The Lord told Moses, “Quick! Go down the mountain! Your people whom you brought from the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.” Exodus 32:7 (NLT)
“You need to talk to your son.”
“Ask your daughter what she did today.”
Over the years remarks like these were occasionally the first words I’d have for my husband after his long day at work and my equally long day of housework and mothering. I doubt my husband was energized be these words, but sometimes, no matter how loud or often I’d say certain things to our kids, they just needed to hear it from someone else. Someone who loved them as much as I did, but who would have a different approach to whatever the situation was, and therefore a different ear to listen to their plight as well.
Today’s Old Testament reading can be troubling unless read through the lens of what is true about God eons ago, today and forever: God is Love. God loves us. God can ONLY love us. He is not capable of anything less.
However, this is also true: sometimes love hurts.
In today’s Old Testament passage we read how the people of Israel, God’s chosen people, have once again fallen into behaviors of idol worship and have lost faith and trust in God. God, seeing this, tells Moses to go down and talk to them. Now, there’s lots more there, too, about God telling Moses to leave him alone with the people and allow his “wrath to consume” them and Moses begging God to “repent of this evil against your people.” Though this may be frightening, the exchange can be beautiful if we keep two things in mind: God is Love and love hurts.
Our sins–that is any choices we make that turn us away from God–hurt him. The people of Israel made choices that hurt God. And though the emotions and attitude of God are written in a way that personifies him, in the Old Testament God is not a “person” in the sense that we understand the word. But God is often personified, (that is, described in human terms to make the mystery of God more understandable to us), and he is personal, meaning he desires a personal relationship with each one of us, just as he desired to have with the people of Israel so long ago. This is why, like the people of Israel, when we choose to turn away from a relationship with God, it is personal to him, and it hurts him. (And though we may not realize it at the time, it hurts us, too.)
But God never gives up on us!
Instead, through the proper lens, we can see that God uses someone to intercede for him. And in today’s reading that someone is Moses. Though God is perfectly capable of doing whatever he wants in that moment, he chooses Moses to return to the people and plead with them to change their ways and put their trust back in God.
I can’t help but smile at the words the ancient writer of Exodus (whom many scholars believe to be Moses himself) used for God’s command to Moses in calling the people of Israel “your people,” when in previous chapters he’d called them “my people.” Because it assures me that just as I (usually when it was something I was less than thrilled about or hurt by) have occasionally called my own children “your son/daughter” to my husband, I can say with absolute certainty that I did not love my children any less at those times. And we can be assured that when we’ve turned away from God he doesn’t love us any less either. In fact, we can take comfort in knowing that he loves us so much he will send a “Moses” into our lives in an effort to bring us back to him. We need only keep our eyes and hearts open to look for them, and turn back to God when they appear to us. Because, just as love hurts when it’s been broken, love that is restored heals.
God is Love.
God loves you.
If you cannot see or feel God’s love for you, ask him to send you a Moses!
Reflect: Who are the people in my life that help me see God more clearly? That help me think God cares about me? That have encouraged me to seek out God? If you can’t think of anyone, then ask for God to send you someone to help you see his love more clearly. Whether you have been blessed with one “Moses” or many in your life, give thanks to God for each of them today. Just as the people needed Moses, Moses needed the prayers of the people, too.
Pray: Lord, thank you for the people you have placed in my life that have tried to lead me closer to you! I may not always appreciate their words and actions, and I may sometimes be reluctant to make the changes I need to in order to restore my relationship with you, but I thank you for never giving up on me! And I ask you to help me keep my eyes and heart open for the next Moses you send. Amen.