Thursday 23 March 2023 4th week of Lent
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 for ever.’
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.
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?’
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and John the Baptist have an intimacy with their God. Their relationships with God demonstrated an authenticity, an authenticity others would verify. Yet though everything points to Jesus, people still did not recognise who he was.
Moses was able to reason with God in such a way that he calmed God’s anger. Moses helps God to remember the promises he made towards his chosen people. He calls on God to recall the love he has for his people and the futility of his calling them out of Egypt if his intention is only to destroy them. God is like a wife or husband who have discovered that their partner has cheated on them. I have accompanied a number of friends through such trauma. A horrible experience I would not wish on anyone. Vengeance is such a normal human response when we are in pain. We lash-out and want to destroy those who seem to be destroying us. In this text from Exodus, God so very human. However, through Moses, God remembers his people. God forgives. We recall Psalm 30, “his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
In the Gospel Jesus reminds his listeners that John the Baptist was a lamp alight and shining and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave. John authentically reflects what he knows of God, because God is so near to him.
Moses and John and the scriptures reveal to us that the life of Jesus echoes the life of his Father. Jesus shows the goodness and non-judgement of God in the passage that reads, “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.” Moses knows God personally, so he can witness to the authenticity of Jesus also.
Perhaps we can consider this season of Lent as an invitation to live that kind of authenticity in our own relationships with our God, so that our lives give witness to who Jesus is.
Are we close enough to God to calm God’s anger? Like Moses can we call on the forgiving love of God, not just for ourselves but for the sake of all people?
As our response proclaimed, “O Lord, remember me out of the love you have for your people.”