Are you ready?—Exodus: Gods and Kings. It had to happen. The story of the Exodus is pure epic fare—stuff Hollywood is always on the lookout for. I’m sure the Christian blogosphere is about to blow up, too, as bloggers take the movie apart. You know—for inaccuracies, and the like.
Interesting note: Christian Bale had never read the book of Exodus until being cast in the lead role of Moses. According to personal admission, he “had no idea about Moses at all.”
For the very first time the actor went on to read Genesis through Deuteronomy. He remarked, “It’s very few people that I’ve met that have actually read the five books of Moses all the way through. Most people read snippets.”
In comments about his final impressions of the reading, Bale referred to Moses as “troubled” and “mercurial.” According to the Daily Mail, he also said, “But the biggest surprise was the nature of God. He was equally very mercurial.”
These remarks probably won’t sit well with Christian readers. In fact, I’m going to suggest that Bale stick to the acting and not theological commentary. Nonetheless, I’m sympathetic to his reactions.
“Mercurial”? I’m guessing that’s not a word many of us throw around much. It refers to swings of temperament or extremes of mood. If you’re using that term to characterize Moses, then maybe to some extent you’re on the money. I mean, fancy that—Moses as one of us? It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the man was far from being a super-hero.
But how about “mercurial” in describing God? Well, I wouldn’t agree if it meant capricious or cruel. For sure I wouldn’t agree if it meant fragile in the mortal sense as with Moses. But a God capable of reacting? One who can express His pleasure deeply and generously toward faith and yet respond to evil with frightening indignation? Well…yes. The God of Exodus doesn’t play.
Check out chapter 34:
5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him [Moses] there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.
6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed,“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
That’s what Christian Bale read just recently. That’s what I’ve been reading for 30 years. The Lord. Merciful. Gracious. Loving. Faithful. Forgiving. Then, utterly punitive. Tracking sin until it’s completely rooted out. As the Apostle Paul would say, “Behold then, the kindness and severity of God.”1
Mercurial? I guess so. But I didn’t sign on to the Christian life in order to follow Mr. Spock, anyway. As a little fellow 21 years old, I had wanted to get on the biggest ride in the park of life. I heard it was God.
Much to my delight, I found that the God of the Bible was more than stained glass windows and an all-powerful Andy Griffith type. Storyteller C.S. Lewis casts Him as the character of Aslan the lion, telling us, “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.”
God is unnerving to the human beings who wish to tame and control Him. One time I heard a guy on call-in radio complaining about the threatening tone of these thoughts. How he’d like to adjust theology to allow for something “friendlier.” But not only should theology thrill and comfort you, it’s supposed to rattle you. That’s the idea. You’re supposed to lose sleep about it at night. You’re supposed to be hounded until you relent and repent and come to the feet of Jesus. That’s how it works.
Especially in Exodus.
1 (Rom. 11:22a NASB)