Day Twenty Six — Thursday

Kneeler 74

Exodus 32

The Lord said to Moses, "Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely;
8 they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!"
9 The Lord said to Moses, "I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are.
10 Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation."

11 But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, "O Lord, why does your wath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
12 Why should the Egyptians say, 'It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people.
13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, 'I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'"

14 And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

and here, a tantalising excerpt fromAvivah Zornberg:

"The problem of idolatry, then, becomes a problem of dependence, in which both the divine power and human power are travestied. The terror of Sinai, the consuming fire on the mountain, was the terror of the face-to-face relation of God and the human. ("Face to face, God spoke to you" [Deut 5:4] In order to sustain such a relation, it is, as C.S. Lewis suggests, necessary tohave a face. The implications of this will be the subject of our exploration of the Golden Calf episode.

At this point, however, we may say both that the face is the most exposed, public portion of the self and that it bears a unique trace of inwardness. The ordeal of the face is that it must meet the gaze of other faces without betraying the truth of its own gaze. The Golden Calf narrative begins with an act of seeing ("And the people saw that Moses was delayed…") and ends with an act of seeing ("The Israelites saw that the skin of Moses' face was radiant" [34:30]). Between these two moments, the potential of faces meeting, of seeing and not seeing, is the complex theme of the narrative of idolatry."

Avivah Zornberg 2001The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus 404 Image/Doubleday New York

St Philip's Anglican Church,
cnr Moorhouse and Macpherson Streets, O'Connor, ACT 2602.