God: An Autobiography
Building a relationship takes time and a willingness to reveal yourself. It's been over thirty years since my wife, Lenya, and I got married, and I'm still getting to know her. It's a lifelong process.
In Exodus 34:6-7, God revealed Himself to Moses. This is one of the only places in the Bible where God gave a list of His own attributes: "And the LORD passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, 'The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation.'"
When you meet someone, one of the first things you ask is "What's your name?" A name identifies a person, but in the Bible, a name also denotes character, reputation, and even authority. In the Scriptures, there are 300 different names of God, and each one of them reveals a certain facet of His character. The name God used in this passage is Yahweh--I am. It's the first-person form of the Hebrew word hayah, which means to be. It reveals that God is the self-existent one--and continually is. He doesn't depend on anything or anyone else. It's His name, His designation.
Now look at God's description. Of all of the adjectives God could first use to describe Himself, it's not holy, sovereign, or loving--it's merciful. The word is often translated compassionate, because the idea is that of a mother or father seeing their child and feeling compassion and tender love for them (see Psalm 103:13). God looks on His people like parents look on their own children, with the same kind of doting love.
God is also gracious. The word conveys the idea of somebody stronger helping somebody weaker. What this means is that God treats you and me well, not because we're strong or deserve it, but precisely because we are not strong and don't deserve it. That's the whole idea of grace. It's perhaps best summed up by Paul in Romans 5:8: "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And God is also long-suffering. This means He doesn't fly off the handle or need anger management classes. Make no mistake about it, God will execute His wrath in judgment upon this world, but it sure takes Him a long time to get there.
Then there are what I call God's bountiful attributes: "Abounding in goodness and truth." This means that there's enough of it for you and me. Not only is He good; He's got a lot of goodness. The Hebrew word is sometimes translated loving-kindness or love, and in human terms, it means somebody who's loyal to another person. When it's applied to God, it means He is utterly constant and unchanging in His love. He's also abounding in truth: reliable and trustworthy. When God makes a promise, it's in pen, not pencil, and you can rely on Him to keep it.
Verse 7 shows God's balanced attributes. God loves to forgive people, because man's greatest need is to be forgiven. But flip that coin, and the text says, "By no means clearing the guilty." That's the balance of God's nature. God is still just and holy, and He can't let sin go unchecked. He must deal with it.
And He has dealt with it in the person of Jesus Christ. The name of Jesus is what I would say is God's best, fullest name. In Hebrew, it's Yeshua--God saves. In this one name, you have the great I Am with all of these attributes reaching down to us at our level, helping us and saving us.
And these verses aren't a description of somebody giving their opinion of God; this was God telling Moses exactly what He's like: self-existent and continually available and active in our lives in a merciful and gracious way, in a way that is slow to anger and patient, and in a way that is full of goodness and truth. I pray you'd receive that this week.