Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’
“I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.
“Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.”
When the people heard this sad word, they went into mourning, and none of them put on his ornaments.
For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the sons of Israel, ‘You are an obstinate people; should I go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you. Now therefore, put off your ornaments from you, that I may know what I shall do with you.’ ”
So the sons of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward. (Exodus 33:1-6)
Even God needs to count to ten sometimes. After Moses had gone to get the Ten Commandments the first time, he returned to discover that the people, with Aaron, his brother’s help, had built for themselves golden calves to worship. God was angry, but he promised that he’d fulfill the promises to the Israelites. He’d send an angel to get rid of the troubling inhabitants of Canaan. But God was so furious he didn’t want to travel with them himself, because if he went with them he might destroy them all. So God told them to mourn while he considered what he was ultimately going to do with them. God needed time alone to consider his options.
Mourning was an appropriate response to sin, because in sinning we harm ourselves—the people whom God loves. It made God unhappy—and angry—when his people hurt themselves. In mourning, we come together with God and agree with his feelings. God subsequently replaced the commandments he had given Moses and forgave the people, so he continued on with them. Although God could destroy us for our sins, he instead forgives us because he destroyed Jesus in our place.