I was reading for another class I am taking at MJTI (mjti.org). The book is a reader in Jewish texts called Judaism and Spiritual Ethics, edited by Niles Goldstein and Steven Mason.
At one point, while discussing g’milut hasidim, acts of lovingkindness, the authors discuss the thirteen attributes of God. These are derived from Exodus 34:6-7. They are part of the story of Moses asking to see God’s glory. God permits Moses only to see a little and in passing by God makes a statement about himself, which can be seen as thirteen attributes of his essence:
1. HaShem – traditionally God’s name is related to his mercy.
2. HaShem – God repeats this, indicating it is central to his being.
3. El – a word for deity, indicates his kingship over all things.
4. Rachum – compassionate, he sympathizes with the oppressed.
5. Khanun – gracious, God is lovingly concerned with us.
6. Erekh afayim – slow to anger, he gives people time to repent.
7. Rav khesed – abundant in kindness, God gives more than we deserve.
8. Emet – truth, God is the source of truth.
9. Notzer khesed la’alafim – extending kindness to the thousandth generation, God is truly longsuffering.
10., 11., and 12. Nosei avon vafesha vekhata’ah – forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, God forgives all kinds of wrongdoing.
13. Venakeh lo yenakeh – yet God does not remit all punishment, which reminds us God’s mercy has a limit.
It is attribute number thirteen that I wish to focus on for a moment. Another translation words it, “who will by no means clear the guilty.” It is from the Torah, in Exodus 34:7.
There is a dialogue going on within Messianic Judaism. It concerns how wide the boundaries are for the Age to Come. Is conscious faith in Yeshua prior to death really necessary? What sort of exceptions does God make?
I had started a series and never finished in which I address a few aspects of this question. I started by noting that God does hear the prayers of the unredeemed (see Exclusivity and God 1). I also noted that Israel’s place as the people through whom God is focusing his work in the world is not dependent on Israel to have faith in Yeshua. I then discussed the Torah principle of karet, being cut off, as an example of God’s exclusivism in the Torah. I had planned to go on to discuss the idea of a remnant of Israel in Isaiah and Jeremiah. I never finished (and no one complained, so I’m guessing people were not too interested).
Now I would like to make one simple point. Many who believe that the traditional boundary of faith in Yeshua should not be considered absolute suggest it is against God’s character to be so narrow. And it is true that God is longsuffering, showing kindness to the thousandth generation, full of compassion, grace, and love. Yet the thirteenth attribute of God is his tendency to say, “Enough!”
God does have a line. He cut people off in the Torah for various violations and blasphemies. If in the New Testament we read that God’s boundary for the Age to Come is faith in Yeshua, then who are we to criticize. The New Testament is not making God out to be any more narrow than the Torah does.