Exodus 34 is one of those chapters in God’s Word where pilgrims find truth that carries them through life. Maybe it’s not so much the chapter, but a key passage. Maybe it’s not even the key passage, as much as it is a key understanding (a key truth) of who God is.
In days of turmoil, troubles, fear, grief, pain, darkness — the truth that God reveals about himself to Moses shines bright as it points to the eternal, self-existent God of revelation and redemption.
How does God reveal this truth? By stating his name.
“The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.” (Exodus 34:5 ESV)
The New Living Translation says it like this, “…and he called out his own name, Yahweh.”
As God passed in front of Moses, he then spoke these words, defining the Person behind the name…
“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.” (34:6,7)
God declares who he is. These perfect qualities do not change. A changing god wouldn’t really be God now would he? This declaration becomes a central truth that is repeated throughout the Old Testament.
“They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them.” Nehemiah 9:17
“Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.” (Nehemiah 9:31)
“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15)
“The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Psalm 103:8)
“And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” (Jonah 4:2)
In times of confession. It times of turning to God. In times of anguish. In times of returning to the Holy One.
“…and rend your hearts and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” (Joel 2:13)
We can always count on God being merciful. We can always trust that His faithfulness is show up in our deepest troubles, in our deepest pain, in our darkest sins.
Different translations of verse 7…
Keeping steadfast love for thousands.
Maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations.
Keeping loyal love to the thousands.
I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations!!
That’s who God is.
Everything around us might be crumbling, but this central truth won’t. He loves with an unfailing love. He does everything with compassion and mercy. He overflows with unfailing, covenant-keeping mercy and love.
And yes, He forgives iniquity, rebellion, and sin through Jesus. At the cross He suffered, died, and three days later rose again.
Thank you Jesus for redemption from sin! For buying me out of the bondage of sin and bringing me into your kingdom that rules with perfect love. You may not always deliver me from hardships or pain, but even in great loss, you still prove yourself over and over to be greater than I know, more merciful than I realize, more loving that I imagine, and more faithful than I can even comprehend.