Over this past quarter in our Sunday morning youth class, we have been studying God’s character and nature. In our world today, it would seem that there are many different views of who God is. Some consider Him to be like a genie in a bottle, only needed when things are not going as the person believes they should. Others view Him as a “hellfire and brimstone” sort of being who is just waiting for us to mess up so He can unleash His wrath and strike us down. Even famous artists and Hollywood actors have tried to portray the character of God in many different forms.
With all of these different views about God, it is easy for us to become caught up in the confusion and begin to question what God is really like. How can we know for sure who God really is? The answer is really quite simple: we need to look at what God has said about Himself! What better source is there for finding out the nature of God than God Himself?
At the beginning of Exodus 34, we see Moses on Mount Sinai replacing the Ten Commandments’ two stone tablets. As Moses is on the mountain, the text says that “the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 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 fourth generation…’” (Exodus 34:5-7). Just within these few verses, God announces to Moses and to us who He is in a way that we should not soon forget. He is…
Merciful — the word used here is the word for “compassionate.” God shows incredible compassion towards His people
Gracious — He shows favor to His people though they do not deserve it through their actions against Him through sin
Slow to anger — He is patient towards His people; He will not give up on them or turn away from them so easily
Abounding in steadfast love — the word “abounding” carries with it the idea of overflowing/cannot be more full. God is overflowing with lovingkindness towards His people
Abounding in faithfulness — He is overflowing with faithfulness toward His people. No one is more reliable or trustworthy than God
Keeping steadfast love for thousands — He is not partial in His love; He keeps (literally “guards”) His love to ensure His people that it will never end
Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin — He forgives/takes away the things that His people have done against Him, despite their guiltiness and crimes against His law (because of His steadfast love)
Who will by no means leave the guilty unpunished — He is merciful, gracious, and overflowing in love, but He is also just and will punish those who are going against Him and His law
And there we have it: God’s perfect self-description. Though it may seem so simple and straightforward, the words of God here have such a great impact on us today. He has always been these things and He always will be. While many people in the world will continue to have their own ideas or concepts of God and His nature, we need to keep in mind one important truth: No matter who or what we think God is, God is who He says He is.