6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
7 He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: 8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. 9 He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; 10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
7 Now Moses used to take a tent and pitch it outside the camp some distance away, calling it the “tent of meeting.” Anyone inquiring of the Lord would go to the tent of meeting outside the camp. 8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent.11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.
5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger,abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped. 9 “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.” 28 Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.
“The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God” (Exodus 34:6)
We all know that Moses received the Ten Commandments on stone tablets at Mount Sinai and that he broke these tablets after seeing the Israelites worship a golden calf. But did you know that Moses received the commandments a second time? That’s the context of today’s passage in Exodus. Moses has been in the “Meeting Tent,” begging the Lord to stay with his people even though they have disobeyed him. Mercifully, God agrees and gives him the words of the covenant again. But before we conclude that Moses changed God’s mind, let’s take a closer look at this passage.
In this second encounter, God made it clear that he is “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity” (Exodus 34:6). Amazing, isn’t it? Of all the ways he could have revealed himself, God chose to use words of compassion and mercy. This is not a description we would normally associate with the commandments and their emphasis on “shalt nots.” But it’s the first thing God wants to tell Moses. He is sticking with the Israelites not because they deserve it, but because he loves them. He wants to be with them more than they want to be with him!
Our God really is a God of second chances. When the world was devastated by the flood, God restored it. When David sinned with Bathsheba, God forgave him. When the people were exiled to Babylon for seventy years, God brought them back and helped them rebuild their Temple. But the greatest second chance of all came through Jesus, who redeemed the entire world from sin and death. Over and over again, God shows that his first priority is mercy.
Sometimes we may picture God as a heavenly taskmaster, more likely to punish than to forgive. Whenever you think this way, picture Jesus on the cross and a waterfall of grace pouring out of his pierced side. You don’t have to be Moses to stand under that waterfall. You just have to bare your heart to him and let him cleanse it. From the moment Jesus ascended to the Father to this very day, he has been waiting for you to come!
Lord, I come to you in grateful adoration. I am amazed that you keep on loving me, no matter how many times I fall. Thank you for your mercy. Amen.
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.