An unpredictable God

Thursday 31 March 2022 4th week of Lent

Exodus 32:7-14
The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’   But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Why let the Egyptians say, “Ah, it was in treachery that he brought them out, to do them to death in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth”? Leave your burning wrath; relent and do not bring this disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage forever.’ So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Psalm 105            O Lord, remember me out of the love you have for your people.

John 5:31-47
Jesus said to the Jews: ‘Were I to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid; but there is another witness who can speak on my behalf, and I know that his testimony is valid. You sent messengers to John, and he gave his testimony to the truth: not that I depend on human testimony; no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this. John was a lamp alight and shining and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave. But my testimony is greater than John’s: the works my Father has given me to carry out, these same works of mine testify that the Father has sent me. Besides, the Father who sent me bears witness to me himself. You have never heard his voice, you have never seen his shape, and his word finds no home in you because you do not believe in the one he has sent. ‘You study the scriptures, believing that in them you have eternal life; now these same scriptures testify to me, and yet you refuse to come to me for life! As for human approval, this means nothing to me. Besides, I know you too well: you have no love of God in you. I have come in the name of my Father and you refuse to accept me; if someone else comes in his own name you will accept him. How can you believe, since you look to one another for approval and are not concerned with the approval that comes from the one God? Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father: you place your hopes on Moses, and Moses will be your accuser. If you really believed him you would believe me too, since it was I that he was writing about; but if you refuse to believe what he wrote, how can you believe what I say?’


God is always bigger than whatever image we may have of God. Great theologians have been humbled by this realization. God always remains an unpredictable God.

The Jews in the time of Moses would not want to accept this image of an unpredictable God. So, when they needed God and didn’t see him, they quickly made a golden image so that they could domesticate God by a visible image.

The Jews in the time of Jesus also did not want an unpredictable God who could speak through a Carpenter’s Son from Nazareth. They therefore rejected Jesus despite the witness of the works/miracles he performed, the witness of the scriptures, and God’s own witness on his day of baptism.

People keep confusing the things about God, with the limitations of their own imaginations of who God is. People keep wanting to have a God who would solve their immediate problems and would quickly give up when God is slow to act.

There are two forms of idolatry among Christians today; one is having a true image of a false god, and the second is having a false image of a true God. In our world of “fake news”, this is a huge temptation.  A temptation to find a god that is comforting to our own ideas, that supports our preferred perceptions of reality. 

Yet the Gospel is by nature constantly calling us to transformation through immersion in the realities of life and of God.  Christ is the Word that was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Living water that gives eternal life.  The Bread of life. The Light of the world.  The Good Shepherd.  The Resurrection and life.  The Way, truth, and life.  The True Vine. The One who gives his life as a Ransom. 

We need to trust Jesus as we encounter him every day, and change our image of him otherwise we also fall into the trap of idolatry – of having an imaginary God. Our Lenten practice is a constant purifying of our perceptions and choices in the service of love and justice.  May God clear our minds and hearts as we approach the Easter mystery of love poured out for us.