Monday, 2 July 2012

The Verse - Exodus 34:6

To my ones and ones of readers: Sorry for the delay - work and life have been crazily busy at the moment, leaving me feeling exhausted and quite brain-dead in the evenings. But here I am again, and hopefully my blog posts will start being a little more regular once more.

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, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7

This is the first time in the Bible that God describes Himself. Naturally, before this we have gained an understanding of who God is by His actions, nature and behaviour, but the passage above is the first time God describes Himself in His own words. Therefore, I think this text is quite important. Of course God has a lot more attributes than those given above, but since this was the first time He verbally described Himself to His creation, one could assume that He would express those characteristics that are most fundamental to His nature. This verse is also repeated many times in the Bible. Here are the major characteristics that God ascribes to Himself:

1) God is merciful - He shows compassion or forgiveness towards those whom He has the power and right to punish or harm.

2) God is gracious - He gives unmerited favour to humanity (by sending his Son to die on a cross, thus accomplishing eternal salvation for all those who repent of their sin and trust in Christ).

3) God is slow to anger - He is patient, as demonstrated by the fact that He has refrained from destroying sinful humanity from Adam's Fall right up to now.

4) God abounds in steadfast love - His love for his children never wavers, and nothing can separate believers from Him, although He may administer fatherly discipline to them from time to time.

5) God also abounds in faithfulness - He is true to his promises even when we are not.

6) God forgives inquity, transgression and sin. The flip side of this is that because God is also holy and just, He must punish those who do not repent and ask for forgiveness for their sins, since they therefore bear their guilt - which is what the second half of the above verse focuses on. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, God poured out on Him the wrath that we sinners would otherwise have to bear, and Christ bore the penalty for our transgressions. This is how God can forgive sinners while still remaining holy and just.

The part of the verse that speaks of children being impacted by their parents and grandparents is best explained by John MacArthur, who writes:

"Moses has made it clear that children were not punished for the sins of their parents (Deut 23:16; Ezek 18:19-32) but children would feel the impact of breaches of God's law by their parents' generation as a natural consequence of its disobedience, its hatred of God. Children reared in such an environment would imbibe and then practice similar idolatry, thus themselves expressing hateful disobedience. The difference in consequence served as both a warning and a motivation."

If I had to worship a God, the God described in this verse is the kind of God that I would think to be worthy of worshipping: a loving, merciful, gracious, faithful, forgiving God, who is also just, righteous and holy.

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