What God is Like

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, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:6-7 ESV).

“How would you describe yourself?” he asked. “Give me an idea of who you are.” He leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head as if he had just finished Thanksgiving dinner and was preparing room for pie. I nervously fumbled with my fingers on the opposite side of the desk. What should I tell him? Everything I wanted him to know was in my résumé!

If you could sum up your existence, everything you are, in a sentence or two, what would you say? You aren’t allowed to discuss who you want to be, or the character you wish you had; you need to be truthful and to the point. And you can’t talk about what you’ve done, just who you are.

There’s no record that Moses asked that of God. Can you imagine him saying, “OK,  God, You’ve gotten us out of some pretty tight jams recently. Mad props and respect! But, if we’re going to keep following you around out here, You’re gonna need to explain yourself a bit more!”?

God was about to give Moses the Ten Commandments, the foundation for acceptable behavior. That in itself would provide a pretty good idea of who God is. But God did explain Himself. He gave the Israelites, and by extension us, the lens through which we must view the Ten Commandments. He isn’t simply an exacting disciplinarian who is occasionally merciful and gracious. He’s not who He is because of the laws he established. His laws are a reflection of who He is!

We often look at God’s laws like shackles and chains, there to restrict us. But God put the laws in place to protect us and to prepare our hearts for the jubilee in Christ. When we consider God’s laws, we should do so only with the acknowledgement that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”

God knew that we would stumble; He was aware that we would be unable to keep the whole law. So He prefaced the giving of the law by offering us a description of His character. It is His way of affirming to us that He loves us and will forgive our sins. He is patient with us, but apart from a relationship with Him there is judgment.

King David had a high esteem of the Law because he had a high esteem of God. He saw the law through the lens of God’s love, grace, mercy and faithfulness. Every verse in Psalm 119 talks about God’s law. “Consider how I love your precepts! Give me life according to your steadfast love” (Psalms 119:159 ESV). “Great is your mercy, O LORD; give me life according to your rules” (Psalms 119:156 ESV).

My point is this: we can choose to see God through the lens of the law, or we can choose to see the law through the character and heart of God. We can choose to live in fear of whom we see as a despotic ruler, or we can choose to obey God because of His great love for us.

I am having sinus surgery today. They will be boring holes in my “cheekbone” sinuses (Maxillary Sinuses) to facilitate better drainage. I hope to be up to writing next week, but I may only offer a verse and a brief thought for a few days. It all depends on how things go. I would appreciate your prayers! Blessings! Tim


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