A Look At The Astounding Way God Sees Himself

How Do You See God?

I encourage people to pray the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I have found this simple prayer to be key to communing with God whether in solitude or in daily activities. One huge benefit of constantly praying this prayer is a growing understanding and experience of the mercy of God. In asking for it, God provides His mercy.

My spiritual journey includes a movement towards knowing God’s mercy and away from perceiving God as an angry, vengeful, wrathful God. The journey includes a growing experience of a loving relationship with a merciful God vs. thinking I am at enmity with God – we are at odds with one another – and therefore I must act in ways that lessen His disgust with me.

So, for the past few posts, I’ve been exploring God’s mercy as it relates to our lives. New discoveries about mercy are happening. Most Christians have heard of God’s mercy but have spent little time exploring it or seeking to experience it more fully.

One prominent reality has emerged from my small exploration: God is mercy and is therefore merciful in all He does. 

There are a few places in scripture where God’s view of Himself are recorded. One of the most prominent is found in Exodus 34 where Yahweh Himself describes Himself using His own words:

 The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast lo the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation. (Exodus 34.6-9)

What’s amazing is that God says this after the people of Israel have sinned by disobeying, making a golden calf, worshipping this idol, and acting in rebellion. Many suffer the consequences of their sin in death. Yet God is always merciful. 

We learn this from the very lips of God Himself

  • God is merciful/benevolent.
  • God is gracious.
  • God is slow to anger.
  • God is abounding/abundant/overflowing in steadfast love.
  • God’s steadfast love (hesed) never ends. It lasts to thousands of generations (a way of expressing endlessness); “keeping” means “to guard, maintain or protect out of a sense of responsibility.” God guards and maintains His steadfastness.
  • God forgives every kind of sin.
  • God will not “clear” (the guilty). The words “the guilty” are not in the original text; they don’t exist. Could anyone be inserted here? The context would imply that “the people of Israel” should be inserted. Then the word “clear” makes sense – God will by no means release Himself from who He is – mercy, forgiveness, steadfast love – no matter what people do. God is always merciful!
  • God visits the sins of every generation. “Visit” means to look after or to care for. This is not a negative word but a positive promise – God will take action to deal with the sin of His people resulting in something beneficial. He will forgive the sin of each succeeding generation. His mercy is available for all generations of people.

Do you see whats missing? God does not describe Himself as angry, vengeful, full of wrath, or eager to punish. I am not saying that God doesnt at times act in wrath towards HIs enemies. I am saying that He is always merciful even in His wrath. He is not schizophrenic. He is always merciful to His own. 

“God, who are you?” “I am Steadfast Love.”

“Father, I have sinned.” “Child, I forgive you.” 

“God, I’ve messed up again.” “My own of My own, My mercy is yours.” 

God sees Himself as mercy. Is that how you see God? 

Dr. K 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

4 thoughts on “A Look At The Astounding Way God Sees Himself

  1. It’s such an interesting concept…on one hand, I find myself saying, “Yes, hallelujah! It’s true.” On the other hand, I find myself wanting to argue back, “Yeah, but…” Why is it so hard to accept the reality that mercy describes God through and through? Why do I so easily subconsciously default to a harsher view of God that somehow needs to be appeased? I’m the one who feels so schizophrenic in this regard, giving mental ascent to the reality of God’s mercy in one instant and finding myself wanting to break out the counter-arguments the next microsecond. Why is it so hard to rest in the reality of God’s mercy? Ugh!

    • Hi Brian…& bless you for stating your struggle so powerfully. You have answered your own dilemma in a few ways. Your struggle may be partially due to “mercy” being merely mental concepts or idea. You’re giving “mental ascent” to God’s mercy yet you come up short in your actual experience of His mercy (at least as far as you can see it presently). Until you experience it more fully, it remains an idea about God. So, the counter-ideas of God, battle this one. Your theology is mixed into this. Your interpretation of scripture enters in. Your understanding/experience of salvation & the atonement play a huge role. But the fact that you struggle with a God who describes Himself as mercy is a clear indicator that some of what you’ve been taught & believe about God and how he acts toward us needs to be re-evaluated. The answer to your last question – because we haven’t really experienced God’s mercy. The “concept” is in the head but not known in the heart/soul. Solution? Pray for God’s mercy. Say the Jesus Prayer over and over throughout the day. Pray for God’s mercy on events and people. And as you grow in your praying of God’s mercy, attend to His answer – you’ll begin to see mercy everywhere. It’s not rocket science nor a mystical encounter. We have not because we ask not. The Psalms are filled with ways to ask for God’s mercy (51, 86!, 103 for example). Mercy is not given to us so that we might think about it and rejoice; but that we might experience it/live in it and thrive. I appreciate you and your good comment. This post got your attention for a reason & at this juncture of your journey. Keep pursuing God & His mercy. Thanks be to God for all things! Keith

      • Hi Keith,

        This is a great conversation. The only thing that can make it better is by having it face-to-face while eating fish tacos! At any rate, I kept thinking about your comments while out running this morning. The conversation is interesting to me in a couple of ways. Sadly, I see how little I really know of the character of God at an experiential level. I could pass a test and write a decent paper on His attributes, to be sure, but KNOWING Him as the God of compassion and mercy is a different thing. It also sadly reveals some of the deficiency in Christian academia…even the church, where so much of the focus is conveying information, yet not helping people truly KNOW God.

        • I agree 100%!! A good fish taco sounds great right now – as well as a good “spiritual conversation” with the big guy. You’ve done it now. Asking: “How can I know God at an experiential level?” (we’re not talking emotion, here) is a vitally crucial question. I just heard heard this quote from Fr. Nikolai Velimirovich, “Our religion is founded on spiritual experience seen and heard as surely as any physical fact in this world, not theory, not philosophy, not human emotions, but experience.” The vast majority of evangelicals do not believe this. But, you look at every person in the Bible who knew God and it was through their experience of Him. You know God’s mercy by experiencing God’s mercy. You know God by experiencing God. For the evangelical church to know God experientially her leaders must know God experientially. Why are we afraid to go there? So happy to have your companionship on the journey. Keith

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