The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. — Exodus 34:6
Omnipresent. Omniscient. Omnipotent. Eternal. These are all some of the well-known attributes of God that so beautifully describe his sovereignty. However, there are four more attributes—perhaps lesser known—that help describe His tenderness and love toward His children. They appear seven separate times, always in a single verse by the writers of the Old Testament, namely Moses (Exodus 34:6); Nehemiah (9:17); David (Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8); Joel (2:13); and Jonah (4:2). The number “seven” in the Bible is the number of fulness or completeness. Here’s what those almost identical verses tell us about God:
The Lord is merciful.
The Hebrew word for mercy is rachamim, which describes the emotion of “mercy” or “compassion.” Interestingly, it is derived from the name of the most motherly organ in the human body—the womb (rechem). This is where the strongest connection of compassion and love are bonded between the mother and her baby. Notice the English translation is “merciful” or put another way, “full of mercy,” like a mother toward her soon to be born child and beyond.
The Lord is gracious.
There is a beautiful song that we often sing at our church called, “Grace After Grace,” taken from the apostle John’s gospel when he says about Jesus, “And from His fulness have we all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16). In other words, our Lord’s grace (unmerited favor) toward us never runs out!
The Lord is slow to anger.
We are admonished in the New Testament, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). Since the Holy Spirit is the author of that verse, certainly it represents God’s view of anger which is dedicated and designed to bring us to a place of repentance. It is a righteous anger that is slow to be observed or materialized because it is only used as a result of our continued disobedience. It is designed to bring us back to His perfect will for our lives. It is not His wrath. That is reserved for the unrepentant and rebellious who remain in unbelief and in opposition to His lovingkindness.
The Lord is abounding in steadfast love.
“There may be no more significant Old Testament description of how God relates to His people than the Hebrew word hesed, here translated as steadfast love,” writes the late R.C. Sproul, who maintained that the “best translation of this term would be loyal love. God loves His people genuinely, immutably, and loyally. Both the love and the loyalty are, of course, tightly bound together . . . God is for His people, and will never cease to be for them.” Here we see that it is also described as a love that is “abounding” which means plentiful and abundant. It, too, will never run out!
I love that God is described in this way because I have found that’s who He is and has been in my life. It gives me the continual assurance and confidence that when He says, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:6) and, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), that is precisely what He means. I pray you know Him like that as well. Maranatha!
Turn you eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
To help us walk closer with God and to know Him better