The experienced leader in the school of the Lord

The second chance for Moses
Ex 34:5–9 in its context

Moses is called to come up to the mountain top for the second time – this time alone (Ex 34:3). First time such long period was after proclaiming the Book of Covenant (Ex 24:18). He will spend there once more 40 days and 40 nights, but this time this is an ascetic period (34:28).

Moses is already an experienced leader who freed the people from the slavery, led them over the Red Sea, brought them through the desert to the Holy Mount Sinai, and made a great Covenant with God for the entire community. At the beginning he asked already about the name of God. After all Moses went through God is revealing himself to him in a new way. This is the answer to the earlier prayer of Moses: "Show me your ways!" (Ex 33:13) and "Show me your glory!" (33:18). God promised to proclaim before Moses his name (33:19), and now he does it.

The revealed name is the full formula of God's mercy:

The Lord is
"merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, and
abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" (Ex 34:6)

For Moses this is the revelation of God's heart. He was told already at the beginning the first meaning of the holy name, keeping the transcendence, holiness and exaltedness of God: "I am who I am" (Ex 3:14).
Now God is revealing his solidarity and compassion, his relationship and closeness to his people, his inner life.

He is
* keeping steadfast love for thousand generations
* visiting the iniquity (as told in the Ten Commandments, Ex 20:5)
to the third and the fourth generation (Ex 34:7)

At the same time this is an essential teaching for Moses who just before found the people worshipping the golden calf and was so angry that he broke the tablets of the Covenant (Exodus 32:19).

The cloud, the Lord is coming down within (34:5), is a hint and reminder to the eternal Covenant with Noah.
The encounter with God is for Moses very realistic: God is "descending" (like Christ will do it), God is "standing" with him there (almost in physical manner, like with Samuel and Amos). Although the restrictions were announced – Moses should go into a cave, and God would cover him and show him only his back (Ex 33:20–33) – God does not perform them.
The results of the revelation are immediate: Moses is worshiping his God (Ex 34:8) and praying in the name of the whole community (34:9). This prayer is very daring because it attacks God intention. God said "I will not go up among you", and Moses is asking: "Go with us!" (34,9).
Moses receives new tablets of the Covenant and his face is shining (Ex 34:29)

For reflection:
How I learned the power of God's love and compassion?
What is the value of my actions and achievements before the Lord?
Is there a second chance the Lord is giving to me?
What is the name of my God?

9 Aug 2011
Niko Bilić SJ