Ever asked a kid to draw a picture of himself or herself? We heard a story many years ago about a very young child who was denied admittance to a prominent school because they couldn’t draw such an image.
Describing yourself can be a difficult task. Some people have no problem writing a resumé and boasting of their accomplishments, while some find it a challenge to talk about themselves.
Pause for a moment and think about this…what do you think God would say if he were drawing a verbal picture of Himself?
…So how does God talk about God?
I recently got an update from someone where I live who is off working for a ministry organization; “He is who He says He is, and Exodus 34, where God describes His character in the Bible for the first time, reminds us of this.”
I decided to check out this passage and I offer it to you here in bullet point form. But first, The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke…” I can hear Moses saying, “Oh…yeah…sorry about that.” It is a rather comedic moment, though not quite as comedic as Aaron’s answer as to where the golden calf came from; the thing that causes Moses to lose it and break the tablets in the first place. But I digress. Then:
5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord,
- the compassionate and
- gracious God,
- slow to anger,
- abounding in love and
- [abounding in] faithfulness,
- 7 maintaining love to thousands, and
- forgiving wickedness,
- [forgiving] rebellion and
- [forgiving sin. Yet
- he does not leave the guilty unpunished;
- he punishes the children and
- [he punishes] their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
I’ve never formatted a Bible verse quite like that and I trust the formatting doesn’t offend anyone, but we see here 12 characteristics or traits of God’s self-description.
Take a few minutes to slowly re-read that list and think about the God-picture that you have, or that of your friends, neighbors, relatives or co-workers.
Matthew Henry notes 3 primary things God says in this passage:
1. That the God with whom we have to do is a great God.
2. That he is a good God
3. That he is a just and holy God.
It is the second and third aspects of this that seem to confound readers today. Henry notes:
His greatness and goodness illustrate and set off each other. That the terror of his greatness may not make us afraid, we are told how good he is; and, that we may not presume upon his goodness, we are told how great he is. Many words are here heaped up, to acquaint us with, and convince us of, God’s goodness, and to show how much his goodness is both his glory and his delight, yet without any tautology.
Of God’s goodness he notes:
(1.) He is merciful.
(2.) He is gracious.
(3.) He is long-suffering.
(4.) He is abundant in goodness and truth.
(5.) He keeps mercy for thousands.
(6.) He forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin.
Of his justice, Henry writes:
(1.) He will by no means clear the guilty.
(2.) He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.
The last point may be a stumbling block for many. Henry writes:
He may justly do it, for all souls are his, and there is a malignity in sin that taints the blood. He sometimes will do it, especially for the punishment of idolaters. Thus he shows his hatred to sin, and displeasure against it; yet he keepeth not his anger for ever, but visits to the third and fourth generation only, while he keepeth his mercy for thousands. [underlining mine]
What happens next?
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.