(Post by Michael Gleason)
5 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.
6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
In Exodus 33:18, Moses asked to see God’s glory. God answered that no man can see His face and live, but that He would cover Moses with his hand, pass before him, and then let Moses see His back.
In chapter 34:5-7, the Lord passes before Moses, and in verses 6-7, He gives the Gospel message: God is both merciful and just.
We like to think of God as some kind of Father Christmas character in the sky. We like to hear about His love and mercy, but the idea of a God who hates sin and will judge us for doing wrong is not very popular. We reverse things — instead of seeing ourselves in God’s image, we prefer to create God in our image. We read verses that tell us “God is love” and apply our own definition of love. We come up with a God who doesn’t judge sin, who doesn’t care all that much what we do as long as we don’t hurt anybody and don’t do anything too bad. We invent a God who wants a relationship with us on our terms. This is not the God of Exodus 34.
The God of Exodus 34 Hates Sin
4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.
5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.
The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.
We may wonder, how can a God who is love hate anything? The answer is that because God is love, therefore He must hate. If you love life, you must hate murder, for murder destroys life. So also God must hate evil because He loves good, and evil destroys good.
And God must punish sin. If God allowed evil to go unpunished, He would not be holy. Sin is the very contradiction of His nature. He is undefiled and separate from sinners (Hebrews 7:26). Habakkuk 1:13 says that He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.” God will “by no means clear the guilty.”
God owes us nothing. He made us, and we rebelled against Him. If He were to send us all to an eternity in hell, nobody could accuse Him of injustice.
But God is also merciful.
In Exodus 34:7, the Lord says that He keeps “mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”
In Psalm 103:8, David writes “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” Both “merciful” and “plenteous in mercy” – David didn’t repeat himself by accident. He wants to make certain we get the message that God is merciful.
The Gospel — a Just and Holy God is also Merciful
Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Proverbs 16:6 tells us that iniquity is purged by “mercy and truth”. Mercy without justice is not truth. Mercy without justice is to tell the lie that sin doesn’t matter. Only when there is truth as well as mercy can we be cleansed from our sin.
God’s justice demands that sin be punished. God’s mercy allows a substitute to take our place, to pay the penalty we deserved. And God’s love provided His Son as our Substitute.
When Christ died on the cross, a legal transaction took place where He took our sins and gave us His righteousness. Isaiah 53 says that “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” He “bare the sin of many”. The Son of God bore the wrath of the Father’s justice in our place.
Because of His work on the cross, His righteousness is placed on our account. When God looks at us, He sees, not our sin, but the perfect righteousness of Christ. Romans 5:19 says that “by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
Mercy and justice.
It all comes together at a hill called Calvary.
Look upon His cross and dying shame,
Oh, my soul, it was for thee!
Look, He took thy guilt, thy sin, thy blame,
As He died on Calvary.
That day turned to night and from that fight
Sprang salvation’s Genesis;
And above the Cross in shining light
His Mercy and Justice kissed.
– David Benning