In this week’s Bible Study, we’re looking at the character of God as revealed to Moses in Exodus chapter 34. We see in this passage that though God is first and foremost a loving and merciful God, he will not ignore injustice or evil. We see in the story of the Bible that God is willing to put up with a lot of human failures.
But our choices matter, and God will maintain a balance between mercy and justice, which at times means handing us over to the consequences of our decisions. As followers of Jesus, we may be wondering what God is going to do in the world in response to this time of deep unrest and upheaval. But the better question may be to ask ourselves, what are we going to do to carry out God’s will in the world?
In this story the Israelites have just violated their covenant with God by making the golden calf idol. God is angry and ready to walk away from his commitment to Israel, but Moses pleads with God to fulfill his ancient promises to Abraham and forgive the people’s sins. This is the context of Moses’ request to see God’s face, so he can know God’s character in intimate detail. And God reveals his mercy but also his commitment to justice in response to human evil. This story, and the words in Exodus 34:6-7, explore the tension between God’s mercy and judgment. This is the dilemma that drives the biblical story forward. How is God going to bring about his plan to renew creation if he’s committed to doing it through flawed and faithless humans?
Read Exodus 34:6-7. What do you think it would be like to live in a world that had compassion but no consequences for wrongdoing?
What do you think it would it be like to live in a world that had consequences for wrongdoing but no compassion?
Why is it good to have both mercy and justice?
After Moses encountered God’s glory, he came down from Mount Sinai with a glowing face. We’re told that his transformation freaked the Israelites out, so he wore a veil to conceal himself. As we continue the story of the Bible, we learn that the new covenant comes with even greater glory because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This greater glory liberates Jesus’ followers to see and reflect his glowing character from the inside out, no veil needed. By his Spirit our hearts learn to mirror the mercy and justice we were created to image. His presence and character transforms us into new creatures who are empowered to represent and live out his new creation plan.
Read 2 Corinthians 3:7-18. What stands out to you in this passage?
In what ways has God shown you his mercy? What would it look like for you to mirror the mercy that God has shown you?
In what ways does God stand up for justice? What would it look like for you to stand up for justice this week?