Water for the Thirsty
Weekly Devotional

Water for the Thirsty

God’s Self-Disclosure

Weekly Devotional

‘As the deer pants for streams of water so my soul pants for you, O God’. (Psalm 42:1)
‘…Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink”…’ (John 7:37)

16th January 2011

In Exodus 34 God provides this revelation about Himself:

‘…the LORD…proclaimed his name…"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin...’ (Exodus 34:5–7)

The background to these verses is Israel’s descent into idolatry in the incident of the golden calf (Exodus 32). It might seem to us that God would be justified in rejecting Israel, and in dialog with Moses, God threatens to do just that. However, what God seems to be doing is testing Moses to see if he will join God in remaining committed to his people. Thankfully, Moses rises to the occasion and intercedes for Israel.

In this Self-disclosure God declares not what Israel deserves (rejection), but who He is in Himself and in covenant with His people despite her failings. Here is the voice of the Self-Revealing, Self-Naming, Self-Defining and Self-Giving God as the Lord of His people.

Israel may fail, but God will not, for he is “compassionate and gracious….slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”

Just think for a moment about those attributes.

1. Compassionate

The Hebrew word is rachum, derived from a word meaning “womb.” It is translated into English as compassion and mercy. It speaks of God’s tender care; like the care a foetus experiences in her mother’s womb. This tender care of God for his people, despite their sin, is vividly portrayed in the book of Hosea. Just as Gomer breaks faith with her husband Hosea, so Israel breaks faith with her husband the LORD. But just as Hosea shows rachum (compassion) toward Gomer, despite her sin, so the LORD shows tender compassion toward his people Israel. God saves her despite her sin. That is true compassion.

2. Gracious

The word in Hebrew is chanun, perhaps best translated “favour.” It has to do with God’s sustaining power. What he has created (Israel as a nation in this case), he will sustain; he will favour.

3. Slow to anger

The phrase in Hebrew is erk apayim and literally means “wide of nostrils.” The thought is that God’s nostrils are able to spread so wide (like the rising anger of a threatened bull) that it will be a very long time before God reaches the end of his patience. Indeed, God is long-suffering with his people. What we learn here is that time is God’s servant in his dealings with his disobedient people. Indeed, in his compassion and favour, God is slow to anger in order that his people may have time to come to know him for who he is and thus to turn to him in repentance and faith.

4. Abounding in love

The phrase in Hebrew is rav chesed and means “great of grace.” It is certainly one of the most significant and vital theological terms to be found in the Old Testament and is often translated “abounding in love” or “loyal covenant love” or “loving kindness,” and sometimes as “grace.” Its meaning has to do with covenanted love; Who God is in covenant relationship with his people. He always acts toward his people in love and grace.

5. (Abounding in) faithfulness

The phrase in Hebrew is rav emet and means abounding in faithfulness or truth. In Scripture emet is often coupled with chesed. In the New Testament, they are coupled in their Greek translation in speaking of Jesus who is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The Hebrew word emet is related to the word Amen, which means affirmation or confirmation. It signifies that God keeps his promises; He is always faithful and true, despite our faithlessness.

The point then becomes that we must learn to understand God on His terms, the five terms of His self-disclosure.

It is because He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, it is because He is who He is, that the Lord God in the incarnation takes human nature upon himself and in doing so re-creates it. He makes all people his dearly loved children, not on the basis of their performance or merit, but on the basis of who He is and what He does as the God of all grace.

Thank God He is who He is – A God who always is faithful to and always relates with all humanity on the basis of his love and grace.

Have a good week getting to know our God as He has revealed Himself.

Pastor Barry

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