And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. Exodus 34:6-7
We know the Scriptures proclaim that God is gracious, but many struggle to believe it. Others wonder what grace actually looks like. If we take seriously the righteousness of God and the heinousness of our sin every day, we might find ourselves asking God, “Do you still love me?” or “Why are you so patient with me?” or “Why haven’t you killed me for what I’ve done?”
As our hatred for and awareness of our sin increases, we desperately need a biblical view of the grace of God. We need the Scriptures to paint a clear picture of who God is and how much he loves us in Christ Jesus. We need to see the God of the Scriptures who is so gracious it blows our minds — bringing us to tears and repentance.
In Micah 6, the Israelites have a warped view of who God is. In verses one through five, the Lord offers a tender rebuke asking, “What have I done to you?” He reminds them of how he delivered them out of the hand of Egypt and other righteous acts he’s done on their behalf.
Their response is painfully familiar:
With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? Micah 6:6–7
Instead of responding in gratitude, they exposed themselves. Whether they intended to or not, they paint this picture of God that makes him seem demanding, cruel, and impossible to satisfy. Their view of God doesn’t line up with reality and I’m all too familiar with their view of God.
Part of how we view God’s grace is often birthed out of our experience with each other. Whether it’s a parent, relative, or our general view of mankind, our experience with sinful and broken people affect our view of our holy and righteous God. We’re unacquainted with grace, mercy, and truth that’s untainted by sin. Humanly speaking, though we’ve experienced grace, we’ve never met a person that embodied grace perfectly.
As I reflected on how we love and show grace, two things stood out to me about man and our motivation to forgive: Natural man is motivated to be gracious because man is aware (to some extent) that he’s just as guilty as the person in need of grace. Natural man forgives others because he often only knows a small piece of all the other person is actually guilty of. I’m sure there are more human motivations for showing grace, but from these two alone we discover two factors that play enormous parts in our ability to forgive — our own sin and ignorance.
As I began to process this, I was blown away. God is neither motivated by his own sinfulness nor enabled by his ignorance. He is a holy and righteous God, completely void of sin and full of goodness and love. He’s never made a mistake and can do anything but fail. He is perfect in all his ways. If he were a doctor, he’d never lose a patient. If he were a lawyer, he’d never lose a case. There is no moral compass that could measure how upright and blameless he is.
Nevertheless, when we, his sinful and rebellious prodigal children, spit in his face, wallow in our sin, and grieve his Spirit, he calls us to repentance with open and loving arms saying, “Come home, child.”
He’s not ignorant of all the ways we’ve sinned against him. He knows everything we’ve ever done. His knowledge of who we really are will never hinder his love for us. He’s even aware of the evil behind our self righteous deeds. The intimacy by which the Lord knows us and still able to lovingly embrace us as his children is supernatural. God’s grace is mind-blowing. Every time I think of this reality, I’m brought to tears because I serve a God whose love and grace baffle me.
Throughout the Scriptures, the message of this grace is proclaimed. Our God is “rich in mercy, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in unconditional love and faithfulness, keeping unwavering love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6–7).