Moses is visiting with God on the top of Mount Sinai for 40 days, but what happens down below almost defies belief. The contrast is startling. The Israelites–people who have seen the ten plagues of Egypt, who have crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, who have drunk water from a rock, who are digesting the miracle of manna in their stomachs all throughout the 40 days–these same people who feel bored or impatient or jealous or fearful forget all about their God.
Exodus 32 parallels the Fall in Genesis 3. Both feature people favored by God who strike out against His clear command. Both rebels rationalize their behavior before Him. Both suffer harsh penalties and forfeit a relationship with God Himself.
This is the same old story. We sense a sadness as we watch a repetition of the rejection of the olive branch. Again, God offers Himself and a relationship with Him and again man says “NO!”.
One ray of light–Moses who stutters and was reluctant now pleads to take him instead. God hears Moses and gives the Israelites (and us) another chance. Here we see a foreshadow of Jesus. Here, we see hope, redemption, and God as none of us deserve to see.
Parts taken from my NIV Study Bible Notes which were written by Philip Yancy and Tim Stafford.