Mercy and Forgiveness

November 22, 2021

Exodus 32.15-21

15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back. 16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”

18 Moses replied:

“It is not the sound of victory,
    it is not the sound of defeat;
    it is the sound of singing that I hear.”

19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.

21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”

Yesterday we saw God’s grace, his forgiveness.  God is faithful to his promises.  Moses shows less restraint today than he did in yesterday’s text.  Yesterday he is asking God to show mercy.  Now we see Moses acting in anger and wanting to punish the people.  Without trying to evaluate Moses’ actions, although it may seem I already have, what do we see in ourselves in this same regard?

Just a note: Moses acts here out of righteous anger about the fact that the people have left God and fashioned an idol to worship.  Most often our “righteous anger” is about people not living up to our ideals about morality.

We know that God is merciful, forgiving and faithful.  What do we do with the people around us who, although loved by God and forgiven by God, people who don’t live up to our standards, let alone the standards we see from God?  Do we truly welcome other sinners, recognizing that we are welcomed as sinners, yet forgiven?  Do we continue to see others only as sinners, or as forgiven?

So often we live in this place.  Seeing people for the sins we believe they commit.  Labelling people as liars, thieves, murderers, cheaters, or whatever other sin we see as being personified in someone.  We focus on what we see as wrong, not on the forgiveness of God being present in the lives of others.  We forget that they, like us, stand in grace and God calls them also his people and has made them in his image.

Instead of focusing on the “problems” of others, we think about our treatment of others.  In what ways are we being inclusive of people?  Loving neighbours, even if they live in ways that bother us, or make us uncomfortable.  Praying for enemies; turning them from opposition to neighbours, and those we love.  Inviting people into relationship whom we would normally want to avoid and keep away from us.

With all the talk of how society is polarized we should be the ones who are working against that.  Not by making other people become like us.  We can end polarization as we love the neighbours we have from God.  We live in grace, receiving grace and offering grace.  Being with our neighbours, co-workers, even family, and be people who are forgiving and merciful.

SongAs the Deer

Prayer

Almighty God, we confess that we are often swept up in the tide of our generation.  We have failed in our calling to be your holy people, a people set apart for your divine purpose.  We live more in apathy born of fatalism than in passion born of hope.  We are moved more by private ambition than by social justice.  We dream more of privilege and benefits than of service and sacrifice.  We try to speak in your name without relinquishing our glories, without nourishing our souls, without relying wholly on your grace.  Help us to make room in our hearts and lives for you.  By your Holy Spirit, forgive us, revive us, and reshape us in your image.  Amen.

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