Exodus 34:6-9

Sunday Morning Bible Study

December 28, 2008


Moses had spent 40 days on Mount Sinai receiving all kinds of cool things from God, including the design for the Tabernacle, the portable worship center, as well as just how man is to relate to God.

But while he was gone, the people got restless and wondered what happened to Moses.  They went to Aaron, he made a golden calf, and as the people began to worship with great wickedness, Moses returned.

Moses pleaded with God for mercy on the people and God did show mercy.  Moses has now gone back to Mount Sinai with new stone tablets for God to write on, and Moses is having a “close encounter” with God Himself.

God isn’t going to show Moses His face, but He is passing in front of Moses and “declaring His name” to him.  God is explaining His nature to Moses.

Exodus 34

:5-9 God Describes Himself

:5 Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.

God is going to describe Himself to Moses.

Have you ever had someone describe you wrongly?  Have you ever had someone even lie about you?

If you pay attention to some of the ways that God is described by the world, you might get the wrong idea about God.

We call great tragedies, things that insurance companies don’t like, “acts of God”.
To some people Jesus is just a name that you use when something bad happens, when you hurt yourself, when you make a terrible mistake, and people say, “Jesus Christ”.
To other people God is a part of a phrase you say when you don’t like someone or something and you hear the words, “God damn it”.
I have this recollection as a kid thinking that God was like an old man with a long beard sitting up on a cold stone throne in heaven with a big hammer, just waiting to smash the first person who got out of line.

What do you think God is like?  Listen to how God describes Himself.

How about paying attention to how God describes Himself?

This description of God is repeated seven other times in the Old Testament (Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).

(Num 14:18 NKJV)  'The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.'

(Neh 9:17 NKJV)  They refused to obey, And they were not mindful of Your wonders That You did among them. But they hardened their necks, And in their rebellion They appointed a leader To return to their bondage. But You are God, Ready to pardon, Gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, Abundant in kindness, And did not forsake them.

(Psa 86:15 NKJV)  But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth.

(Psa 103:8 NKJV)  The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.

(Psa 145:8 NKJV)  The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy.

(Joel 2:13 NKJV)  So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.

(Jonah 4:2 NKJV)  So he prayed to the LORD, and said, "Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.

:6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,

Our last study talked about the meaning of God’s name “Yahweh”. He is the “existing one”.  He is the “I Am”.

We talked about how God’s name is used in connection with our needs.

When you need peace, God replies, “I Am” (Yahweh Shalom)
When you need righteousness, God replies “I Am” (Yahweh Tsidkenu)
When you have a deep inner hunger, Jesus replies “I am the bread of life”
When you are afraid of death, Jesus replies, “I am the resurrection and the life”

Don’t forget the context here. What has just happened to the nation of Israel? 

They have sinned terribly with making and worshipping the golden calf.

What do they need?

They need mercy and forgiveness.

Look at how God describes His nature as the “I Am”. We’re going to look at 7 qualities.

mercifulrachuwm – compassionate (found 13 times); from racham (43x) – to love, love deeply, have tender affection

It is a word that is used to describe the love of a parent for a child:

(Psa 103:13 NKJV)  As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
(Isa 49:15 NKJV)  "Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you.

The Psalmist said this quality led to God forgiving the Israelites

(Psa 78:38 NKJV)  But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, And did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, And did not stir up all His wrath;

1. Compassion

Do you need compassion?  Do you need the pity of a loving parent?

God says this is My name, “I Am”

graciouschannuwn (13x) – gracious; from chanan (78x) – to be gracious, show favor, pity; a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need

(Exo 22:26-27 NKJV)  "If you ever take your neighbor's garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. {27} "For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.

You might be cruel hearted towards your neighbor’s needs, but God isn’t.  God wants you to be gracious like He is.

Sometimes the word is turned around a bit to be translated as “plead” or “supplication” – a request for help.

When the captain sent to arrest the prophet Elijah saw how the previous captains were all burnt up with fire from heaven, he “pleaded” with Elijah, asking for gracious help. (2Ki. 1:13)
(2 Ki 1:13 NKJV)  Again, he sent a third captain of fifty with his fifty men. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and pleaded with him, and said to him: "Man of God, please let my life and the life of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight.

2. Gracious Help

Do you have great needs in your life?  Do you need someone to help you?

God says “I Am”

longsuffering – two Hebrew words (combo is found 13x)

long‘arek – long; prolong ; anger‘aph – nostril, nose, face; anger

Why is the “nose” connected to anger?  Perhaps because a person’s nose flares when they get angry.

Could this mean that God has a long nose?

long” + “to anger” = “slow to anger”

The thought is that God takes a long, deep breath as he holds back his anger.

Sometimes we get to thinking that God has “had it up to here” with us.  We think that we’ve tried God’s patience one too many times.

Let me simply say that if you are still alive on this planet, you haven’t reached the end of God’s patience.
God is not “finished” with you.

Most of the times these two words are found together, they are speaking about God.  But there are a couple of exceptions in the book of Proverbs:

 (Prov 14:29 NKJV)  He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, But he who is impulsive exalts folly.
(Prov 15:18 NKJV)  A wrathful man stirs up strife, But he who is slow to anger allays contention.
(Prov 16:32 NKJV)  He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
Some of us are familiar with people who have a “short temper”.
Play “Wellman” video.  This is NOT what God is like.

You’re going to see that these qualities that describe God are also qualities that we are to cultivate in our own lives.

How do we cultivate being “slow to anger”?
Do we learn to take a deep breath and count to ten?
Men become like their “god”.
(Psa 115:1-9 NKJV)  Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, But to Your name give glory, Because of Your mercy, Because of Your truth. {2} Why should the Gentiles say, "So where is their God?" {3} But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. {4} Their idols are silver and gold, The work of men's hands. {5} They have mouths, but they do not speak; Eyes they have, but they do not see; {6} They have ears, but they do not hear; Noses they have, but they do not smell; {7} They have hands, but they do not handle; Feet they have, but they do not walk; Nor do they mutter through their throat. {8} Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them. {9} O Israel, trust in the LORD; He is their help and their shield.

The “gods” that men make can’t see or hear.  When we follow the “gods” of men we become like that – losing the ability to “see” and “hear”.

When we follow the God of heaven, we will become like Him.

We need God’s work in our lives.  He is the one who can help us cultivate patience.

He is longsuffering.  We should be too.

(1 Cor 13:4 NKJV)  Love suffers long and is kind…

3. Slow to Anger

Do you need someone who is patient with you?  Do you need patience?

God says, “I Am”

aboundingrab – much, many, great; abounding in

This word seems tied to the next one in the Hebrew.  God is “great in goodness”.  Some tie the next three words together, God is “great in faithful love”

goodnesscheced (248x) – goodness, kindness, faithfulness, mercy, lovingkindness, favor (NAS “lovingkindness”, NIV “love”, NRSV “steadfast love”, NLT “unfailing love”)

140x mercy; 40x kindness; 30x lovingkindness; 10x goodness; 10x favor

It is both the attitude of love as well as the actions of love.

It’s used to describe a “favor” one person might show another, or doing a kind deed for someone (2Sam. 9:1)

(2 Sam 9:1 NKJV)  Now David said, "Is there still anyone who is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan's sake?"
(2 Sam 2:5 NKJV)  So David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh Gilead, and said to them, "You are blessed of the LORD, for you have shown this kindness to your lord, to Saul, and have buried him.
(2 Sam 16:17 NKJV)  So Absalom said to Hushai, "Is this your loyalty to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?"
(1 Ki 20:31 NKJV)  Then his servants said to him, "Look now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings. Please, let us put sackcloth around our waists and ropes around our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; perhaps he will spare your life."

This is the word at the heart of the nation of Israel’s “theme song” they regularly sang to God (42x in OT):

(2 Chr 5:13 NKJV)  indeed it came to pass, when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying: "For He is good, For His mercy endures forever," that the house, the house of the LORD, was filled with a cloud,

About 30 times in the OT it is paired up with the following word (truth), and some feel that they ought to be connected, as if they describe each other:  God is abounding in “faithful love”

(Psa 85:10 NKJV)  Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed.
(Psa 89:14 NKJV)  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.


In connection with their book Is Christianity Good for the World?, evangelical theologian Douglas Wilson and leading atheist Christopher Hitchens have hit the road to debate the issues that divide the two. Wilson's son, Nate, is riding along. In an on-line update about the tour for ChristianityToday.com, Nate shared what struck him most about the first few stops in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.:
To be honest, the most interesting moments have all been outside the formal events—discussions over meals, in cabs and elevators. Both men share a love of poetry (over lunch, they gave an antiphonal recitation of "Jabberwocky"), a love of the English language and the well-turned phrase, and have spent a good ten minutes spouting favorite lines from the British writer P. G. Wodehouse to mutual laughter. And both men have a respect for each other—though clearly not for their conflicting opinions of God and the nature of the world.
At the King's College debate, Hitchens professed disdain for the biblical admonition to "love your enemies," calling it total nonsense. And yet, as he appears in Christian forums, wrangling with a Christian man, that is exactly what he is experiencing firsthand. The exchanges are heated. No punches have been pulled, and no one is pretending like the gulf between atheism and Christianity is anything but dark and profound. Yet underlying it all, there is an affection shown to him that is just as profound.
Hitchens said he wanted all his enemies destroyed. Wilson countered with qualified agreement, saying that God destroys all his enemies, but doesn't only destroy them in the traditional way, as understood by man, but also destroys his enemies by making them friends.
Nate Wilson, "On the Road with Atheism," www.christianitytoday.com (10-29-08)

4. Love

Do you need someone who will truly love you?

God says “I Am”

truth ‘emeth (127x) – faithfulness; reliability; stability, certainty; from ‘aman (English:  “amen”) (108x) – to support, confirm, be faithful; believe

When Ruth gave birth to her first child, Naomi became the child’s “nurse”, the one the baby counted on (Ruth 4:16)

It’s used by Rahab with the spies, asking for a “true token”, the “scarlet thread”, something she can count on for her safety when the invasion starts (Josh. 2:12)

Jos 2:12 "Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the LORD, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token,

The word is used to describe things that have been tested in a lie-detector and found to be true. (Deut. 13:14)

De 13:14 "then you shall inquire, search out, and ask diligently. And [if it is] indeed true [and] certain [that] such an abomination was committed among you,

It’s used to describe a promise that can be counted upon (2Sam. 7:28)

2Sa 7:28 "And now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are true, and You have promised this goodness to Your servant.


After his ordination in 1969, author and pastor Phillip Johnson received a call to serve one large church and ten smaller churches on the northern coast of Newfoundland, Canada. On the first day of his new circuit ministry, Johnson learned that in order to get to the smallest of the churches, he would have to travel 40 miles by snowmobile to a tiny village. When Johnson arrived, only one person had shown up for worship—a fisherman who had traveled about 20 miles to get there.
Johnson initially thought about just saying a prayer and calling it a day. But then he realized that together, he and the fisherman had already logged 60 miles of travel and had 60 more miles to return home. With that in mind, Johnson decided to conduct the whole service as if there were a few hundred worshipers. They did it all: the hymns, the readings, the prayers, the sermon, the Lord’s Supper, and the benediction.
It was during the sermon that Johnson wondered why he had bothered. The fisherman never looked up. But when Johnson greeted the fisherman at the door and thanked him for coming, Johnson received a pleasant surprise. The fisherman said, “Reverend, I’ve been thinking about becoming a Christian for about 30-odd years. And today’s the day!”
Lee A. Dean, Plainwell, Michigan

5. Faithfulness

God wants us to learn faithfulness. God is faithful.  You can count on Him.

Do you need someone you can count on?  Someone you can “believe in”?

God says, “I Am”

:7 "keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,

keepingnatsar – to guard, watch, watch over, keep

mercycheced – goodness (translated “goodness” in verse 6)

God’s “mercy” or “goodness” is not just for a few like Moses.  It’s for thousands.

God has already mentioned this same phrase with the Ten Commandments:

(Exo 20:6 NKJV)  but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

forgivingnasa’ – (Qal) to lift; take away, carry off, forgive

iniquity ‘avon – perversity, depravity, iniquity; Seems to be the more general word describing man’s evil, wicked sin nature.

transgressionpesha‘– rebellion; willful disobedience

sinchatta’ah – sin; from chata’ – miss the way, go wrong, incur guilt; sounds like it covers the “lesser” sins, generally missing the mark.

God is willing forgive everything.

Don’t confuse God’s “forgiveness” with our sin being “okay”.

God does love you just the way you are, but He also loves you too much to leave you in the mess you’re in.

Forgiveness comes when there are two things going on in our lives:

1. Acknowledgement – confession
(1 John 1:9 NKJV)  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
2. Turning – repentance
This was the message of Jesus and the disciples:

(Mark 6:12 NKJV)  So they went out and preached that people should repent.

(Luke 13:5 NKJV)  "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."

(Acts 3:19 NKJV)  "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

6. Forgiveness

Do you need forgiveness?

God says, “I Am”

:7  by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation."

clearingnaqah – (Piel) to hold innocent, acquit; to leave unpunished

guilty – not in the original language

third and the fourth generation – sin carries consequences.  Some of those consequences affect the people closest to us.

Our kids seem to pick up our bad habits.

It is not uncommon for a child abuser to have been abused as a child.
When our kids pick up these “bad habits”, not only do we face the consequences of our sins, but our kids are also faced with the consequences of our and their sin.

Don’t think that you’re the only one affected by your sin.

visitingpaqad (Qal) to pay attention to, observe; punish

7. Justice

God says, “I Am”


The God of Justice

There are times when mankind is looking forward to a day of judgment.
Those who have lived through the days of Adolph Hitler and the holocaust are those who look forward to judgment.
Those who lost loved ones on 9/11 are typically looking forward to a day when God makes things right.
The Bible says,
(Psa 96:13 NKJV)  For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth.
The point in our passage is that those who do not come to Him for forgiveness will find that He will deal with their sins. 
What kind of judgment are we talking about? 
Hell.  Sound like too harsh a sentence for your sin?  Think again.  We all deserve hell.
Jesus came to stand between you and the justice of God.
He came to pay the price for your sin.  He died to keep you out of hell.
Isaiah prophesied:

(Isa 53: 6 NKJV)  All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Here’s the point – if you don’t want to face Him as the “God of Mercy”, then you will face Him as the “God of Judgment”.

:8 So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.

bowed his headqadad – to bow down

worshipedshachah – (Hithpael) to bow down, prostrate oneself

Moses is in His presence.  He “gets it”. The correct response to God is on your face.

:9 Then he said, "If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance."

gracechen – favour, grace, charm

pardoncalach – to forgive, pardon

take us as Your inheritancenachal – (Qal) to take possession, inherit; to have or get as a possession or property (fig.)

Moses deals with the issue before the nation – their sin.  He asks for forgiveness.  He asks God again to go with them to the Promised Land.

He is the God “Who Is” Compassion; Gracious Help; Slow to Anger; Love; Faithfulness; Forgiveness; Justice

What do you need Him to be today?