International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday September 26, 2010
Purpose: To consider the gracious nature and steadfast love of God.
Scripture Text: Exodus 34:1, 4-10 (NRSV)
(1)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.
Exodus 34: 4-10
(4)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.
(5)The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, “The LORD.” (6)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, (7)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.” (8)And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. (9)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.”
(10)He said: I hereby make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform marvels, such as have not been performed in all the earth or in any nation; and all the people among whom you live shall see the work of the LORD; for it is an awesome thing that I will do with you.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
This passage of scripture contains one of the most important truths about God and His attributes found in the entire bible. Many Christians point to the Old Testament as being about the law, but today's lesson speaks of God's mercy and grace. It is a theme which is repeated throughout the Old as well as the New Testament.
To put today's text in context, you might recall that Moses came down from the mountain after meeting with God and God writing on the two tablets his covenant with these people, the Ten Commandments. Moses, upon finding the reveling and sacrificing to a golden calf going on, destroyed those two tables and asked God to forgive their sin. He then offered himself as a sacrifice, by saying forgive them or “blot me out of Your book you have written.”
Today's text takes place as Moses is called to return for a forty day visit with God on Mount Sinai. Moses will bring back the two tablets, where God had written His commandments for the people to follow, and to define His new covenant with this “stiff necked people.”
Most of us love the grace of God for ourselves, but would prefer the God of wrath deal with our enemies, the truth is God forgives iniquities, and God punishes iniquities. Our choice seems to favor the former over the latter. God is forgiving, but He is also a just God. That is the friction of the gospel and nature of God, willing to forgive and ready to punish, our obedience determines which of those we receive. Some may think that God's grace extends even to those that abound in iniquities without repentance; I don't read it that way. God's grace is “unmerited favor” that is, we all deserve to be separated from His love, but His love always allows for our repentance and forgiveness. By putting our faith and trust in His word, we are keeping our part of the covenant. God's grace means it is available to all, God's justice calls for repentance from our iniquities.
Our text list thirteen different attributes of God, but I see the willingness to forgive, as happening in response to requesting forgiveness. Verse 7 says “by no means clearing the guilty.” Our sins and iniquities need to be confessed and our faith needs to be activated, that indeed God is faithful to forgive when called upon, to me that is God's grace, forgiveness is always available when we ask for it.
Have you ever felt like Jonah and resented the fact that God was willing to forgive people you would rather see punished? God's grace extends to everyone, but His forgiveness extends to those that call upon His name by faith.