Walter Brueggemann  


On Yahweh's Contradiction

And the Lord said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."

Exodus 33:19-23; 34:6-10

"Moses does some hard-nosed bargaining with God...But Yahweh will not let Moses go that far, or see that far into the very mystery of God. God answers Moses and says: You can see my back but not my face.... Characteristically, the Bible pays no attention to the mooning or to God's backside, or to what Moses saw. It focuses instead (it always does) upon what Moses heard.

The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.

"When God thinks about Israel's well-being, there is forgiveness. But when God thinks about God and being God as God does, there will be no mocking...

Yet [who will] by no means clear the guilty,
but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children
and the children's children,
to the third and the fourth generation.

"For all the contradiction in the statement, this utterance is the very truth of the God of the Bible. This very God who gracefully embraces is the Lord of unutterable and uncompromising demand. It is the very truth of God. All of our self-hatred cannot eradicate God's generosity; and all our warm, fuzzy positiveness cannot override the reality that God will be God, with all the inexplicable rights and privileges pertaining thereto - and we do not have to like it....

"This word from God is not about patriarchalism or any of those matters to which we object, but it is the recognition that holiness from God lives at the very core of reality and will not be framed or tamed for our preferred world."

"[Moses] bowed before the contradiction in God's very life...and then he prayed...'Be the God of graciousness and do not savage us with Plan B...'

"It is telling and astonishing that, according to Luke, as Jesus came to be crucified as the enemy of his government and of his church and of his people, he prayed. He did not instruct or even act as an advocate on earth, but he petitioned the God who was at a loss that day.
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

"Jesus, like Moses, makes a powerful bid for Plan A. And we have confessed since then that it was made into a day of grace-filled conciliation... and it must be made over and over again, because we cannot lightly pretend the harshness of heaven away."

from "Wondrous solidarity, Devastating Starchiness" from The Threat of Life