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Thought for the week
Last week, I wrote about God's character as it was revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai in Exodus 33 and 34. God finally reveals what kind of God he is in 34:6-7: 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.' We looked at this last week and we found that the Old Testament God really is like the New Testament God. Especially as we look to Jesus, and realise that Jesus is the full representation of who God is (Colossians 1:19).
But what about that other stuff in Exodus 34:7? The stuff that seems to represent a lot of the books of the Old Testament. Verse 7 says, 'Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to a third and fourth generation.' If we read this self-description of God, it may strike us as being somewhat contradictory. God is both all-forgiving and compassionate to a thousand generations and yet punish folks for wrong-doing to the fourth generation? How does this work? Because this is who God is.
I think there are three things to take note that might help us. First, God will never be at the mercy of human beings. God is the Creator of the world and remains over and above all things. We cannot demand that God do anything because God is God and we are not. Secondly, God's grace overpowers God's punishment. Notice that God is gracious to a thousand generations but only punishes to a fourth generation. Finally, God uses punishment within God's justice. God doesn't punish us just because God can. Rather, God's punishments serve a higher, more divine purpose. We see this at play throughout the Old Testament. The people rebel, God punishes, but in doing so uses it to draw his people back to himself. The act of punishment is an act of love.
God is gracious and good and the punishment of his people come out of God's desire for them to be a people who act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with their God (Micah 6:8). May we too be shaped by God to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
Weekly Prayer Points
· Give thanks to God for the year that's been at Epic Youth. Pray for our young people that they might enjoy their holidays and find themselves immersed in God's presence and love. Pray for Jared and the other leaders and helpers, that God might give them good rest and creativity as they ponder next year.
· Pray for the Waitara Foodbank - Pataka kai and the work they do. Especially pray for good volunteers and a good response to the food drive on the 6th of December. Pray that the food will go to those that need it most.
· Pray for us as we consider this God who calls us to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God. Pray that we will be a community that shines God's light by how we love and worship our God, how we interact with one another and how we reach out to our community.