Monday 7th September 2020
Exodus 34: 1-9
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Cut two tablets of stone like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets, which you broke. Be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai and present yourself there to me, on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and do not let anyone be seen throughout all the mountain; and do not let flocks or herds graze in front of that mountain.’ So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the former ones; and he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tablets of stone. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, ‘The Lord.’ The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed,
‘The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
yet by no means clearing the guilty,
but visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children
and the children’s children,
to the third and the fourth generation.’
And Moses quickly bowed his head towards the earth, and worshipped. He said, ‘If now I have found favour in your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.’
Today’s reading starts part-way through a conversation between God and Moses. On one level, it is about how God will renew the covenant made at Mount Sinai (10 Commandments) with Israel following the Golden Calf incident.
In living memory, the people had witnessed God’s visible acts of power in the Exodus, at the Red Sea and being fed in the desert, yet their impatience at Sinai waiting for Moses turned to idolatry.
This is another example of how important patience is, and God is not to be hurried by our timetable. Throughout the Bible, we see God always giving humankind another opportunity to be reconciled.
Our reading ends (vv.8-9) with Moses interceding on Israel’s behalf and not for the last time. Ultimately, we know that God completed this work Himself on Good Friday through Jesus’ death on the Cross.
Verses 1-3 complete God’s practical instructions; verse 4 returns to the narrative, but what is going on in verse 5? To answer this, look to Exodus 33:18, where Moses asks to see God’s “glory”.
God answers that He will show Himself, and Moses will see His back (a unique experience in Scripture); but, more importantly, Moses will witness God’s goodness, grace and compassion (Exodus 33:19).
The Golden Calf was a hollow idol with no substance; however, God shows Moses and the people what really matters, and it is not appearance. The Golden Calf may have looked pretty, but it could not offer mercy, grace, love and faithfulness.
Hebrew scholars are not sure of the origin of the name of the Lord, often written as “LORD”, but most agree it has to do with the verb “to be”.
God’s very being offers us these noblest qualities, and it is these qualities which God would have us take in and become part of ourselves, that we might show mercy, grace, love and faithfulness in our lives.
Merciful God, forgive us:
guide us to show mercy to others.
Gracious God, we thank you for all that we have:
guide our generosity to others.
Loving God, You love us with a power stronger than death:
guide us to love those we find difficult to love.
Faithful God, You promise to be with us always:
guide us to remain faithful to the Gospel.
Author: David Wiggs
I am the webmaster for Purley United Reformed Church and have been involved with the church since my late teens. I work in Croydon and live in Caterham.