Forgiving is a choice that depends on what God wants.
After the Israelites made a gold calf to worship as a god, Moses knew they deserved punishment. Yet Moses did not wait to hear how God would punish them. He at once pleaded for God to forgive the Israelites. He said, “…if you will only forgive their sin” (Exodus 32:32). Now it might seem like a simple conclusion, that God can forgive sin. But the request of Moses tells us much more. The request of Moses tells us God can forgive sin. But whether he forgives sin or not depends on his will. For Moses says, “if you will,” not “since you must.” This means God’s act to forgive is not because of an obligation, but because he wants to. But one might say “God is bound to forgive those who sin by his very nature.” Yet if this were so, no one would go to hell. Since God knows all the actions of people, he would know of all the sins people. In this case, hell would be unnecessary if God had to forgive sin. For all sins would be forgiven. To be sure, God made the road to forgiveness easier with Jesus Christ. Still, God does not have to forgive sin. The request of Moses shows us God can either forgive sin or not. This is what the “if” implies. So Moses knew it was God’s choice whether to forgive Israel. Moses knew forgiveness was not a given.