Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good — His love endures for ever. Let Israel [those who know Him] say: “His love endures for ever.”
What’s the message here?
We have clear ideas about whether people are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, usually based on their behaviour and treatment of others. We say that so-and-so who is generous and forbearing is ‘good-hearted’ or if we don’t always agree with them, ‘not a bad person’. If they are ‘bad’ we are more reluctant to say why — there is a natural desire not to judge — but it comes down to a perception of unfairness, not being trustworthy, and harsh. Therefore ‘not a good person to be around’.
Our Father is off any human scale for being good-hearted and generous. This is what He is like:
Exodus 34:6-7 NIV
And [the LORD] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
The Bible words in His own description (unlike our own self-descriptions, entirely accurate!) are: compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, merciful love, faithfulness, slow to anger, forgiving.
But what about judgment? Judging actions are in there, too.
To us, a ‘bad’ person is one who quickly forms a judgment about us, probably I’ll-founded and unfair. Whereas a ‘good’ person, in our terms, accepts us as we are.
God clearly does judge — His holiness demands a separation with no blurring of the lines between what is in accord with His values, and what would seek to overturn them. But it is not a snap judgment, not even a timely judgment of a situation; the LORD is “slow to anger”, which means He is reluctant to come to that judgment because the person may yet turn and change — which is where the vitally important “forgiving” of our wickedness, rebellion and sin comes in.
God’s presumption, or preferred view, is the forgiving one. There must be judgment because without it, there is no distinction, no separation and therefore no holiness. But it is a slo judgment, with many breaks and deferrals built in. It is set in a context of His unconditional love, which always looks for reasons to forgive, to be compassionate and to graciously treat us better than we deserve.
Most religions are about finding actions which will appease deities who are fickle and hard to please, not one who want to forgive and find ways to show unconditional love. Religions are about finding ways to satisfy conditions.
The alternative is not a different religion, but a relationship with a God who is disposed to see what we can be, even when we fail, and whose whole disposition is forgiving — because He wants a cause relationship with us, for His own pleasure. God is not hard to please — we are not good at living for Him, and relating to Him, but the reality is, He is “slow” and hard to anger
• What’s the good news?
God has made a way for any one of us to know Him through His Son Jesus, who showed what God looked like in human form. We come to God and know His abounding love, through accepting Jesus and what Jesus has done out of His love for us, to make us right with God.
• What’s the take-away here?
- Is Jesus for us the hold-up and the barrier — or the way and the gate as He said? That’s probably about our pride, which resents having to rely on what someone else has done. So confront that pride and say ‘yes’ to Jesus!
- Do we need God’s love or are we self-sufficient? We tend to find what we are looking for!