God Describes Himself
The character of God is a beautiful part of studying scripture and living a Christian life. We must believe God is good, even when bad things happen because we know His character. We can see these characteristics in our own lives, the lives of others, and ultimately throughout the story of scripture.
We can also know the character of God because He described himself. How easy for us to learn about Him when He just flat out said who He is? He was just chatting with Moses on Mount Sinai and started talking about what kind of God he is. And because He is such a thoughtful and purposeful God, He spoke this to Moses, who happens to be the author of the first five books of the bible.
“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 the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
Characteristics God Uses for Himself
We know God is merciful because He sent his son Jesus to bear the weight of our sin. We deserve the wrath from our sin, but a merciful God made a way for us instead of pouring out punishment when that would have been much easier. Over and over, we see God be merciful. In Genesis when Adam and Eve disobeyed, God clothed them before sending them out of the garden. He didn’t have to do that and easily could have just sent them on their way, but He shows mercy and love through this simple act.
Grace is the free and unmerited favor of God we are gifted through salvation and a God that shows divine grace is truly gracious. Jesus showed the apostles a lot of grace. Peter denied him, Judas betrayed him, and Thomas doubted. Along comes a sinner who was persecuting Christians, Paul. God gives him grace and Paul transforms, then writes and teaches while boasting in the fact that the Lord said his grace is sufficient. Romans 12:8 is where Paul explains this lavish of grace.
Slow to Anger
Slow and rational about anger is a God that when angry, that anger is warranted. He gets upset and sad. He is a God that created emotions and has them himself. But when God is angry it’s for good reason. If you want to see God’s anger, read through the Old Testament. There’s plenty of forgiveness and love, but there’s a lot of times when God is so hurt and sad that He becomes truly angry with people. Genesis 19:23-29 can give you a quick example of God’s anger. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed when God rained sulfur and fire on them. Wow, God’s anger was righteous and He allows for forgiveness, but His slow to anger nature doesn’t mean that He will never be mad.
There’s no limit on God. He’s plentiful. He’s abundant. He’s more than we will ever need. Omnipresent is often the word we hear used when talking about God’s ability to be everywhere. There’s no limit to the access available. When God said these things to Moses, it’s before the instructions for the tabernacle. Eventually people would believe they only had access to God with the ark of the covenant. The death of Jesus tears the curtain and gives access freely. But the access didn’t mean that there was a limit on God. He was still abounding everywhere with His people.
Steadfast is unwavering and firm; together this means His love is going nowhere. He’s an unconditional loving father. The word used for love in this portion of scripture is checed (khed-sed). This type of love is most simply translated to kindness. It’s used almost 250 times in the King James translation. In those uses it’s not always used as kindness but also mercy, loving kindness, goodness, kindly, merciful, favorer, good, goodliness, pity, and reproach.
He’s a faithful and loyal God. 1 Corinthians 1:9, says “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Over and over scripture says God is faithful. When the storm stopped and Noah got out of the ark, when Daniel survived the lion’s den, and when God told the serpent that a seed would defeat him. All of these things were promises of God’s faithfulness.
Here He’s telling Moses that He is a God who forgives. If He’s merciful and gracious, then He’s obviously forgiving. A creator that knows we’re all going to fall short and yet sacrifices His only son to save us, that’s forgiving. A Christ that had dinner with men who would betray and deny Him, that’s forgiving.
Morally right and fair is a God that is slow to anger, forgiving, and loving. He is the standard, He creates the standard, and He rules over those standards. In Psalm 51, we see David ask God for mercy after his transgressions with Bathsheba. God does show mercy on David, but He also gives punishment. God is just over and over, even when it sometimes seems scary and harsh.
We know God is all that He says He is. He proves it over and over throughout scripture. He proves it throughout history and our own lives.