Why God helps his people
1 Moses said:
Listen, Israelites! You will soon go across the Jordan river. You will chase away the people who live there in large cities with very high walls around them. Those nations of people are greater and stronger than you are. 2 You know about the Anakites who live there. They are strong and tall. You have heard people say, ‘No one can fight against the Anakites and win.’
3 But you must understand this: The Lord your God is leading you across the river. He is like a fire that destroys everything! He will win against your enemies. He will give you power over them. Then you will chase them away and remove them quickly. The Lord has promised you that this will happen.
4 The Lord your God will chase them away. After he has done that, be careful! Do not say to yourselves, ‘The Lord has brought us into this land because we do right things.’
No! It is because these nations are doing wicked things. That is why the Lord is chasing them out of the land so that you can live there. 5 It is not because you are doing right things. It is not because you are good, honest people. That is not the reason that you will take their land for yourselves. Instead, it is because these nations are wicked people. That is why the Lord your God will chase them away as you move in there. He will do what he promised to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 You must understand this. The Lord your God is not giving you this good land to live in because you are doing right things. No! You are proud people who do not want to obey me.
The gold calf
7 Remember how you made the Lord your God angry when you were in the desert. Never forget that! Since you left Egypt, you have always turned against the Lord your God. You have continued to make him angry all the time until you arrived here. 8 When you were at Mount Sinai you made him angry enough to destroy you. 9 I climbed the mountain to meet with the Lord. I received the two flat stones with the covenant that he had made with you. I stayed there for 40 days and nights. During that time, I did not eat or drink anything. 10 Then the Lord gave the two flat stones to me. He had written all his commands on the stones with his own finger. The Lord spoke those commands to you from middle of the fire. That was on the day when you all came together at the mountain.
11 After those 40 days and nights, the Lord gave me the two flat stones. They had his covenant on them. 12 Then the Lord said to me, ‘Now go down the mountain! The people that you led out of Egypt have done something very bad. They have already refused to obey my commands. They have used gold to make an idol for themselves.’
13 The Lord also said to me, ‘I know what these people are like! They are proud people who do not want to obey me. 14 Keep away from me! I will now destroy them! Then no one on the earth will remember them at all. Instead, Moses, I will make your descendants into nation that is stronger and larger than they are.’
15 So I turned and I went down the mountain. It was still burning with fire. I held the two stones with the covenant on them in my hands. 16 When I looked, I saw that you had made an image of a calf as your idol. You really had done a very bad thing. You had quickly stopped doing the things that the Lord your God had commanded you to do sinned. 17 When I saw that, I threw the two flat stones down on to the ground. I broke them into pieces while you watched.
18 Then I again fell down with my face on the ground, to pray to the Lord. I did that for 40 days and nights. I did not eat or drink anything. You had done an evil thing which caused the Lord to be very angry. 19 I prayed, because the Lord had said that he would destroy you. He was so angry with you that I was very afraid. But the Lord listened to me this time too.
20 The Lord was also angry with my brother Aaron. He wanted to kill Aaron. But at that time, I prayed for Aaron too.
21 When you made that idol, it was a sin that you did. So I took that gold calf and I burned it in the fire. Then I beat it into powder, like dust. I threw the powder into a stream that ran down from the mountain.
22 After that, you also caused the Lord to be angry with you at Taberah, at Massah and at Kibroth-Hattaavah. 23 When the Lord sent you out from Kadesh-Barnea, he said, ‘Go into the land that I have given to you and live there.’ But you turned against the Lord your God. You refused to trust him or obey him. 24 You have refused to obey the Lord ever since I have known you.
25 So I lay down on the ground for those 40 days and nights. I prayed to the Lord because he had said that he would destroy you.
26 I prayed this prayer: ‘Lord our Lord, do not destroy your people! They belong to you as your special people. You used your great power and strength to rescue them from Egypt. 27 Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Do not think about these proud people who are so wicked. Please forgive their sins. 28 If you destroy your people, the Egyptians will say, “The Lord could not take them into the land that he promised to give to them. Instead, he took them into the desert so that he could kill them there. He did this because he hated them!”
29 Please remember that they belong to you as your own special people. You used your strength and your power to rescue them.’