A Look At The Astounding Way God Sees Himself

Keith KettenringChristian Living, The Uncommon Journey

I encourage people to pray the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I have found this simple prayer to be key to communing with God whether in solitude or in daily activities. One huge benefit of constantly praying this prayer is a growing understanding and experience of the mercy of God. In asking for it, God provides His mercy.

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My spiritual journey includes a movement towards knowing God’s mercy and away from perceiving God as an angry, vengeful, wrathful God. The journey includes a growing experience of a loving relationship with a merciful God vs. thinking I am at enmity with God – we are at odds with one another – and therefore I must act in ways that lessen His disgust with me.

So, for the past few posts, I’ve been exploring God’s mercy as it relates to our lives. New discoveries about mercy are happening. Most Christians have heard of God’s mercy but have spent little time exploring it or seeking to experience it more fully.

One prominent reality has emerged from my small exploration: God is mercy and is therefore merciful in all He does. 

There are a few places in scripture where God’s view of Himself are recorded. One of the most prominent is found in Exodus 34 where Yahweh Himself describes Himself using His own words:

 The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast lo the thousandth generation, 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 fourth generation. (Exodus 34.6-9)

What’s amazing is that God says this after the people of Israel have sinned by disobeying, making a golden calf, worshipping this idol, and acting in rebellion. Many suffer the consequences of their sin in death. Yet God is always merciful. 

We learn this from the very lips of God Himself

  • God is merciful/benevolent.
  • God is gracious.
  • God is slow to anger.
  • God is abounding/abundant/overflowing in steadfast love.
  • God’s steadfast love (hesed) never ends. It lasts to thousands of generations (a way of expressing endlessness); “keeping” means “to guard, maintain or protect out of a sense of responsibility.” God guards and maintains His steadfastness.
  • God forgives every kind of sin.
  • God will not “clear” (the guilty). The words “the guilty” are not in the original text; they don’t exist. Could anyone be inserted here? The context would imply that “the people of Israel” should be inserted. Then the word “clear” makes sense – God will by no means release Himself from who He is – mercy, forgiveness, steadfast love – no matter what people do. God is always merciful!
  • God visits the sins of every generation. “Visit” means to look after or to care for. This is not a negative word but a positive promise – God will take action to deal with the sin of His people resulting in something beneficial. He will forgive the sin of each succeeding generation. His mercy is available for all generations of people.

Do you see whats missing? God does not describe Himself as angry, vengeful, full of wrath, or eager to punish. I am not saying that God doesnt at times act in wrath towards HIs enemies. I am saying that He is always merciful even in His wrath. He is not schizophrenic. He is always merciful to His own. 

“God, who are you?” “I am Steadfast Love.”

“Father, I have sinned.” “Child, I forgive you.” 

“God, I’ve messed up again.” “My own of My own, My mercy is yours.” 

God sees Himself as mercy. Is that how you see God? 

Dr. K