For an Old Testament glimpse into the very heart of God, one of my favorite stories has God talking to Moses and offering to wipe out this rebellious rabble (the stiff necked people) just liberated from Egypt and starting anew with Moses. It’s all here in Exodus 32 – as well as in Numbers 14. I will make of YOU a great nation Moses! –
Moses is scandalized by the suggestion! Don’t do it! he begs God; why just THINK of what the Egyptians would say about You!
What a delicious irony this is; Moses confident enough of the true heart of God to know that what God was suggesting would show the precise opposite of His true heart. Moses thus telling God – yes, THAT God! – how His reputation might be preserved. For the moment, God and Moses have reversed roles! God steps down from His “throne” (as it were) and suggests a simple solution; just wipe out our (extremely) problematic people. Got troubles with your subjects? Let’s just kill ‘em.
But Moses steps in and protests – no, argues with God! – You cannot do this! It is not what You are about!
There is no question, between God and Moses, nor of course for the reader all these years later, of the guilt and rebellious condition of Israel. It seems quite apparent here that ALL Israel is guilty and “deserves” some real serious consequences. Individual exceptions, if they even exist, are not even entertained. Yet it is this precise group, in it’s sordid entirety, that Moses insists on defending and standing by.
It is this standing by of the obviously flawed and guilty people that causes me to see this act of Moses as one which points to his ethic and inner leanings toward Universalism. No, I’m not suggesting that he was thinking here and now of “saving” every person who lived then. He probably had the persecutors of Israel in some other “category”. Likely, he didn’t equate a rebellious child of Abraham with, say, the persecuting Egyptian.
But this need not worry us now because we know that there really IS no distinction between rebel/sinner insider vs outsider. As we see things, the enemy is not Egypt, or some other persecutor; it is, simply, sin. And rebellion. Or, if you must, call it Satan. But the overwhelming and obvious agreement was that Israel, in it’s entirety, was guilty. God knew it, and Moses knew it. And yet, it was this precise group – into which any person ever to draw breath on this planet would fit nicely – for which Moses appealed.
Moses then was, as far as I can tell anyway, a Universalist. For he clearly saw that the issue was not – as many then, as well as now see it – the relative merits, or understandings, or insights, or particular acceptance of such articulations of a few certain “enlightened” individuals. No, for Moses, the issue was more properly framed in the light – the glorious and unavoidable light – of the saving character of the love of God. Salvation, it seems clear that Moses understood, was of God – and not of the quality of the humanity He sought to save. Depth of depravity was not the issue for Moses; Depth of God’s saving character of Love was.
My contention then is that Moses here articulates Universalistic understandings. The issue is clearly and convincingly NOT about human understandings or even choices perhaps, but is overwhelmingly about the nature and character of the God of Love who redeems. Redeems in fact, that which is “obviously” irredeemable.
It’s what a loving God does for His creation.
All of it.
Do you see this story about Moses as I do??
Wondering; what’s this story about….