“Let my Lord come with us, I beg. True, they are a headstrong people, but forgive us our faults and our sins, and adopt us as your heritage.” This is the response of Moses to God who has just revealed himself him as a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness. He reveals himself also as a God of justice, in verses that have been missed out from our reading. God’s revelation of himself shows up the nature of our humanity. God’s revelation of himself as a God of tenderness and compassion, allows Moses to admit that the people of Israel are the kind of people who need a God of tenderness and compassion, and also of justice. They and we are a headstrong people who constantly need forgiveness of our faults and our sins.
God shows them his power with his compassion and justice and he asks them for their complete loyalty. This God the Israelites come to experience is not just one God, but the one God, utterly holy, utterly just, utterly good, but also compassionate. They come to know him and to know themselves, the headstrong sinners that they are; but also the people they are called to be. They come to know something of how much they need God and how good God is.
“God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.” God showed himself to Israel to save them; and in Israel he showed himself to the world so that the world might not be lost, but might have eternal life.
But, just as the Israelites in the desert showed themselves to be a headstrong, disobedient people, so the world demonstrated evil in it by cruelly putting Jesus to death, holy and innocent as he was. Yet the evil of the world did not defeat Jesus. Evil did all that it could against him; it killed him, but Jesus rose from the dead. Here is the Love of God in person and that love overcomes death and everything that evil can do.
In Jesus, the love and the power of God were active; he defeated evil and reconciled humanity to God. He acts as God in the world and yet he is not the Father. To see him is to see the Father, yet the Father is distinct from him. He is the Son of the Father, united to him, but not the Father.
And when he returns to the Father, he sends the Spirit to continue his work. This Spirit is his Spirit and is the Father’s Spirit and acts as God. The Spirit is neither Father nor Son, yet where the Spirit is, there too are the Father and the Son. He comes to each of us with the life of God, making us children of God, who can call God, Father, and say that Jesus is our brother. We are reconciled to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.
God is one. That is the nature of God. In that one single nature, there are three persons: Father, Son and Spirit. There are distinct persons, not just names that we give to the way God seems to be acting at a particular moment. As Moses said, “We are a headstrong people.” We experience the power of God, yet we continue in our faults and our sins. In a way, it is human evil that has revealed the Trinity. God did not show himself as a Trinity of Persons, in a single nature or substance, as an intellectual puzzle. He showed his nature and his Persons in defeating human evil, in his actions.
God’s revelation of himself as a Trinity is also the revelation of his Love in action. It is also the revelation that human evil cannot defeat that Love, do what it will. But it is also the revelation of the depth of human evil. There is a human tendency to deny the evil in us, to turn away from it, to deny responsibility. God has acted and so shown us that he is a Trinity. He cannot be conquered by our evil. So we can face our evil, the wrong that we have done, because in the Trinity we have hope that evil in us can be conquered. So we say with Moses, “Let my Lord come with us, I beg. True, they are a headstrong people, but forgive our faults and our sins and adopt as your heritage.”
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.