6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
9 “Lord,” he said, “if I have found favor in your eyes, then let the Lord go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”
13 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. 14 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
15 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.
17 “Do not make any idols.
Exodus 34:6-7, 9, 13-17 (New International Version)
Seeing God’s Mercy
In Exodus 34, Moses experiences something that not many people have ever seen and lived to tell about it: he beheld the glory of the Lord. He was placed in the crevice of a rock in the mountain of God. As the Lord passed by, Moses hid his face, but at the Lord’s command, he was allowed to see His back.
The Nature of God
As Moses beheld His glory, God reminded him that He was a compassionate and loving God, who was slow to anger and full of mercy and grace. However, the Lord also warned Moses that He will not let sin go unpunished, and to those who refuse to repent of their wrongs will be punished severely. Furthermore, God tells Moses that He is a jealous God and He will not tolerate Israel worshiping gods aside from Him. I can imagine that these words reminded Moses of the sin which Israel committed a few chapters ago, and once again pleaded on behalf of the people for God’s favor.
God is Full of Mercy and Grace
As Christians, we must count it all joy that the Lord is full of mercy and grace. There are no limits to His love, nor is He ever unfaithful to His word. Furthermore, we must praise the Lord that He is slow to anger, giving to His people time to turn away from their wickedness. To those who do confess and repent, He is faithful and will forgive them of their sins.
Consequences of Sin
As for those who do not believe in the Lord however, they ought to live in fear. God punishes those who are unrepentant and guilty of sin. This punishment of sin is not just placed on the sinner, but it can be generational. The problem with unrepentant sin is that it is not an isolated affair, it can be passed down like a genetic defect.
For example, suppose a family member stubbornly refuses to repent of a certain sin. That sin, and the guilt that is attached to it, could be passed down from generation to generation as long as the family refuses to let go of it. History is full of stories of families that are wiped out because of sin. One example I can think of is the Tudor family. This family that ruled England centuries ago was consumed with sin, which started with the infidelity of one man, Henry VIII. When Henry’s daughter Elizabeth died childless, the entire Tudor dynasty died with her; an entire family wiped out by sin.
Why Turn Away?
Knowing the consequences of sin, it is shocking to see even Christians, choosing to indulge in sin and refusing to repent of it. Why is it that people, who have been redeemed by God through Christ, turn away from the Lord’s will? It is because this world is full of idols that come in the form material possessions, social status, and relationships. When believers associate themselves with those who believe in these modern idols, they are lured by the false promises of fulfillment that these idols make. These Christians believe in these lies because their faith in God is not strong and they fail to see the love that God has for them.
How do we stop ourselves from being lured by the idols of this world? The Lord tells us the answer in Exodus 34. We must not associate ourselves with those who worship these idols. Instead we must have fellowship with other believers and have communication daily with the Lord. Furthermore, anything that is in our possession that we place value over the Lord, must be gotten rid of as soon as possible. When we do this, we are able to see clearly the love that God has for us and that will dissuade us from pursuing the idols of this world.
Sharing God’s Love
Does this mean that we can’t have good things or do things in this world; not at all. When we get good things, we must constantly remind ourselves where our gifts come from and give thanks to the Lord who gave them to us. Furthermore, we are called by God to go into this world and proclaim His Gospel to all who hear. We must constantly pray for those who believe in the lies of the world and reveal to them the truth by sharing with them the love and mercy and grace that God has for us all.