Wednesday Scripture - Exodus 32:11-12 But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people.
We return today to the God who cannot make up God's mind. Will God react in anger or relent in mercy? And is this not a troubling picture of a God who wavers so?
Let me go out on a limb and say that I don't find the stories where God changes God's mind troubling at all. These stories are only troubling when we buy into the god of greek philosophy who is the immovable mover and described with a host of 'Omni' words like; omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc. These descriptions, as I've just hinted, come from outside Israel's testimony of God. God is a concept in greek philosophy and bound by consistency. The God of Israel is not a concept. God is the creator, the liberator, the covenant maker, the blessing bestower, the promise keeper. God is intimately involved in life with humanity through life with Israel. And Israel has no problem telling stories where God's mind is changed.
For instance, in Genesis God sends three angels to visit Abraham. Their visit is a courtesy from God to announce to Abraham that God plans to visit upon Sodom and Gomorrah a judgment of fire and brimstone because of their sin of abuse, exploitation, and inhospitality to the stranger and the vulnerable. Verses 16-21 of Genesis 18 are fascinating because we are treated to God's internal dialogue about whether or not to share God's plans with Abraham. God decides that since God now has a covenantal relationship with Abraham, Abraham deserves to know God's plans. But Abraham does not just receive the word of God's plan. Abraham responds, much as Moses does in today's verses. Abraham bargains for the lives of those who are innocent in Sodom and Gomorrah and, amazingly, God relents. God gives in to Abraham's, plea's. God considers and accepts Abraham's suggestions. What does this mean?
It doesn't mean that God is not consistent or trustworthy. It does mean that God is consistent in love and mercy balanced with justice. God's anger is raised against Sodom and Gomorrah on behalf of the vulnerable who are abused in that city. We are assured that God will consistently act on behalf of the vulnerable and the exploited. We are also assured that God will consistently act with love and mercy. That love is demanding and experienced as disturbing to those who abusive and unjust. But God is also merciful. God forgives Israel and promises to relent should innocents be found in Sodom and Gomorrah.
The point of these stories is not to call into question the trustworthiness of God. Instead, it invites us to meditate upon the God who invites us to participate with God in the caring for Creation. This is not a God who requires our input, but asks for it and appreciates it still. This is what it means to serve and protect in the Garden. There is a healthy give and take, a productive cooperative creative partnership in which God makes room for the created in God's redemptive plan. And that is exciting as well as humbling. It is exciting that the creator of all things invites us to be co-creators. It is exciting to consider that our gifts and talents, experiences and perspectives are valuable to God. It is humbling to consider that God, by inviting us to cooperate, then holds us responsible to, indeed, cooperate. As in the story of Moses, God comes to rescue the Hebrews but sends Moses. God invites us to participate, but then, expects us to take the risks and accept the demands of cooperating in Gods creative and redemptive plans for the world