Saturday, January 16, 2016

The mighty goodness of God

“The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 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, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands,[a] 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 34:5-7 ESV a. Exodus 34:7 Or to the thousandth generation

I have been pondering the goodness of God, and I have discovered that there are many aspects to God’s goodness. I began my thinking by reading the scripture that I quoted above, because this is where God describes Himself. In Exodus 33, Moses is interceding for the nation of Israel, and Moses asks God to show His glory. God’s response is that Moses could not bear to see God’s glory and live to tell the story, so God allowed Moses to see His goodness and God allowed Moses to hear God’s name proclaimed from the very mouth of God Himself!

The scripture quoted above starts out by saying that the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for many generations and forgiving iniquity and sin. These are defining characteristic of the goodness of God, but not His only characteristics. He will by no means ignore the guilt that will visit generations of men.

This scripture stopped me in my tracks. Who can be forgiven, if this is what God says of Himself? My conclusion, although it may not be the right conclusion, is that God’s nature is to forgive, but He cannot ignore the guilt. This is why something had to be done about man’s guilt.

Man first sinned when Adam and Eve recognized their shame and nakedness. They were naked before this realization came upon them, and God had pronounced it good. However, after Adam and Eve acquired knowledge, they experienced the guilt and shame of nakedness. It was not necessarily the nakedness that needed to be covered, as much as it was the guilt that needed to be dealt with.

God said in the scripture quoted above that He would by no means ignore guilt, so something must be done about it. It is obvious that man can’t do anything to remove his guilt or to cover it up. The scripture above says that the guilt and shame will be visited on the generations of men, not because of what we do, but because who we are. We are people with knowledge, and we have the ability to recognize our own guilt, and that makes us unlike any other creature in creation.

Since God’s nature is unable to ignore guilt, His merciful and gracious nature created a way for us to be guilt free so that we can abide with God. God died in our place. He took our guilt upon Himself. He stood trial before Himself in our place, pronounced Himself guilty instead of pronouncing us guilty, and sent Himself to die on a cross. All we have to do is say that we accept the verdict. That is all we can do. This goodness of God is the essence of grace.