One of my favorite passages in the Bible appears in the book of Exodus. I imagine you have heard the story. Moses had spent many days upon the top of Mount Sinai in the presence of God, receiving from Him various instructions, including the ten commandments. But the people waiting below, became restless and impatient. They compelled Aaron to make for them a golden calf to worship, such as they had once had in Egypt.

God was angry that His people had so quickly turned away from Him, and His first thought was to destroy them. But Moses pleaded with God on their behalf, and God relented.

Moses came down from the mountain to deal with the people’s sin and he became so infuriated by what he saw, that he threw the tablets down and they were shattered. And so, after Moses destroyed the calf and dealt with the sin of the people, God commanded Moses to cut out two new tablets and return to the mountain.

My favorite part of the story appears toward the end of Exodus chapter 33 and the beginning of chapter 34. Moses has a conversation with God. Moses says, “Since you say I have found favor in your sight, let me know your ways.” God replies, “My presence will go with you.” Moses says, “Don’t let us go anywhere without You, for it is only Your presence that makes us different from any other people on the earth.” God promises, “I will.”

Then, reading in Exodus 33:18-19,

Ex. 33:18 Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” 19 And [God] said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.”

When Moses asks God to reveal His glory, God does not respond as we might expect. He does not promise Moses a demonstration of His mighty power, His Sovereign authority, His Omniscience, or anything that we might consider great and mighty. Rather, God says, “I will make my goodness pass before you, and proclaim my Name before you.”

What does God mean when He says He will proclaim His Name? He means that He will proclaim His nature, His character, the core of who He is.

So, what does God say of Himself?

The story continues in Exodus 34:5-7, where we read:

Ex. 34:5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with [Moses] as he called upon the name of the LORD. 6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

To be honest, I considered skipping over that last part, because the concept of visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children is often misunderstood and can be distracting. So, if you will allow me to set it aside for now, I will come back to it in my next post when I talk with you about Living in the Forgiveness of Christ.

Today, I want to focus on grace.

The glory of God is His goodness, grace, and compassion

I don’t know about you, but I find it enlightening that when Moses asks about God’s glory, the first thing God speaks of is His goodness. And when proclaiming His name, describing the core attributes of His nature, God declares Himself, first of all, to be compassionate and gracious. In fact, God used these same words earlier when promising to show Moses His glory.

Looking back at verse 19 of Exodus chapter 33,

God said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.”

God considers it His glory to be good, gracious, and compassionate.

Noah Webster described what it is to be compassionate in this way,

Being inclined to show mercy; having a heart that is tender, and easily moved by the distresses, sufferings, wants and infirmities of others. [Webster, 1828]

He defines gracious as:

Expressing kindness and favor; benevolent; merciful; disposed to forgive offenses and impart unmerited blessings. [Webster, 1828]

We often describe grace as unmerited favor. That is, showing kindness and bestowing what is good upon those who do not deserve it and have not earned it.

That is our God. He is good, compassionate and gracious.

The grace of God is at work in our lives

Theologians have identified the grace of God at work in many ways. For example:

  • Common grace may be described as the grace God bestows on all mankind through His creation. As Jesus observed, God causes the sun to rise on both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Matt. 5:45).
  • Preventing grace, or more commonly called, prevenient grace, is what John Wesley described as the grace of God at work in the life of those who are lost, restoring a spiritual sense that enables them to perceive the working of the Holy Spirit through the natural conscience and allowing them to sense the wooing of the Spirit.
  • Justifying or saving grace is that grace by which we are saved through faith at the moment we believe. Jesus died on the cross and was raised on the third day so that through the justifying grace of God, we might be born again.
  • Sanctifying grace then begins to work in the life of the believer through a cooperative effort between the believer and the Holy Spirit in order to produce the fruit of the Spirit and perfection of the heart, yielding Christ-likeness of character.

Although we recognize different ways in which the grace of God works, when it comes down to it, grace is simply the unmerited kindness, benevolence, and blessing of God’s compassionate and gracious nature at work in our lives. Because God is good, compassionate and gracious, He stands ready at all times to bless us with grace to help.

Consider, for example, the words of James. Commenting on the quarrels and conflicts some believers were experiencing, James reminds them,

[God] gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:6-8a; see also 1Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34).

Rather than trying to work out your problems on your own, James advises, humble yourself. Submit yourself to God and let Him work in you and through you.

Nothing is too hard for God. But it is often hard for us to step aside and humble ourselves before God to ask for His help. We want to do things on our own.

In another example, the Apostle Paul tells of the grace he received from God in his struggle to deal with an infirmity. He writes,

2Cor. 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore [Paul writes] I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. [NIV]

Through God’s grace, Paul found the strength not merely to tolerate his infirmity, but to actually take delight in how God worked in the midst of his weaknesses and difficulties. That same grace is available to you.

The writer of Hebrews reminds the believer to confidently draw near to the throne of grace in prayer, in order to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16).

God’s grace provides

  • courage in the face of fear,
  • hope in the face of despair,
  • strength in the face of weakness.

In fact, God’s grace is at work in our lives every day in many ways that we are often unaware of.

God’s grace is as infinite as His nature

On the subject of God’s grace, there is one more thing I want you to understand. God’s grace is as boundless, as infinite as is God’s very nature.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:7,

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Let that sink in for a moment.

How would you measure Christ’s gift? Is there any conceivable way you could measure what Jesus Christ has done, what He has given for you? Can you fit Christ’s gift into a box and tie it up with a bow? If you were to write a book that describes everything there is to know and experience of Christ’s gift to you, would that book ever be finished? (John 20:30, 21:25)

Paul says that is the measure with which God gives His grace to each one of us.

Grace is not some limited thing that God gives you to be stored up and used when you need it. Rather, grace flows from the presence of the compassionate and gracious Holy Spirit of God at work in your life.

In 2Cor. 9:8 we read,

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;

I always have to read that verse twice in order to absorb how many times Paul describes God’s provision of grace using big, all-encompassing words:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;

Are you living in the grace of Christ? Or do you plod through your days doing things your own way, in your own power?

God has something better in mind for you. Draw near to the throne of grace. Humble yourself and submit to God. Set aside your own agenda, and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. God’s abundant grace is for you.

Pastor Cindy

Living in Christ Series: Living in the Freedom of Christ, Living in the Grace of Christ, Living in the Forgiveness of Christ

[Adapted from a sermon preached 8/1/2021]

Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. 1828. Public Domain.

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