“And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.” Ex.32:14
My favorite Harry Potter movies were the ones where Richard Harris played Dumbledore. He captured the true nature of the character. His Dumbledore was a wise old sage. An elder, who provided calm to the chaos of Hogwarts. A trusted mentor, who helped Harry navigate many difficult circumstances.
When Michael Gambon took over the character, Dumbledore became a nervous wreck. He seemed to over-react and get thrown off by even the smallest of issues. By the end of the movie series, it felt like Harry Potter was Dumbledore’s mentor, instead of the other way around. Gambon’s character didn’t fit with the image presented in the books.
I develop an expectation of each character when reading a book. If the movie version does not agree with the image in my head, it destroys both the book and the movie for me. I think this is also a common experience with people and their relationship with God. We develop an image of God based on scripture or a lesson we learned as a child. This identity remains forged in our heads. When we encounter a contradiction to that image, we can have a crisis of faith.
This morning we’re given a contradictory portrayal of God. The Lord is supposed to be gracious and merciful, and abounding in steadfast love. Except in this reading, God is short-tempered and vengeful. Moses, who is typically trying to weasel his way out of responsibility, must take charge and calm down God. God, who always criticizes Israel for forgetting the Lord’s promise, is the one who forgets the promise made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
While the image appears contradictory, it brings to life a characteristic we were told earlier in Exodus about God.
“I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Ex 20: 4-6
Actually, the reaction is even more consistent with God when you consider the context. Basically, God told Moses this is how I am going to be when you worship other gods.
So, if you feel burdened by the judgement of God, remember God only punishes .003% of the time. The other 99.7% of the time, it’s all about steadfast love. Even then, when caught up in the .003% category, all you have to say is, “Lord have mercy.” Because the God we worship is consistent and changes his mind when it comes to disasters.
Click to read: Exodus 32: 7-14
- When has the portrayal of a character ruined a movie for you?
- When has your expectation of person contradicted what you expected of them?
- How did the contradiction affect your behavior towards them?
- How do you reconcile the judgement of God with God’s grace?
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