What is it about God, anyway?

Ever wonder why people believe in God? Or what it means to follow him?

Everybody seems to have a different opinion on this – so how do you answer the question? My suggestion is: listen to what God says about himself.

There’s a story in the book of Exodus about how God had a discussion with Moses. Or maybe it was Moses had an encounter with God. And Moses, who seemed to be able to put the point across when it suited him, is feeling narky because the Lord had called him to lead the people of Israel, and yet he had not shown Moses his glory. How Moses said this with a pillar of cloud guarding the camp, and having been led through the Red Sea on dry ground, I don’t know. I know it probably wouldn’t happen today, but maybe Moses just had a short memory when it came to God’s goodness.

Anyway, God decides to show Moses his glory. He does that by proclaiming his name. As with most ancient near east cultures, a name revealed one’s character.

And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (Exodus 33:19, NIV)

Lots of good things can be said about God, but what he says about himself tells us volumes. The core of God’s character is mercy and compassion. Deep seated care, grace and love for his people and for his world. That’s it, right there.

It’s no surprise, then, to see such mercy and compassion revealed in Jesus, who loved people who were his enemies and who befriended outcasts. He gave his life on the Cross to bring us back to this merciful and compassionate God.

And God’s plan is for his character, and the character of Jesus, to come to expression in his people. Christians, more than anyone, have the privilege to live mercifully, compassionately and humbly.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12–14, NIV)

Think of the people God has placed around you: who needs your compassion? Who needs your mercy? Who needs to see who God really is and what he is really like? Go. Do.

3 thoughts on “What is it about God, anyway?

  1. you forgot the full quote The LORD used when he did reveal Himself to Moses” found just a few verses after Ex33:19,

    Ex 34 :5-7
    5 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.”

  2. you missed the rest of his character he proclaimed to Moses when he actually did reveal himself to Moses hust a few verses later..
    Exodus 34:5-7 (ESV)
    5 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.”

    Compassion is not Gods only defining characteristic. He is clearly about justice and holiness too, otherwise the means by which he displays his compassion (i.e, the cross), is pointless.
    the Law is the tutor that leads us to christ. Penal Substitutionary Atonement is how God reveals his compassion, IT then becomes our example, motivator and our empowerment by his Spirit to be compassionate.

  3. Hi Cameron,

    You’re right. God’s holiness and justice are just as much a part of his character as compassion. That’s sound theology. Interestingly, Jesus – while obviously not denying God’s justice (because he knew he would bear it) – hardly ever starts there. He takes sin most seriously, not only demonstrated on the Cross, but in his interactions with people. He often starts with grace, blessing, compassion, a miracle – and comes back to the aspects of justice and the command to repent . I think this is because he wants broken people to know first up that God is a gracious God. And that’s the point I wanted to stress. I think the most succinct definitions of God is what he says about himself, like 1 John 4:8, but then that love is expressed in the fact that his Son was sent as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

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