for future generations so that the people could continue to be led towards the fulfillment of His eternally unconditional promises, even while enduring their discipline. In this way, one can see that, though God disciplines, He is always faithful to fulfill His promises and is able to facilitate both discipline and progress at the same time. His discipline is never at the expense of His promises. His progress is never at the expense of sanctification and discipline. Exodus 32:34-35 plainly shows that God is able to perfectly address both through His Servant, the Angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ!
The Bible teaches that God is a just and fair God. God makes it so that each person is individually accountable to Him. The wickedness of one person will not affect the salvation of another. Likewise, the salvation of another cannot save someone from their own wickedness if they refuse to repent and turn to Jesus in faith. The Bible teaches that each person will stand alone in judgment before the Living God to give an account for their own actions, decisions, speech, attitude, and general conduct. Each will be judged as an individual concerning one's response towards God's Word, and the Son of God. Though God expects His people to be compassionately engaged in the lives of others to lead them to salvation, it is ultimately up to each individual person to receive the gift of salvation that God desires to give.
In Exodus 32:30-33 the Bible teaches that Moses sought to intercede for the people. Upon learning of their worship of the golden calf and the extent of their wickedness in idolatry, Moses told the people to prepare themselves to be consecrated back unto the Lord. Moses sought to lead the people to repentance. The scriptures explain that Moses went to the Lord and pleaded for His mercy. The Bible explains that Moses humbly went to the Lord and sought atonement. Atonement is defined as reparations for wrongdoing. Hence, the Bible shows that sin requires atonement. Sin requires reparations. Sin incurs debt and that debt needs to be paid. Thus, Moses sought to do the noble thing and offer payment to God.
Exodus 32:30-33 explains that Moses sought the will of the Lord. He approached God by stating, "If you are willing to forgive the people, please do; but if not, please take me out of Your book rather than them." The Bible explains that as Moses tried to offer atonement and payment for the sins of the people, he courageously offered up himself as payment. Moses sought to sacrifice his own position with God in order to save the people from their judgment. As discussed in previous lessons, Moses was beginning to show the heart of the Living God, and this is a good illustration of that truth. Moses was willing to give himself up as payment for the sins of the people much like Jesus Christ ultimately did.
While the offer of Moses was noble and courageous, God did not accept his offer. The scriptures explain that God told Moses that those who sinned would pay for their own sin. God told Moses that each person was individually accountable for their actions. Though Moses demonstrated the heart of God to atone for the people, Moses could not atone for the people. The life of Moses was insufficient to please God concerning the sins of the people. The life of Moses was less in value compared to the extent of sin in Israel. In plain terms, the life of Moses was not good enough because while he was demonstrating the heart of God, he was still a man with a sinful nature. The Bible teaches that the only life that God was satisfied with to accept atonement was Jesus Christ because He was without sin as the Son of God.
This truth is sobering in a variety of ways. First, this lesson exalts the position of Jesus. Though the life of Moses was picturesque of the life of Jesus in many ways, Moses could never accomplish that which was reserved for the Son of God. Moses was a great man, but he was not the Son of Man. So while Moses had a merciful and sacrificial heart, his life was insufficient to meet the demands of the Living God in perfection. This brings about the second powerful point. As pure as Moses' intentions were, they were not good enough to please God. This proves the point that the Bible explains throughout - that it is impossible to please God without Christ. No matter how good a person might think themselves to be, God does not accept any form of righteousness that is not His own; and His own righteousness is only imparted unto those who trust in the identity and purpose of Jesus Christ in repentance. Moses was "the Lawgiver" and even he could not produce enough of himself to please God on the behalf of others. There is only one sacrifice that God will accept.
This brings about the third point of this scripture. No matter the quality of one's sacrifice, God will only accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, of which every person is individually accountable to either accept or reject. The salvation of one person cannot be imparted unto another person to save them. Each person is individually accountable to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. The faith of a mother cannot save her son. The faith of a daughter cannot save her brother. When each stands before the Living God in judgment, there is only one advocate that God will accept on behalf of the individual, and that advocate is Jesus Christ. Thus, each person is responsible for their own decisions. Each person is responsible for how time is spent either chasing idols and false gods or pursuing love by seeking the Living God by His Word through faith in Jesus. Exodus 32:30-33 explains that there is only two sides to the coin. There are those who refuse to repent from their sin that will be blotted out of the Book of Life, and there are those that God considers righteous because of their repentant faith in Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah. Only those who take individual responsibility for their own faith will remain in the Book of Life and receive the salvation that Jesus died to freely offer.
There are a lot of people that look at the condition of the world and seek to criticize God for the hardships that exist in it. There are many who have the misconception that God's "love" and "mercy" should entitle mankind to life without consequence for disobedience. It is not uncommon to see people lash out at God when unfortunate circumstances arise that appear to be inhumane in unjust. Yet the Bible explains that those who genuinely seek the Lord and know the Lord have no disagreement with the ways that the Lord responds towards people. Those who really know the Lord should have well refined understandings of His love and grace so that when tragedy does arise, the people of God understand that all sin has a consequence, and never waver on the position that God's way is always the right way. The Bible shows that the people of God that genuinely seek God see things the ways God does, even though they might not fully understand God's work.
In Exodus 32:15-29 the Bible explains that Moses made efforts to depart from Mount Sinai and rejoin the people at the base of the mountain. Since God had forewarned him of the sinful activity and idol worship that was taking place, Moses took the stone tablets that God wrote His Law upon and went back down the mountain. The scriptures explain that as Moses and his men got closer to the bottom there was a great noise. The scriptures explain that Joshua thought the people were at war because the noise was so loud. Moses had to correct Joshua and immediately recognized that the noise the men heard was music.
Upon getting to the base of the mountain, the Bible explains Moses immediately saw the people committing the perverse acts that were previously described. The people were celebrating wickedness and darkness without shame. Moses sought out Aaron who was left in charge of the people and questioned him. The scriptures candidly reveal that Aaron would not take responsibility for his actions and mistakes but sought to cast blame on the people and make excuses. This was the man that God appointed to serve as the first high priest. The Bible explains that Aaron referred to the people as being "set on evil" as if he were excluded from that group. The Bible explains that Aaron confessed to collecting the gold from the people, but when he put the gold in the fire, the golden calf the people were worshiping magically assembled itself. Aaron refused to take responsibility for being the one that fashioned the idol. Essentially, Aaron tried to make it seem as if the circumstances were out of his control though he was the one appointed to keeping the people in control.
It is important to recall the temperament of God when the children of Israel began to make efforts to worship their idol. Recall that God was incredibly angry and wanted to pour out His wrath upon the people. Recall that the wrath of God was perfectly checked and regulated since God stated He would not bring judgment at the expense of the promises He previously made to Abraham, and ultimately did not pour out His wrath at all. Knowing this, one must examine the contrast and the similarities of Moses' response. First, the response of Moses towards the wickedness of the people resembles his response in the flesh. The Bible explains that Moses' anger "grew hot" so that when Moses saw the wickedness taking place, he immediately smashed the two tablets of God's Law that scripture stated God authored Himself, and penned Himself with His own finger. In other words, the anger of Moses grew so hot that he destroyed the work of the Living God. The scriptures also state that Moses took the golden calf, put it in the fire, melted it, ground it up into powder, and put that powder into water at which point he forced the people to drink it!
The Bible explains that after Moses delivered his brand of justice, he called for the people to make a choice. He told the people to decide whether they were going to follow God or not. The scriptures testify that the Levites made their declaration of faith, humility, and regret by siding with Moses. At this point in scripture, the Bible explains that Moses had a change of heart compared to the heart he had when he pleaded on behalf of the children of Israel while on the mountain. Exodus 32:15-29 explains that Moses commanded the Levites to take up swords and go into the camp of the Israelites. Moses gave the command to go into the tents of the people and kill "their brothers, companions, and neighbors," in which he was specifically referring to those who were facilitators of the idol worship. Scripture is candid to reveal that about 3,000 people were killed that day!
While Moses pleaded with God to forgive Israel and relent from His wrath, the Bible explains that upon seeing the things that God saw, Moses agreed with God that the people should be judged by death. The mercy that Moses pleaded for was not shown when Moses saw that which God had first seen. Upon learning of the sinful activity, the extent of it, and seeing life from the perspective of God, Moses agreed with God that the people should be judged, and about 3,000 people died that day. The scriptures reveal that since all of Israel sinned, those who were spared were to prepare themselves to publically confess their sin and repent from their wrongdoing in order to beg for the mercy of God. The actions of Moses show that, though he had a noble desire to seek mercy with the heart of God before, upon seeing things as God sees them, Moses continued to demonstrate the heart of God and show that the wages of sin is certainly death. Moses might have had a hard time digesting the response of God before, but when he examined sin in its shameless form, he was in complete agreement with God concerning judgment. Thus, those who seek the Lord, desire Him, and know Him ultimately end up thinking like He does according to His righteousness and fairness.
The Bible explains that God desires mercy instead of sacrifice from His people. The Bible explains that when a person comes to the Lord in faith and receives the Spirit of God, the purpose is so that the believer will be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ through sanctification, thereby allowing one to be able to demonstrate the qualities of the Living God, including mercy. Therefore, the scriptures reveal that God imparts Himself unto His people with the expectation that His people would reflect His own character and nature. Knowing this, one can examine the testimonies of scripture to see that, once God imparts His Spirit or teaches His people about Himself, He will then facilitate circumstances and opportunities for His people to demonstrate His qualities, which in turn, results in His glory.
An example of the Lord doing this sort of thing is found in Exodus 32:11-14. In this portion of scripture, the Bible explains that Moses responded candidly to the Lord upon learning of Israel's sin and God's plan to destroy the people. In Exodus 32:11-14 the Bible explains that Moses pleaded on behalf of the people. Moses asked the Lord why His wrath was burning against the people to the degree that God desired to wipe out the people. Moses' follow up response to that explains that Moses was concerned for the reputation of God. Moses pleaded with the Lord to refrain from pouring out His wrath on the people, not because the people deserved to live, but so that the surrounding nations would not be able to criticize God. Moses expressed that he didn't want God to give the Egyptians a chance to speak inappropriately against God. Moses didn't want it to seem like God took the children of Israel out of Egypt in order to destroy them in the wilderness. Moses didn't want to give the people any excuse to be able to speak harshly against God. The scriptures explain that Moses was extremely concerned about the reputation of God, and how people examined the work of God.
The scriptures also reveal that Moses mentioned the promises that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when he was pleading with God to spare the children of Israel. Though Moses pleaded with God to show the people mercy, the arguments of Moses show that he was more concerned about God's own faithfulness rather than the well being of the people. This is not to say that Moses didn't care about the people, but instead that Moses felt God's wrath would negatively affect the way people perceived God, and Moses didn't want that. Moses knew God was faithful and wanted to make sure that there weren't any circumstances that allowed people to make a contrary argument. Moses reminded God about the promises He made to Abraham because Moses was thinking about the promises. Moses had his mind set on the eternally unconditional promises of God rather than circumstances of this life. Moses desired the promises of God. Moses wanted God to be seen as faithful and merciful, so Moses pleaded with God to be faithful and merciful for the benefit of the surrounding nations that were watching the children of Israel from a distance.
Exodus 32:11-14 provides a very difficult phrase to explain the response of God towards Moses' plea for mercy. The Bible explains that God "relented from the harm" that He originally planned to unleash on the people. The KJV of the Bible says that God "repented from the evil" that He intended to pour out. There are two problems that arise when trying to interpret the language of God's response towards Moses. First, the KJV makes it sound like God planned on doing evil, which sounds like a contradiction to the teaching that God is perfectly righteous and holy. The original Hebrew word that is translated into "evil" in the English version of the King James Bible refers generally to harm, unhappiness, hurtful, distress, misery, and injury. Each of these things could be classified as "evil" depending on the perspective of the person. However, considering the contextual usage of the word, one must see that the "evil" the original language intended to refer to was the harm, distress, misery, and injury that God planned on delivering towards the people. The people rejected the favor of God, and God expressed that there is severe consequences associated with those who do such. In fact, the use of the English word "evil" helps the point of Moses in that God's wrath can be perceived as negative and comparable to the evil of the flesh of sinners, which was why Moses pleaded against God responding such a way.
The second challenge that arises when interpreting God's response to Moses is that the use of the word "relent" or "repent" in the KJV makes it seem as if it is possible to change the mind, heart, and intents of God. One's separation of the word from the context can make it seem as if one can redirect God's plan if one can present a compelling argument. This is not true and never has been. The scriptures do not teach that this is possible. One must examine the response of God in the full context of the Book of Exodus, especially concerning the calling and purpose of Moses. When examining the response of Moses towards the wrath of God, and then God's response towards Moses, one must remember that God wanted to reveal Himself to His people - especially Moses. God called Moses from the burning bush and revealed Himself as Yahweh. God delivered the children of Israel from the Egyptians and revealed Himself as the Lord God Almighty and the Lord Their Banner. God led the people through the wilderness and provided bread and water for the people to reveal Himself as The Lord Who Provides and the Lord Who Heals. The Lord gave Moses the Law to demonstrate and teach His own righteousness compared to the sinful nature of the people and thereby revealed Himself as the Lord Who Sanctifies. The reason that God revealed Himself in these ways was because God wanted the people to desire Him and be focused on Him, allowing Him to purge sin from the people and draw them to Himself to fulfill His promises to the people.
When Moses pleaded His case for the children of Israel, Moses demonstrated that He desired God to have a good and honest reputation amongst the surrounding nations. Moses desired the people to recognize the true nature of God as holy and did not want to leave an opportunity for God to be misunderstood or misrepresented. Moses showed that he was dedicated to keeping the name of God pure and holy and was against the idea of it being profaned in any way. Thus, the mercy that Moses pleaded for on behalf of the people was simply the affects of his desire to revere the Lord, honor Him, exalt Him, and keep His name pure. The words and motives of Moses explain that he had learned from the revelation of God and was beginning to manifest God's own qualities as a result. Moses desired the fulfillment of God's promises more than the desires of his flesh. Moses desired God to be exalted before the people more than idols. Moses desired mercy instead of sacrifice just like God.
Since the Book of Exodus shows God orchestrating circumstances that allow for the revelation of His character and nature, one must interpret the response of God's desire to bring wrath against the people in the same light. In other words, God told Moses He was going to destroy the people in order to provoke the response that Moses provided, which was a reflection of God's own characteristics. When God communicated to Moses that He was going to destroy the people, it allowed Moses to testify that he was being changed by the Word of God and beginning to resemble the heart of God. The mention of God's wrath provided the platform for Moses to prove his sanctification. Thus, it is not that God was ever going to destroy the people - especially when one considers His eternally unconditional promises. Instead, the mention of wrath allowed Moses the chance to respond in God's own merciful way showing that the revelation of God through the Book of Exodus was indeed having a sanctifying affect on Moses!
God's "repentance" does not refer to the same type of repentance that sinners must undergo in order to turn to the Lord. Instead, God's "repentance" refers to God's willingness to withdraw His wrath because of His examination of the heart of Moses. This is critically important to understand since this testimony serves to explain the method by which salvation comes through Jesus. Moses represents a picture of Jesus. The Bible teaches that Jesus is God in flesh and is one with the Father. Thus, the words, actions, and motives of Jesus represent the heart of the Living God in the most accurate of ways. Jesus even explained that he who has seen Him has seen the Father. Thus, when Jesus died as an atoning sacrifice on behalf of all sinners to offer the mercy of God, Jesus perfectly represented the true heart of God. He desires mercy. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance; and the death of Jesus Christ is what allows this to be possible. In the same way, Moses' plea for the people served as atonement. The righteous heart of Moses was sufficient to God to relent from His wrath against the people because the heart of Moses was a reflection of God's own heart - much in the same way as Jesus. The reason that Jesus' sacrifice was acceptable to God was because the heart and spirit of Jesus was a reflection of the heart and spirit of God. Thus, God's initial claim to "wrath" was simply provided in order to inspire His own heart to be manifested and communicated through Moses. In response, God showed that He is pleased when one is motivated to please God, with a focus on God, having the heart of God through sanctification by the Word of God; and God is willing to save many on account of the one who is righteous just as He did with Jesus.
Though God is merciful and gracious, the Bible shows that God does get angry. Though God is love, the Bible teaches that God is jealous for His people and will respond in wrath against that which tries to take His people away. Though God is patient, the Bible teaches that God is patient with sinners, but intolerant towards sin. The Bible is clear to communicate that God is perfectly righteous and holy, but must deal with sin and is willing to do so in ways that are right and fair. It is important that the people of God recognize the full character of God as presented in scripture. The Bible does not teach that the grace of God is a pass for the people of God to live in sin under the unwavering umbrella of forgiveness. God examines the hearts of His people and is able to perfectly discern those who legitimately seek Him for change to depart from sin verses those who outwardly proclaim to be His people while inwardly desiring the things of the devil more. The Bible teaches that God will judge and does pour out His wrath. Thus, it is critical for the people of God to recognize the things that cause the Lord to get to that level of discipline.
In Exodus 32:7-10 the Bible explains that God responded to Moses on Mount Sinai about the wickedness that was happening at the base of the mountain with Aaron and the rest of the children of Israel. God exercised His omnipresence and His omnipotence to tell Moses about the things that were taking place amongst the people while Moses was speaking with God on top of the mountain. God told Moses that the people were doing wicked and corrupted things. God told Moses about the golden calf that the people had built. God told Moses that the people were worshiping the product of their own creation. God told Moses that the people were offering sacrifices to their idol. God told Moses that the people had quickly betrayed Him and considered their own manufactured deity to have taken the place of Him. God told Moses that He saw the people, heard the people, and was ready to respond to the people.
It is interesting to note that while the people believed Moses and God had abandoned them, God was tuned into the speech and activity of the people the whole time. Exodus 32:7-10 reveals that God heard every blasphemous word of the people as they revealed their true hearts about God. The scriptures reveal that God was well informed about the plans of the Israelites to worship the calf. The scriptures reveal that God was well informed about the plans of the Israelites to sacrifice to the calf. The scriptures reveal that God was well informed about the words of the Israelites that revealed they desired a molded cow to be their god more than Yahweh. Exodus 32:7-10 uses specific language to explain that God even saw what the people were doing. Hence, the scriptures reveal that, though the people could not see or hear God at the time, He was 100% engaged and attentive to the people. While the people felt they were getting away with false god worship and idolatry, God was observing the conduct of the people, taking notes, and making preparations to respond.
The scriptures explain that God referred to His own people as "stiff-necked." This is an important phrase that God uses to describe His people throughout the Bible. The term means exactly what it seems like it might mean. One that has a stiff neck is one that has a hard time turning one's head to change direction. In spiritual terms, one that has a "stiff neck" is one that is reluctant to repent. One that has a "stiff neck" is one that refuses to turn from one's sinful habits. One that has a "stiff neck" is one that is stubborn to flee from sin in spite of the favor and warnings that God offers. The Bible explains that the people of God are "stiff-necked" for all of these reasons. The people of God are reluctant to repent, often refuse to turn from destructive and sinful habits, are stubborn to consider and obey the righteous commands and warnings of God, and are foolish to reject the favor that God offers. Understanding these truths, one must consider that God will only tolerate so much. One must consider that God will only be patient for so long. God will only allow His people to be "stiff-necked" for so long before He engages in a response against the sin that His people demonstrate.
Though God does respond in wrath, and made preparations to do so in Exodus 32:7-10, it is important to realize that God's wrath is perfectly controlled and calculated. The Bible teaches that as God witnessed the people profane His name and reject His favor, He prepared to destroy the people, but also stated that He would fulfill the promises made to Abraham through Moses. Though God was angry and was prepared to deliver His wrath, the Bible explains that God was still considering His eternally unconditional promises to Abraham. Though God was ready to wipe out the children of Israel that were disobedient and wicked, He told Moses that He would make the children of Israel a "great nation" through him. God would not deliver wrath and judgment at the expense of His eternally unconditional promises. God would not allow His anger to consume Him so that His promises were compromised. Though God judges sin and disciplines His people in anger, He does not do so at the expense of His own faithfulness. God is careful to ensure that sin is appropriately and fairly judged according to the sinner without affecting those He considers righteous and without affecting His own faithfulness and promises.
There are places in the Bible that if one considers the words that are written and really meditate on them, can be convicting and really cut to the heart - and rightly so. Those parts of the Bible usually come in places where God shows incredible favor to people and then those very people essentially spit in the face of God to reject His favor. If there is any mystery about God, it is His patience because the Bible shows that God should have destroyed all people long ago based on how people have responded to the favor He sought to give. The difficulty is to realize that all people are guilty of treating God this way. All people deny the Lord God Almighty on a daily basis. It is important to recognize this reality and repent from it rather than test the patience that God already displays.
There is an example of this principal in Exodus 32:1-6. In this portion of scripture the Bible documents the activity of the children of Israel while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Law of God. Moses had been on Mount Sinai for several months, and the people started to get restless. The Bible explains that, though the presence of God was still on the mountain as a consuming fire, the people had grown accustomed to the presence of God that made them tremble and fear at first. After a few months, the people were desensitized to the supernatural activity that took place at the base of Mount Sinai. The Bible explains that the people gathered together in order to figure out what to do, assuming Moses was not coming back. Though the people initially responded with emotion and fear and vowed to do as God said, they sought Aaron to make and create false gods to worship instead of God. The Bible explains that the people had forgotten Yahweh in just a few months and had already desired for something else.
Exodus 32:1-6 explains that the people wanted a god to be made. The Bible teaches that the hearts of the people were not seeking the Living God, but instead desired another god to follow. Though God had revealed His hand through the plagues against Egypt, in the parting of the Red Sea, through victories against other enemies in the wilderness, and through supernatural nourishment by bread from heaven and water from rocks, the people wanted something else. The Bible explains that the children of Israel cried out to God for 430 years. In that time of complaining and agony while in bondage to Egypt, no other god responded because no other god is able. The scriptures plainly document that Yahweh responded at exactly the time He previously said He would. God did exactly what He promised to do. God fulfilled His promises because He is the only One that is able. Nevertheless, the children of Israel attributed the miracles in Egypt to Moses, not God, so that when Moses did not return according to their impatient timeline, the people decided to ditch God and find another.
Though Yahweh made the gods of Egypt look foolish and as vain as they were, the people wanted to create a god of their own to follow. What kind of god is created by the hands of men? Though Yahweh led the children of Israel out of the house of bondage, the children of Israel wanted to make new gods that they could follow. The people told Aaron that they wanted to make a good that could "go before them." How does a god fashioned by the hands of mortal men lead anyone? Though Yahweh had proven Himself to be the Lord God Almighty, the people found Him insufficient according to their own desires and foolish ways and so sought to create something of their own according to their own liking.
Exodus 32:1-6 explains that as the people came to Aaron the high priest, the second in command over the people of Israel, they presented these foolish ideas to him and he accepted them. Though Aaron was supposed to point the people back to God, he agreed to make a false god out of gold for the people. Though Yahweh was instructing Moses on the mountain about the holy purpose of Aaron, he was in the process of collecting gold earrings and trinkets to make a false and fake god for the Israelites. The scriptures explain that, though God had supernaturally provided for the people, they willingly gave up their possessions to Aaron so that he could hand-craft a golden calf for the people to worship. Though God was the reason that the people lived, the people sacrificed, gave offerings, and worshiped a statue made by Aaron instead. The people worshiped the affects of their own efforts though the history of the people revealed the truth about how miserable their own efforts were. The people freely gave of themselves, even their own expensive possessions, in order to exalt and worship a molded cow.
The Bible teaches that when Aaron finished forming his version of a god, he presented it to the people and said, "This is your go, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt." Upon reading this statement, one must recall the works and affection that God showed the people when He delivered them from Egypt. God instituted the Passover feast in order to remind the people that salvation has a cost. God took the lives of the firstborn of all of Egypt to demonstrate the magnitude of cost involved in salvation, yet the people worshiped a calf formed by the hands of a simple man like Aaron, and attributed the work of Yahweh to the product of Aaron's hands! The audacity of mankind is absolutely incredible sometimes. The patience of the Living God is even more incredible at these times. The Bible explains that the people took their new god, considered it to be real, gave sacrifices to it, at, drank, rose up, and "played." The word that is used in Exodus 32:1-6 to describe the "playing" of the people is one that is most often translated into the English word "laugh" and "mock." As the people praised the creation of their calf and considered it a god, they laughed at the true Living God and mocked Him.
It is sad to see the scriptures describe God's own people treat Him with so much inconsideration. It is sad to see the people of God, who were so fortunate to watch the hand of God do so much, simply spit in the face of God, mocking Him through the worship of false gods. God's own people complained against the provision that He gave, then rejoiced over the creation of their own hands to worship a figure that was fake and unable to do anything. The people felt they had created their own leader. They were wrong. The people felt they had created their own god that had equal ability to Yahweh. They were wrong. The people felt they had exalted themselves through their own ideas and materialism. They were wrong. The people felt they had fulfilled themselves in their eating, drinking, and "playing." They were wrong. The people had denied, rejected, and mocked the life that the Living God had given, yet God patiently and mercifully allowed them to live - even facilitating the ability they had to mock Him.
It is tragic and difficult to see the God who provides so much favor treated so terribly. Yet the sad truth is that God has been treated this way since the beginning. Nothing has changed much. Today people still rejoice over the creations of their own hands regardless of how purposeless and unable they are. People still seek to be led by that which cannot lead. People still seek to exalt themselves over the affects of their own vanity. People still mock God by freely giving of themselves and their possessions to that which is false, profane, and blasphemous. Yet here the people remain alive on this planet - daily receiving the mercy of God. Sadly, all are guilty of this mentality. This is the nature of all flesh and blood and is the core essence of sin. This is the issue that God desires to deal with in repentance. God wants people to turn from this way of living in order to live. God wants people to turn from this foolish way of thinking in order to enjoy the benefits of the salvation, blessings and other favor He desires to give. God knows that the affects of the hands of human beings is worthless. God knows the results of what happens when people put hope and trust into things that aren't real or unable. God wants to protect His people from the destruction that comes with the worship of false gods, idols, and people. God is patient with people, allowing them plenty of opportunity to recognize error, seek Him for forgiveness and rely on Him to repent. One would be wise to embrace the patience and mercy of God, knowing one's nature, seeking His forgiveness, and turning from the worship of that which will lead to utter destruction and desolation.