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.”
The “him” in verse 5 is Moses. Interesting that God proclaims these things about himself but does so in the third person?
The poem or psalm seems to contradict itself on the surface – speaking of grace and mercy but also of accountability and guilt. Yet this flies in the face of the simple and shallow generalizations that the Lord of the Old Testament is vengeful. Or arbitrary for here the Lord self-describes a God who holds to account only those who have wronged but nevertheless extends mercy to those who ask for it.
Moses mirrors this mercy of God by asking God to be merciful to the people of Israel who have sinned against God. Yet he (Moses) convinces God to not only forgive but to see them (Israel ) as God’s inheritance!
With Lent looming nearer, the mercy and forgiveness of God in Christ are on our minds. It is one mine. The God of the Bible has always been such. It may reach its fullest revelation in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection but here we see clearly the mercy of God proclaimed by God himself!
And Moses – am I as bold to ask for God’s mercy for others? I am more likely to nurture in my heart the secret or not-so-secret desire that they get theirs. Today in fact I am struggling with this very thing. But Moses is bold to ask that God would forgive, that God would be merciful., that God would reclaim them as his own precious inheritance.
God of mercy and grace, make me bold to claim your mercy and plead for your grace – not only for myself but even more for others. Not as their judge, but as one who loves them and seeks to do so as Jesus did. Forgive me when I judge them in this pleading for mercy – when I secretly relish the thought that I am pleading for those who need it. In truth it is I who stand most in need of mercy and grace, I who most need restoration. In the name of the One whose Moses intercession foreshadows, Jesus the Merciful and Gracious. Amen.