Over the course of 2013, I have been exploring the different names for God. I have heard that there are over 400 names referenced in the bible and each one reveals a different part of God’s character. In the bible it says, God wants to reveal Himself to us. What a very interesting thought!
The God who made the earth and all within it; who made millions and billions of galaxies and nebulas i.e. star nurseries that have continually birthed stars from the beginning of time… This is the personage that wants to know me and you? Totally mind boggling…..In fact, in one of the books it actually says, if “we will look for Him and reach out to Him, we will find Him, for He isn’t far from any of us” (Acts 17:27). Don’t you love that term…? ‘Any of us’
There are two names used thousands of times in the Old Testament and often, they are used together. Moreover, most of us use them when we pray. The names are Lord, God. I must admit in some of the prayer meetings I have attended, I have instead of praying along with, been distracted by the number of times this name was used, began counting this name as it was prayed. 37, is the record, just in case, you were curious. I know, I was awful.
The word ‘Lord’ translated from the Hebrew means Elohim, which denotes mercy and the name ‘God’ or Jehovah stands for justice. When translated together they mean Mercy-Justice. So basically when individuals like myself or my friend pray a prayer something like, “Lord God, thank you for your favor and your presence”, we are praying, Mercy-Justice thank you for favor. Mercy-Justice grant us our daily bread… Mercy-Justice forgive others as we forgive. This too, is a very interesting thought… Have you ever thought of God as Mercy-Justice?
God’s character is both merciful and just. But, there is a juxtaposition or a tension between these two attributes. Sometimes it is hard for us to understand how God can be both merciful and just.
We like to believe in a merciful God; not a judging God. We don’t want to believe in a God who would bring punishment or wrath on us or our children. And in fact, Exodus 20:5 can be a hard scripture for us to understand.
Often, our thoughts, prayers, and behavior demonstrate that we want a God who is passive; that grants wishes, like a Fairy God-Mother or Santa Claus since it tis the season…. We want presents and favor and pleasure. We don’t want to sacrifice or to do hard things or always act grown up and mature. We want peace, comfort, and happiness. We want easy. We want simple. We want no traffic or hassles and a free ride.
This week we adopted a puppy and brought her home to live with us. Having a very young puppy in the house is hard. It’s a good thing she is so cute, because she is a lot of work and more than once, almost daily, I have doubted our decision that we needed her. She must be fed and taken outside every 30 to 45 minutes almost round the clock. She bites and chews non-stop and has even nipped some of my tender places in play that should never be nipped. But, all the books we have read reiterate that these behaviors are normal for a puppy and if we follow their guidance, she will grow up to be a happy, healthy, and confident urban, herding dog.
I think that this must also be true for Followers of Christ (Isa al Masih). God calls us to work, sacrifice and battle for Him, by telling everyone we meet about his love and forgiveness. God wants us to tell His story so that they can be forgiven of those things that keep them up at night and cause their heart to quiver while sweating cold fear; that they can have the presence of the living, holy God indwell their hearts and minds forever; and that they can have a different home, a heavenly home that is being prepared for them.
We, who have believed in Christ, God come down from heaven and made flesh, must never forget that God forgives, he doesn’t excuse. Let me say it a different way…Elohim-Mercy forgives, Jehovah-Justice doesn’t excuse.
Mark Batterson, said some wonderful lines in his book, The God Anthology, and I will never forget it. He said, “Sin doesn’t become less costly or less hurtful because of mercy”. God knew the cost of mercy, because He put his full wrath, the entire punishment and judgment on himself; on Christ. Conversely, a god who never judges is not in the position to grant mercy. If I were to make up an image of a god who doesn’t and won’t judge my behavior, thoughts and actions, then such a god, the passive one, couldn’t- wouldn’t have the power to grant me mercy and forgiveness.
We will never experience the height, breadth or depths of God’s mercy until we first experience the depravity of sin and repent of it. “Only a judge; someone in the rightful and legal position with authority and responsibility to bring punishment, is in the true and appropriate place to grant mercy” (Batterson, 2013).
This is the true definition of mercy. Mercy is rescue from a just and wrathful God who took our punishment by coming to earth and suffering on the cross to give us mercy. The cross of mercy doesn’t negate God’s wrath for our sin, but rather His wrath was satisfied by someone other than me, or you- the guilty party; it was Christ who took the wrath instead of us. This fact teaches us the shocking mercy of the gospel (Batterson, 2013).
God’s wrath; God justice is not cruel, but instead God’s mercy is unimaginably good and this as well, is a very interesting thought.
There is a song we sing occasionally called, Beautiful One. The words were written by Tim Hughes and it says it all….
Wonderful so wonderful is Your unfailing love
Your cross is spoken mercy over me
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart can fully know
How glorious, how beautiful You are
Beautiful one I love
Beautiful one I adore
Beautiful one my soul must sing
Powerful so powerful Your glory fills the skies
Your mighty works displayed for all to see
The beauty of Your majesty awakes my heart to sing
How marvelous, how wonderful You are
You opened my eyes to Your wonders of anew
You captured my heart with this love
‘Cause nothing on earth is as beautiful as You, Jesus
Me thinks, I will leave you today as I do Gracie… “to chew’ on these most interesting of thoughts.