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The teacher writes four words on the blackboard, one over the other— defeat, deduct, defense, and detail.

“Class”, she says, “Let’s see if we can spend the next hour using these four words in a sentence.” Little Johnny says, “That’s easy,” walks up to the board and adds four more,

Defeat of Deduct went over Defense before Detail.

Johnny is a bright boy… :-) But what will he someday make of another word problem—a riddle that has far greater implications than to show how clever he is? “How, by adding any number of words, can he make sense out of all that follows when God describes himself to Moses as:

“Compassionate and gracious, 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; [punishing] the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34;6-7)?

Imagine we are little Jonie. What do we see in those words? How can the God of Scripture expect us to make sense and a meaningful sentence out of words that seem to signal a God who promises to forgive parents while punishing their children and grandchildren?

Clue:? What if we added four words— As Genesis 3 shows

Imagine what would have happened if our first parents and their children had been allowed to live forever without any evidence that something had gone terribly wrong? Would anyone ever look back— without the pain of consequence— either our own choices— or of someone else in the gene pool of our humanity?

Would anyone look back in regret, or forward in hope?

Would any of us look up long enough to stake our life, and spend our love on a God who is “Compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin?


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One Response to “Riddles”

  1. SFDBWV says:

    Good morning Mart. An appropriate title to Scripture, “Riddle”, as all of the seeming contradictions or as you like to call them “tensions” pose a problem in understanding what is being said, what God wants us to see and what He wants us to do with what we learn.

    Here we hear of a God who is slow to anger, yet gets angry, forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin yet killed off every living thing along with every human except those in the Ark because of wickedness, rebellion and sin.

    Instructed the Hebrew people to kill every man woman and child, even livestock and animals in their conquest of the “Holy Land”.

    A blueprint for future armies in their own conquests.

    Compassionate and gracious yet not letting the guilty go unpunished. Instead He punishes Himself through His own Son.

    Violence always the answer, always the solution.

    A riddle indeed.


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