The defining revelation of God in the Old Testament is that given to Moses, recorded in Exodus 34:
“Yahweh, [my name is] Yahweh, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet I do not leave the guilty unpunished; but visit the consequence of the sin of the parents on their children and their children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”
Yet alongside this revelation of mercy and justice (of moral action and moral consequence) we have the testimony of Jonah (Jonah 4) who speaks for God’s people in declaring his anger that God’s mercy; slow, measured, proportional anger at injustice; measureless, unchanging love; and willingness to forgive and relent from punishing, are not partisan. They are directed to the wrong sort of people. To our enemies, as well as us.
I’ve been watching The Capture (BBC), a drama series exploring the ethics of ‘correction,’ the use, by the intelligence services, of deep fake cctv evidence to show “re-enacted truth” where they have no physical proof of something they are confident happened.
It has been gripping; but the final episode (which sets us up for a second series) is deeply unsatisfying, because the villains (on ‘our’ side, using the end to justify the means) do not get their comeuppance.
We want to be vindicated, and we want to see others punished. And it has little to do with justice, and more to do with bloodlust and delight at another’s downfall. Get in!
Yet, the game is more complicated than we tell ourselves, and is not over yet.
And if the end does justify the means, the beginning and end of God is steadfast love.