During the Exodus, the people of Israel were constantly testing God and complaining against Him and His servant Moses. In fact, we see this happen twice in the chapters immediately preceding our reading. In chapter 32, we read about how the Israelites worshipped the golden calf, leading Moses to command the Levites to kill three thousand of their own people (Exodus 32:25-30). And then, in chapter 33, the people grumbled that they had to go to the land of Canaan, where many hostile nations dwelt, even though God had said He would drive the peoples out before them. This led God to tell them, “You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you” (Exodus 33:1-6, esp. v. 5).
Yet despite this, God continued to affirm His covenant faithfulness to Israel, as we see in our reading. Despite their stiff-neckedness, He was ready to forgive them and relent in His anger if they were only willing to repent and return to His ways. We see a recurring pattern throughout the Old Testament wherein the Israelites would rebel and receive chastisement from God, and then they would repent and God would remove their chastisement from them.
We also see how Moses was willing to act as a mediator between God and His people. Whenever God threatened to punish the Israelites, Moses would appeal to Him, and He would show mercy to the people. In this way, Moses served as a type of Christ. Whereas Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant, Christ is is the mediator of the New Covenant.
Moreover, His mediation is much more perfect, because He is sinless and perfect, whereas Moses was not. Hebrews calls Him the great High Priest, whose sacrifice takes away all sin once and for all (Hebrews 9-10). If God was willing to show great mercy even to the Israelites, who had an imperfect mediator, how much more willing is He to show even greater mercy to us, who have a perfect one.
This Trinity Sunday, we rejoice that we have a greater and more perfect Mediator, who is none other than the second person of the Holy Trinity. We can thus affirm, along with Hebrews: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)
J. Luis Dizon