Heading Home: Walking with Jesus to the Cross — Day Eight


Exodus 34:1-9, 27-28

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 toward the earth, and worshiped. He said, “If now I have found favor 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.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 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.

There is something lovely about this small story, this encounter. Moses and God are both tired out. The people have done it again — gone off the rails, in a big way. Moses is so disgusted by their behavior, that he trashes the tablets upon which God had written the law, the guidebook for their future. Yet God isn’t done with them, no, God is not. 

He invites Moses to come away . . . again. Just Moses, no one else, including animals. And Moses goes, taking two blank stone tablets with him.

Here is what I love: GOD SHOWS UP. And this description is gorgeous. God descends in a cloud and he utters words of such poignant beauty. God tells it like it is: God’s love is ever-lasting — “to the thousandth generation” — but the sins of the people have consequences, consequences for themselves and their children and their children’s children. The consequences last some time, yes. But that time is nothing compared to the ‘thousand generations’ of God’s limitless love and grace. Forgiveness is promised, consequences remain.

I have seen the truth of this in every single pastoral counseling and spiritual direction session I have ever been in. We often need help navigating those dual realities: everlasting forgiveness, and consequences — even, maybe especially, generational consequences — for sin and brokenness. 

Those closing two verses tell us that God and Moses get down to work after this lovely opening salvo. The tablets will be filled again, the law will go out to the people — a gift and a burden.

Truth is like that sometimes.

God of truth, God of love, God of mercy — thank you for keeping steadfast love for us, thank you for walking with us through the consequences of our own sinful behavior, thank you for giving us the guidebook of the law. But thank you  most of all for sending Jesus to help us reinterpret that law and live it more fully and joyfully than ever.

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  1. Yes, there are always consequences to our actions, be they bad or good. And I love, love, love the image of God and Moses communing together – how amazingly intimate and beautiful is that?
    Blessings, Diana!

  2. Margie Bicknell says

    This is so much ingrained in me…I struggled with the sins of the father concept, but realized that God himself is with me, walking with me, meeting me to listen to my wants and needs and pain and joy. God, the creator of the universe wants to be with me. It doesn’t negate me dealing with the consequences of my actions, but God is with me, and I can ask for forgiveness and God’s love will sustain me as I keep moving forward.
    Both my kids whined, in their late teens, that Charlie and I did this or that when they were younger, or were not allowing them to do things that they were old enough to do….etc. And I told them both that when they could accept the consequences of their actions, without blaming anyone else, only themselves for those consequences, they could consider themselves adults. I would still love them, but they must face their own life choices and live with them and move forward with God’s love always with them.
    Thank you for bringing this wonderful passage back to the front of my mind so that I can rest here for awhile.