Once as Moses led Israel through the wilderness, he asked God for an opportunity to see Him (Exodus 33:18). God explained his request was impossible because if Moses looked on God’s face he would die. Later God said this of Himself in Exodus 34:6: “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; ...”

This is a significant self-disclosure of God’s character often cited (Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 4:31; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15; 103:8; Joel 2:13; Romans 2:4).

Note all that flows from God’s character because He primarily is a compassionate [merciful] God filled with graciousness. Because He is full of mercy and grace, He angers slowly and is filled with patience and truth [absolutely trustworthy, not deceitful].

That is quite in contrast to many people’s concept of God’s character. They often declare that the primary quality of God’s character is justice. Thus, expressions of God’s mercy and grace are “out of character.” He is constantly angry, barely holding His anger in check because of Jesus’ cross. He is impatient. He prefers condemnation to salvation. While He is truthful, He quickly remembers our flaws and failures—and cannot wait to punish them!

While there is no desire to diminish our rightful responsibility that makes us accountable for our choices (Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:9, 10), God’s character declares His desire to save rather than condemn (1 Timothy 2:3, 4; 2 Peter 3:9). The good news is this: God wants to save you and will do all in His power to secure your salvation. He is on our side. The cornerstone of His character is composed of grace arising from His mercy. He rejoices in human repentance. He patiently awaits the redirection of our lives. He never lets us down. He keeps His promises.

At some point [hopefully early in our relationship with God], the Christian must stop running from hell and start running to God. The Christian is not driven by judgment’s terror, but by love for God. Rather than fleeing consequences, God’s people are attracted to His character. They find God’s character admirable in every way. They want God’s character to become their character. That is what they prefer!

Thus their goal as God’s people in an evil world is to be a people of compassion whose grace arises from mercy. In their patience they want to anger slowly. In every way they want to be trustworthy and dependable. Why? That is the nature of their Father, and they are honored to show the world their Father in their character (Matthew 5:43-48).

Would you prefer to own a heart or control a body? God prefers to own hearts. God prefers love to terror. Terror breeds resentment. Love breeds loyalty. Those who know God are committed to love’s loyalty. Feel your responsibility, but also feel God’s love!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 19 January 2006

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