“And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
The children of Israel had seemingly become an excessive burden to Moses, and he felt he needed a further, more specific revelation of God’s essence. “I beseech thee, shew me thy glory” (Exodus 33:18). Although God was not compelled to do so, He graciously consented to “make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee” (v. 19), recorded in full in our text.
But what a name! “The LORD,” Jehovah, the self-existent revealer; “The Lord God,” Jehovah Elohim, names bursting with meaning and significance to the Old Testament Israelite, reflecting aspects of His nature and character. Five adjectives or descriptive phrases follow–all part of His name–characteristics of the loving God who later would give His beloved Son so that we might fully experience Him. Next we see that He is a forgiving God as well–that even our “iniquity and transgression and sin” can be forgiven. But His forgiveness can only be extended to those who repent, for He “will by no means clear the guilty.”
Many Christians today are quick to point out that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) as well as merciful, gracious, etc. But we must never forget that, just as His name implies, there is more to God than just love. God abhors sin, and an unrepentant sinner will experience His wrath in justice. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). JDM