January 29 – Exodus 34:5-10
Main focus: Through his covenant promises, the triune God reveals himself and his faithful love to his faithless people.
Still in Exodus, we fast-forward through Moses’ life, getting to the tail end of the book. In the chapters leading up to this point, we read of Israel’s stubbornness, faithlessness, and God’s loving provision. Now, turning to Exodus 33 and 34, there’s this story of Moses and his interactions with the triune God on Mount Sinai.
Between Exodus 33 and 34, all three members of the Trinity are present, which might not be super clear at first, but it is pretty cool once the dots are connected. A lot of scholars and writers tend to stop with the Father and the Holy Spirit’s presence here, but there’s good reason to believe that the whole Trinity is present in these passages.
What is most miraculous about these chapters is that Moses directly interacts with God. If we look at Exodus 33:22-23, the glory of God- very likely the Holy Spirit- was literally walking behind Moses. Here, though, the Lord descended in a cloud and stood with Moses, not only to show him his glory but to declare his mercy, grace, forgiveness, and steadfast love, building on and defining for Moses and Israel the name of YHWH and what it means for his people. And Exodus 34:5 is where we believe that the Son is present. The CSB translation says, “The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with him there, and proclaimed his name, ‘the LORD.’” While it does seem quite vague, it would also be pretty weird for the Father to reveal himself and declare his own name. But we believe that the Son is present here, displaying the name and glory of God the Father, “the LORD.” If we also look at John 1:18, John writes that “no one has ever seen God.” This leads us to believe that it was the Son whom Moses saw. Looking at this passage with the Trinity in mind opens a whole new layer. The Son was present at the Mosaic covenant and would later complete it, ushering in the new covenant at his death and resurrection.
So why was there a need for a renewed covenant? Well, in Exodus 32, while Moses was on Mount Sinai, Aaron and the Israelites were off breaking their end of the covenant created by God. They got bored (and lost faith) and thought it would be a great idea to melt all their gold possessions and make a golden calf they could worship. As a side not for laughs, if you read Exodus 34:17, you’ll see in this new covenant that God specifically tells them not to make any gods out of cast metal, which is exactly what they did in Exodus 32.
If you’re familiar with covenants, you’ll know it’s a promise to be faithful in meeting the agreed-upon terms. There’s no backing out, including not being faithful to the other. In the covenants between God and Israel, Israel got a pretty sweet deal in hindsight. Quickly turning back to Ex. 24:1-8, we read that God agreed to remain faithful to them, protecting and watching over them. All Israel had to do was remain faithful to God, obeying his commandments. But they couldn’t even do that. And in fairness, we can’t either.
Because of their inability to keep their end of the covenant, the Lord renews the covenant. Within this covenant, we see God extending even more grace, giving them yet another opportunity to turn to him and live obediently.
Often, our disposition is to think of God in the Old Testament as wrathful, angry, and a God who smites people left and right. However, when looking at Exodus 34:6-7, we do not see that at all. God reveals himself to Moses and Israel as,
“a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
God reveals that he is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, loving, faithful, and forgiving. This is a far cry from what comes to mind regarding God in the Old Testament. We can hear “Old Testament” and flinch, with images of Sodom and Gomorrah and a certain pillar of salt coming to mind. While these are very real things that happened, that is not how God reveals himself in Genesis as Creator or to Moses and Israel with this renewed covenant. As we read about him in Scripture, God wishes for us to see him for who he is– a God of love, forgiveness, and patience.
In discussion, we’ll talk about what it means to us that an all-powerful God would be so forgiving and faithful to a people who are so broken, unfaithful, and rebellious. In the renewed covenant with Israel, God describes himself to Moses as a loving, faithful, graceful, and merciful God. How freeing is it that our God presents himself to his people as caring, slow to anger, and faithful?
• Can someone read Exodus 34:5-10 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• How does God describe himself here?
• Why do you think God says these things about himself?
• How does this description of God make you feel towards him?
• How does this description compare with what you typically assume about God and how he feels about you?
• How might this affect the way you worship?