There was a lot of meat in today’s passages, but I think I will focus on one of my favorites where Moses encounters God (and lives to tell the story):
[The LORD] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Exodus 34:6-7a (NIV)
People like to pontificate about how angry and vindictive “the God of the Old Testament” is (implying there’s another God of the New who’s a really nice guy).
And I confess, I struggle with some of the violence and death found therein (e.g., death for breaking the Sabbath). In fact, I left out the second half of verse 7 that talks about how God punishes guilt for generations.
On the other hand, God also demonstrates his compassion, grace, love, and faithfulness over and over in the Old Testament — and obviously in the New.
He’s already put up with all sorts of grumbling, disobedience, stubbornness (love that phrase “stiff-necked people”), and outright idolatry on the part of Israel – often withholding any discipline at all.
He’s rescued Israel from hunger and slavery, exhibiting love through Joseph and to Moses.
God shows His “softer” side when He reveals as much of Himself as He can to Moses – so that Moses’ face shines after every encounter – when He hangs out with Moses on the mountain for 40 days, and when He says things like:
I will do the very thing you have asked [send my Presence with you], because I am pleased with you and I know you by name. Exodus 33: 17 (NIV)
Are we like Israel? God offers love and faithfulness (like he gave to Moses), yet we respond with rebellious stiff necks? No wonder we get discipline. No wonder we experience deaths.
But all those Old Testament punishments put together must not have fit the crime of spiritual adultery. God really did withhold his anger. For a couple thousand more years.
Then He took it all out on Jesus so that He might fully forgive our wickedness.
Readings: Exodus 33:1-34:35, Psalm 21:8-13, Proverbs 8:1-5, Matthew 26:1-25. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts.