31 So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” Exodus 32:31-32
In Exodus 32, there are two extremes that, for me, anyway, kind of define the parameters of what it means to be a minister of the gospel.
On one hand, you’ve got Moses going all Liam Neeson on the idolaters. He calls the sons of Levi to himself, tells them to strap a sword on their side and go to and fro throughout the camp, killing all who had bowed to the golden calf. About 3,000 people died that day. And while the Aaronic priesthood had already been established, this seems to have been the defining moment that set aside the tribe of Levi as priests. Verse 29 says, “Today you have been ordained for the service of the Lord.”
That is hardcore. I know its been twenty-five years since my ordination and my memory may be fuzzy, but I am quite sure I did not strap on a sword and go to and fro through the city of Kingsport, Tennessee, smiting idolaters.
And yet, just a few verses later, Moses intercedes for the people. He acknowledges their sin before the Lord, and concludes his prayer with a stunning request: “And now, if you will, forgive their sin. But if not, please blot ME out of your book.” (v 32)
For all of us–God’s kingdom of priests–the line we walk is that we are to value God’s name above God’s people. God’s name and renown are to be THE desire of my heart (Isaiah 26:8) and I should be so zealous for his glory that I oppose every false teaching.
At the same time, we are to esteem others above ourselves. I have to be so broken for lost and rebellious people that I would wish my name to be blotted out of the book for the sake of their salvation. Exodus 32 is an incredible picture of uncompromising zeal and unbelievable compassion. And that’s the heart of a minister.