Who Is God? Part 1 - page 5

 


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From the Winter 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Who Is God? Part 1

by Thomas A. Tarrants III,  D.Min.
Vice President for Ministry & Director
Washington Area Fellows Program, C.S. Lewis Institute

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 Of the specific Hebrew words with which God describes Himself, in Commentary on the Old Testament, Keil and Delitzsch note:

here grace, mercy, and goodness are placed in the front. And accordingly all the words which the language contained to express the idea of grace in its varied manifestations to the sinner, are crowded together here, to reveal the fact that in His inmost being God is love. But in order that grace may not be perverted by sinners into a ground of wantonness, justice is not wanting even here with its solemn threatenings, although it only follows mercy, to show that mercy is mightier than wrath, and that holy love does not punish til sinners despise the riches of the goodness, patience, and long-suffering of God.8

 Let’s examine what these words mean:
 • Merciful, or compassionate,9 meaning that He “genuinely cares about humans and holds toward them a tender attitude of concern and mercy.”10
 • Gracious, meaning He “does things for people they do not deserve and goes beyond what might be expected to grant truly kind favor toward people, favor of which they are not necessarily worthy.”11
 • Slow to anger, meaning He is “ready, and disposed, to pardon, but that He patiently waits for those who have sinned, and invites them to repentance by His long-suffering…as if He would abstain from severity did not man’s wickedness compel Him to execute punishment on his sins.”12
 • Abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, translates the Hebrew word hesed, and “connotes long-term, reliable loyalty of one member of a covenant relationship to another. However fickle and unreliable humans may be in their relationship to God, he is nothing of the sort but can be counted on in every situation and at all times to be completely faithful to his promises for his people.”13
 • Keeping steadfast love for thousands, means certainly thousands of persons, but more likely thousands of generations and assures that He will not forsake His people as long as they do not abandon Him and give themselves over to evil that demands punishment.
 • Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, means that His forgiveness encompasses the full range of human sin and “thus the greatness of His clemency is set forth, inasmuch as He not only pardons light offences, but the very grossest sins; and again, remits not only sin in one case, but is propitious to sinners by whom He has been a hundred times offended. Hence, therefore, appears the extent of His goodness, since He blots out an infinite mass of iniquities.”14
 • Who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation applies to those who would presume upon God’s mercy and stubbornly persist in the wickedness of their forefathers in disregard of God’s law: “After God has spoken of His mercy, He adds an exception, viz., that the iniquity is by no means pardoned, which is accompanied by obstinacy…The words, therefore, may be properly paraphrased thus: Although God is pitiful and even ready to pardon, yet He does not therefore spare the despisers, but is a severe avenger of their impiety.”15

 

 The eventual fate of the rebellious nation of Judah is an example of how God, who is merciful, gracious, abounding in love, and slow to anger, is compelled to bring judgment against those who stubbornly persist in the wickedness of their forefathers and reject His compassion, patience, and repeated overtures of mercy:

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy (2 Chron. 36:15–16).

 

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