Exodus 34:6-7 (ESV)
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, 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.”
In our day, branding and controlling one’s message is crucial. Companies spend millions of dollars to try to stay ahead of the impression that the world has of them. Such is also true of individual people, who would very much like to have a sense of control as to how they present themselves.
It is strange, then, that as a society we are not often comfortable with allowing God to describe himself and his ways to us. The world very often wants to bring their own ideas of who God is to the table. People regularly say things that begin with, “I think God is like…,” or, “The God I serve would never….” But what right do we think we have to define God from our own context?
Can you imagine how frustrating it would be for you to have others define you, telling you who you are or what you are like, based completely on what is in their heads? Do you not want to be able to say who you are and what you value? Of course, with you and me, we are sometimes mistaken about ourselves, because we are finite and do not know all of who we are.
However, confusion about his own identity does not mark our God. God knows exactly who he is. God knows exactly what he values and what he will do. And we see God reveal himself and his ways to Moses here in Exodus 34.
Notice, after looking at the above verses, how God has revealed himself. As he passed by Moses, God said his name, highlighted his mercy, and emphasized his justice. Any picture of God that does not include these things is an incomplete picture. Any description that we come up with for God that does not allow him to define himself is inaccurate.
The picture above shows us that God has some clear standards. He has things that he believes make us guilty and require either his mercy or his judgment. Sometimes, our sins will not only impact us, but will affect those who come after us—not that God punishes our children for our sin, but he does allow our influence and the consequences of our sins to last for generations.
If God reveals to us that certain things are sin in his eyes, it would be wise of us to know this and to believe that God, not humans, will determine what is right and wrong. God has the right to define what worship he will accept. He has the right to tell us that there is only one way to be forgiven. He has the right to define gender, sexuality, marriage, and all the rest. God is God, and we are his creatures. We are to submit to his revelation, not to redefine him based on our whims.
God shows us who he is. He is in charge of his revelation of himself—his branding if you will. We have no right to encroach on his message. Instead, we need to believe God is who he says he is, values what he says he values, and does what he says he will do. Let us bow before the Lord who created us and place ourselves under his mercy through the perfect work of Christ.