EXODUS 34:5-7: “The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with him there, and proclaimed His name Yahweh. Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed:
Yahweh — Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” CSB
OBSERVATION: What is God like? Is He loving, benevolent, compassionate, gracious, and merciful? Or, is He a judge who hate sins and stands ready to punish those who transgress His laws? Your concept of God will determine both your worship and your obedience.
One common mistake that is made when trying to understand God’s nature is to only pick the parts of His nature that appeal to us. You can see this in the way many pastors approach their messages. There are some who love to preach hell fire and brimstone. Then, there are those who only focus on the love of God. Who is right?
As I have studied Scripture over the years I have felt the tension between so many truths. The Bible tells us that in Christ we are saints. Yet, I am fully aware that I am still a sinner. The Bible also tells me that I am fully pardoned from my sin. Yet, it calls me to confess my sins to the Lord so that I might be forgiven. I am seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. And yet, my feet are firmly planted on the ground. Tension between Biblical truths is a common thread in the Bible.
When I grew up my mother used to hang our sheets on a clothes line. She liked the way they smelled when they dried in the air. Most people today have never even seen a clothes line. It was simply two metal poles with a t-bar, and two strings hung between them in tension. Without the tension your clothes would drag into the ground, or fall altogether in the dirt. Without the tension of Biblical truth our theology will do the same.
It is important to understand that Moses was not recording what he thought about God. He was recording what God proclaimed about Himself. If we want to understand who God is, we must accept His full revelation, even when it causes us tension. Let’s look at it again.
- “The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with him there, and proclaimed His name Yahweh. Then the Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: Yahweh — Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.”
Not only did the Lord reveal His nature to Moses, He revealed it through His revelatory name. Yahweh is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. This is where I want to camp. This is the place I would want to say “Amen” and let everyone go home. But this is not the full revelation of the nature of God.
God is also just. If He is fully loving, He must also be fully just. He cannot and will not leave the guilty unpunished. He will deal with wrong doing, both in our lives and in the lives of our children and grandchildren. When we dismiss the justice of God, and only focus on the mercy of God, we open ourselves to a false concept of God that will impact our worship and our obedience. How?
A focus only on the love and mercy of God will cause us to struggle with our faith when we are disciplined by God. Yet, Hebrews is very clear, whom the Lord loves He chastens. And a focus only on the justice of God will keep us from developing an intimate life of communion with the Lord. We will keep our distance, always fearing that His judgement is ready to come upon us. Both of these extremes are wrong.
Understanding God’s mercy, love, and compassion, leads us to a healthy understanding of our Heavenly Father. We joyfully and boldly come before His throne through the grace of Jesus Christ to find grace and mercy in our time of need. When we sin, we know that we have an advocate in Jesus Christ. We run to Him, confessing our sin, and we are forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness.
Understanding God’s justice and judgment gives us a reverence and fear of God, and a clear understanding of sin. Sin is not to be treated lightly. Sin destroys the work and purposes of God. Sin is the reason He gave His only begotten Son to redeem us. It cost Jesus His life! We must deal with sin in our life. When we are disciplined as children by the Lord, we rejoice. Why? Because we know that godly discipline leads to life and the fruit of righteousness. We do not fear God’s judgment, for we are fully pardoned through the blood of Jesus Christ. Yet, we welcome His discipline, for we know that it flows from the heart of His love.
Lord, forgive me for the times when I have swung to either extreme in my understanding of who Your are. Help me walk in the full assurance for Your love that is expressed in your mercy and compassion, and in your righteousness and justice. Help me see You as You have revealed Yourself.
In Jesus Name!