– Pastor Brandon’s article from the June 2017 Newsletter
Over the last few months in Sunday School, we have been working on a project called My One Word. The main idea is that we all want to grow in following Jesus, but we are often pulled in so many directions that we make little progress. So, the premise of My One Word is that we prayerfully select a word related to an attribute or character trait in which God is calling us to grow. This word then becomes our theme for an entire year, and we use it to focus our energy. By allowing God to speak into our lives through the lens of that one word, the goal is that God will bring about transformation in the many areas of our lives.
The word that has been on my mind and on my heart since we began this project is gracious. As I think on this concept and examine the public and personal areas of my life, I can identify all kinds of ways in which I want and need to grow. For me, this is rooted in the nature of God and my desire to be more like him, and I keep coming back to a passage found in the book of Exodus.
The story here is fascinating. In Exodus 33, Moses has been interceding with God on behalf of the disobedient Israelites. He asks that the Lord’s presence would continue with them into the promised land. God is pleased with Moses and agrees to do what he has asked. Then Moses asks God to show him his glory, and the Lord replies, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence.”
In chapter 34, as God fulfills Moses’ request, he passes 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 fathers to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 34:6-7)
This is how God reveals himself to us. He doesn’t begin by talking about the extent of his power or knowledge.1 Rather, he describes himself in relational terms. The term “Lord” in this passage is not about God’s title or position; it is the traditional translation of God’s personal name, Yahweh. Sometimes, I’m asked how I prefer to be addressed. Out of respect, some people use my title and call me “Pastor.” Others who don’t know me well might address me more formally as “Mr. Carter” or even more rarely, “Reverend Carter.” But those who know me well call me Brandon. That’s who I am. There is a similar thing going on here with Yahweh. Yes, we call him Lord and God, but he desires our relationship to be more than that. He wants us to know him by name.
God goes on to proclaim his character. He is compassionate. This term comes from the word for womb and describes the tender love a mother has for her children. The concept behind “gracious” speaks to God’s mercy and kindness to us even though we don’t deserve it. “Slow to anger” describes God’s patience in our failures and weakness, while “love” and “faithfulness” reveal God’s loyal kindness and trustworthiness. He is merciful in that he forgives all our sins. Yet, he is also just and will see that righteousness is done and evil is punished. His love abounds to thousands, and even though the natural consequences of sin are far reaching, he is merciful to cut it short.
This is who God proclaims himself to be, and I am so thankful for a God who relates to me in this way. When I reflect on the concept of gracious-ness, these are the attributes that come to mind, and I ask the Holy Spirit to transform me into his likeness. Gracious – that’s My One Word. What’s yours? I pray that God uses this simple tool to teach you about himself and draw you into a deeper, loving relationship with him.
– Pastor Brandon
1 After I had selected the scripture for this month’s article, Exodus 34:6-7 happened to be the topic of a podcast that I listen to regularly. I found it helpful in understanding the text. Take a listen: https://philvischer.com/the-phil-vischer-podcast/episode-252-god-john-mark-comer/ I love how God confirms his word.