“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” ~ Micah 7:18-19
“God is jealous, and the LORD avenges; the LORD avenges and is furious. The LORD will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies; the LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked.” ~ Nahum 1:2-3a
Here we are given glimpses into the nature of God, His character.
He is forgiving and compassionate, delighting in mercy.
“God is jealous”. He loves us passionately and desires that we love Him and seek after Him with all our hearts.
And God is an avenger! He takes “vengeance on His adversaries…and will not at all acquit the wicked”. Who is His adversary? Well, of course Satan and those who deliberately persecute His children, but also anyone who rejects God and His free gift of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. It is a choice, a deliberate act of rejecting God and choosing to instead walk in darkness, apart from Him. And when rejected, God’s anger is directed at the sin. He still loves the person, but without believing in Jesus and being clothed in His righteousness, no one can stand before God and live. Our sin separates us from the righteous and Holy God.
Even so, God is “slow to anger” and desires that all would choose Him and have life.
“…’As I live, says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways!’…” ~ Ezekiel 33:11b
Did you know that judgment and wrath are not something God enjoys? “He delights in mercy”. In fact, in Isaiah we are told that they are unusual.
“…that He may do His work, His awesome work, and bring to pass His act, His unusual act.” ~ Isaiah 28:21b
Judgment, wrath, and vengeance are the last options. God warns, woos, reasons, and loves on His creation, desiring that we would come to Him! We see throughout the books of the prophets that He gave Israel and Judah hundreds of years to repent before finally sending them into captivity. And then He promised them restoration after they repented!
God is a God of many chances, not just “three strikes and you’re out”, but there are consequences that must be paid for our choices and actions. At some point, “time’s up”. God takes judgment seriously, and He pours out His wrath and vengeance on the sin because He is holy and just and cannot allow wickedness to continue unchecked.
So what else do we know about God’s character?
We are told in Exodus that God Himself told Moses the meaning of His name, Yahweh, literally YHWH. Did you know that your name tells who you are? It is not just what you are called, but who you are, your nature, your character. When I think of my husband’s name, I don’t just think of the word, but of him, of who he is, his heart and soul.
So it is with God. His name, YHWH, means, in God’s own words ~ “…’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, 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.’ ” ~ Exodus 34:6b-7
God wants us to know that first and foremost He is merciful and gracious (full of unearned, undeserved mercy and love and kindness and forgiveness), longsuffering (very slow to anger), abounding in goodness (loyal love) and truth (faithfulness, truth and constancy). He is forgiving and “will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea”. And then God reminds us that He doesn’t turn a blind eye to unconfessed, unforgiven sin, and that there must be consequences, for He is holy and just. Take note that He does not punish children for their fathers’ sins. But sometimes children suffer from their fathers’ sins through the actions of the fathers and the consequences caused by those actions.
God loves us, so much so that ~ “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” ~ 2 Peter 3:9. He does not wish for any to die but rather for all to come to Him and live.
In Jesus’ own words: ” ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.’ ” ~ John 3:16-18