Moses, I Corinthians 13, and One Belated Ephiphany


In church yesterday, our pastor was teaching through Exodus 33 and 34.  Towards the end of his sermon, he stopped on Exodus 34:6-7 where God reveals His glory to Moses and describes the kind of God He is. The verses read this way:

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, 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.

Our pastor shared that this particular description of God, sometimes even the exact phrasing, is one of the most repeated texts in the body of Scripture. It’s found in as disparate places as the Psalms and the Epistle to the Romans. As an aside, he challenged us to see how many other places we could find it.

So as he was speaking, the wheels started turning. My brain does that sometimes – just starts moving entirely of it’s own accord and I’ve learned that I pretty much have  just hang for the ride until it’s decided it’s found what it’s looking for.  (I suppose having admitted this, I should cut my daughter some slack when she responds to me with that same starry-eyed look and says, “I’m sorry Mommy--I just keep getting distracted!”) Anyway, this phrase in Exodus echoed something for me yesterday. I could sense it in the back of my mind… and yes, it was coming… if I pause long enough….. and…. There! I had it.

All those attributes strung side by side--like pearls on a necklace--reminded me of I Corinthians 13.

Now probably like you, I am no stranger to the “Love Chapter” as we call it. But yesterday, for first time in my life, with Exodus 34:6-7 in one hand and I Corinthians 13 in the other, I finally saw it for what it was.  For too long I had been reading it simply as a standard to be lived, an expectation of how I should relate to other people; and all along I had been missing that it could only be that because it describes how God already loves us. Of how He loves me. And how He loves you.

So with apologies to the ESV, here’s something of what Moses heard when God passed by:

God is patient and kind;

He does not envy or boast; He is not arrogant or rude. He does not insist on His own way; He is not irritable or resentful He does not rejoice at wrongdoing He rejoices with the truth. Your God bears all things.                          Believes all things,                                         Hopes all things                                                 Endures all things. And He never ends.

Not bad for a Sunday morning. Not bad at all.