When we consider the God of the Bible what words come to your mind? I’m always amazed at the various ways people use to describe God. They often use words like “big” or “powerful” if they are sympathetic with the God of the Bible. However, I’ve also heard those who’ve been less than sympathetic with the Christian faith describe God as a tyrant, arrogant, and even cruel. As Christians, how should we describe our God. The Bible goes to great lengths in both stories and in clearer teaching sections to display how we ought to understand the God of all creation. One of the most classic moments in human history when God displayed Himself was with Moses in Exodus 34.
It was there, upon Mount Sinai, where God first gave His Law to Israel, that He further revealed His character in these words, “The LORD, the LORD, a God-merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love to the thousandth generation, 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 ESV)
What do we learn about God from His own words? The holiness of God underlies the entirety of this section. God was not to be approached by anyone, yet God had welcomed Moses, and him alone to this sacred moment. We always remember that God is not ordinary or common. The warning of God came to Moses prior to this revelation, “No one shall come up with you.” (Exodus 34:3 ESV) God was to be approached on His terms alone.
We also learn that God is just. The justice of God was displayed in these words, “who will by no means clear the guilty.” The God of Israel was different than the other gods displayed amongst the pagans. He was neither petty nor indifferent towards evil. Instead, because of His own character and goodness, He was going to deal with those who resisted His rule, and established their own commands. The prophet Habakkuk speaks of God’s justice in this way, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong…” (Habakkuk 1:13 ESV).
God is holy. God is just. God is also loving. His love is manifested in this self-declaration through the lenses of His mercy, grace, slowness to anger, but even more in the declaration of God’s “steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Exodus 34:6 ESV) The “steadfast love” of God has nothing to do with infatuation which may be present today, and gone tomorrow. The love of God in view here is His sacred covenantal love. It is His abiding love which sustains Israel throughout the wilderness and all her years.
Moses sang of God’s “steadfast love” after the Lord conquered Pharaoh’s armies. There, Moses sang of God saying, “You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed” (Exodus 15:13 ESV) We learn then that God’s love is not merely an idea, but intersects with our world, and is displayed clearly in His saving acts. God’s love is the foundation of our redemption. But that is not surprising as we think of one of the most popular verses in all of Scripture: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV) We must recognize that it is the love of God the Father which stands behind the sending of the Son of God. Which is the means by which the holiness and justice of God can be appeased for “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 2:1-2 ESV)
What we learn then even in this brief examination is that God is not a flat one-dimensional character from a poorly written novel. He is the glorious Sovereign. He is holy. He is just. He is good. He is loving. But He is altogether unique, and as such bears other attributes which are not shared with other creatures such as His being all-knowing (omniscient), all-powerful (omnipotent), all-present (omnipresent), and all-good (omnibenevolent).