“The Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people” (Exodus 32:14)
We need always to be careful we do not read Scripture through the lenses of our theology or biases. This passage does not say that He would not exact full penalty against those who sinned. The last few verses of the chapter emphasise that (vv 33-35). That which God relented of was the manner of execution which would mean the end of the genealogy through Israel’s (Jacob’s) twelve sons. Jacob had prophesied concerning his sons and among other things he had prophesied that kings would come from Judah’s descendants and One would be King forever.
Moses’ appeal to the Abrahamic Covenant was much more than to just land promises and Abraham having a multitude of physical descendants.
We note that God had distanced Himself from (v 7) and disowned (v 10) Israel because of their sin. However following Moses’ plea on the basis of the Abrahamic Covenant He again identifies Himself with Israel (v 14). This must have been sweet to the ears of Moses. Only when he had heard this was Moses prepared to leave God’s presence and go down to the people. Possibly the first thing most of us would want to do is go and accuse the people and maybe then return to God and seek mercy and forgiveness. Moses obtained forgiveness for the people before they were convicted of their sin.
We would do well to notice that at no time does God deal lightly with sin. It should also be noted that even though God forgave Israel’s “great sin” He had the tabernacle erected “outside the camp” (33:7) instead of in their midst.
God cannot overlook corporate sin in the church or personal sin or He would not be Holy and just. Sin in the church will put Jesus Christ outside the church and no longer in the midst.
Periodically there is a call to Israel “Who is on the Lord’s side” (v 26). The Lord is never on our side but He knows the need to frequently ask if we are on His side.
God is God and we will not avert judgment by pleading ignorance, blaming another or applying something that appears spiritual to our sinful ways. If we are not careful we may find ourselves offering a sacrifice to the Lord that is an abomination to Him.
Our appeal to Him will only be successful when based on Jesus Christ’s atonement by His shed blood on the cross.