The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,
Is God different in the OT vs. NT
When God chose this moment in the Biblical narrative to describe Himself to humanity through this interaction with Moses, He could have used many different descriptive words. He could have said, “I am the Lord God, harsh and demanding.” He could have been like the wizard in the “Wizard of Oz” by declaring Himself as “I am the great and powerful God!” He could have used many different descriptions, but God chose to reveal Himself as He did in Ex 34:6. Why?
When we talk about God, some people talk about the Old Testament God and the New Testament God as being different. The God of the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament can seem to be harsh and wrathful. There were times when the people of the Old Testament strayed from God, and consequences came. That is true. But here, when God declares who He is, he uses some amazing words. He says, “the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God” So let us think about that thought for a minute. How about this phrase, God “abounds in faithful love.” Now, as we dive into this phrase, we will see an amazing truth about God that will help us as we navigate our relationship with Him.
What is Hesed?
The word that is translated to “faithful love” is the Hebrew word “Hesed.” This is a word that can easily lose its full meaning through translation. This word is translated in other places as “kindness,” “faithfulness,” “mercy,” “goodness,” “loyalty,” and “steadfast love.” All these are great translations, and they are not wrong. The full meaning of this word has to do with a love that is not dependent on the object of the love, but it is more descriptive of the one doing the loving. This word carries the idea of a loyal love that is always available whether the recipient is worthy or receptive to the one giving the love. This word also carries the idea that the one who is loving is bound by their own nature to love.
God’s Loyal love for the Israelites
The story of the children of Israel is a prime example of the loyal or faithful love of God. As the Bible story unfolds, the children of Israel are constantly in a state of straying away from God and returning to God. Hmm, sound personally familiar? The amazing thing is that God is always there to receive them back when they return to Him. This happens over and over in the Old Testament. You see, God’s loyal love gave them the ability to return. God’s faithful and loyal love allows us to return to Him too. If God’s love for us was not loyal, we could never find our way back to Him. God never gives up on us because He cannot give up on us. It is not in the nature of who He is. His “Hesed” or loyal love always provides a road for any prodigal to come home, any person who gets caught up in this crazy world, any person who just forgot to acknowledge God this week, or any person that has just lost their way. The road back to God is paved by His loyal love. God’s loyal love is the reason Jesus came.
Jesus is our Hesed
But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus is the word “Hesed” in the flesh. He is the one who loved us first because it’s God’s nature to have steadfast love. While we were away from God doing our own thing and living our own way, Jesus died for us. You see, God loves you and pursues you whether you return His love or not.
Are you struggling? God is not waiting for you to become perfect His attitude toward you is loyal love. Do you need to return to God? Turn back to God, and you can rest assured that God’s loyal love is waiting for you.
We had just finished the demo part the remodeling of a building our church had rented for office and meeting space. The demo is always the best part of any remodel process. Tearing up old ugly carpet, removing walls, and tearing out old baseboards. That only took a couple of days. But then the building back process begins. Over the years of our church, we have done our share of tear out and remodeling. I know the process all too well. On that morning to begin the process of 2800 square feet of flooring I became aware of how long this process this would take. First the painting then the flooring, then the finishing trim, then the purchasing of furniture. All of it came to me in a moment. I was overwhelmed! I have done this before and the process of doing the work and all my other responsibilities was weighing heavy on me. Beginning the process was not what I wanted to do. Some of the project we would hire out but some we would do ourselves. That morning on the drive in I wanted to just turn around and go back to bed. I am usually an upbeat and positive guy. I am a man of faith after all. That morning I felt like neither one of those. Discouragement reigned! I walked in the door, saw the two other guys that were helping and thought “pull it together David, you are the leader”. That at least got me to the first room we were to begin flooring. I got down on all fours and grabbed the first plank of flooring and laid it down. Then I laid the next, then the next, then the next. I didn’t look up until that room was done. Several times I chipped a plank or put it down wrong. I would just pick it up grab another plank and put that one down. My thoughts were never allowed to say, “this is going to take forever”. I refused discouragement. With every plank I gained momentum and with every plank I got closer to the end. But I concentrated on that one plank to put down. As I write this article I am sitting in my nice new office with beautiful floors, painted walls and great furniture. The finished project is amazing and better than I had hoped. But it took longer than expected and more work than I anticipated but it is done!
How many times have we gotten ourselves in a mess or life throws us a curve ball? We find ourselves thousands in debt, in addiction, marriage trouble, overweight, or any other of life’s troubles. The thought of digging ourselves out seems overwhelming. The thought of starting seems to be insignificant compared to what we are up against. What we want to do and what we need to do seems like miles apart. When we look at the entirety of a problem or situation is when we begin to feel overwhelmed. The solution is always in the doing of the mundane work. The non-glamourous normal work is how the problem is solved. The great news is that God is all about the process. He says He will never leave you or abandon you. Invite God in the process. He is always there. Ask for His help and strength during the process. Tell Him when you are tired. Tell Him when you feel it is taking too long. He can handle it. But also, celebrate the wins. I am sitting at my desk right now in an office floored with individual planks. Each plank matters. Every plank represents a step to the goal. Every win matters no matter if anyone sees it or not. They all matter! So, celebrate every step along the way. Even if you celebrate it quietly between you and God!
Be encouraged! Don’t be overwhelmed with the thing ahead of you. Let God give you His daily bread. Enough for today. Let tomorrow be tomorrow. Look down at the floor plank in front of you and do that one thing. The things you do right now matter, and they are accomplishing the goal!
Talking about the devil, 1 Peter 5:9 says, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” Then it says God will, “… after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10b (NKJV)
While God didn’t bring the suffering (5:9), He can use it to “perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” We can also know that suffering only lasts “a while.” That’s good news!
Here in Georgia, the pine tree is king. Take a hike in almost any park and you find yourself surrounded by pine trees. More specifically you will be surrounded by the Loblolly pine. These pine trees found in Georgia grow to about 80 feet tall. While that is a tall tree, the California Redwood dwarfs the Loblolly pine. One Redwood in particular measured in at 380 feet. Now that is a huge tree. The most amazing part is the size of the seed that it grows from. The seed of Reedwood is about the size of a tomato seed. That’s incredible. The potential for that giant tree is in that tiny seed. That little seed has the roadmap for making that tree. Pretty impressive.
Just like that tree, God’s special DNA is in you. The hard truth is that what you do with that potential is up to you. Just like a seed that is not planted will never become a Redwood, unless we do something with what God has given us we will not become what He intended. This is a tough pill to swallow sometimes. However, the good news is that just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean that the potential is not there. Listen to what the apostle Paul says about this subject.
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
1 Timothy 4:14&15
Paul tells us Timothy received some kind of gifting. He also tells him not to neglect it. He then goes further and says to be diligent and give yourself wholly to it. If you do, Timothy, everyone will see your progress. It will be evident that you have that gifting. Along with this comes the idea that if you are not giving yourself to it, no one will ever know it is there. Ouch! So just because the potential is there doesn’t mean it will automatically be experienced.
So this year what are the things that you need to be diligent about? What things do you need to give yourself wholly to? What things do you need not to neglect? Maybe you want to be a better parent this year. Give yourself to it. Make it a priority. Find a podcast or watch a video or even read a book on parenting. Ask yourself what you can do to be a better parent. Maybe there is someone you admire the way they parent, reach out to them and have conversations with them. Let it be something you think about. When there is an area I want to grow in, I feed myself information about that. Periodically I will listen to something or read something on being a better husband. I do this so I can become better. Not perfect, but better. Most of the New Years’ resolutions fail because we stop giving ourselves to them. The scriptural principle is that whatever you sow to you will reap.
It comes down to the currency of our day. It is not money. The real currency of the day is time. So what are we “spending” our time on? Ok, time for true confessions, I love anything StarWars related. I watch anything Star Wars related. So guess what? If you have any Star Wars questions, I can answer them. If you want opinions about anything Star Wars related, I have way too many of them. You could say that I, embarrassingly, have given my time to it. Because I have given myself to it I know way too much about it. What you give yourself to WILL grow whether good or bad.
We can’t change what has happened already, so we are putting the past in our rearview mirror. The past is the past. We are going to do some proper seed planting. We are going to be careful about what we plant. We are going to give ourselves to the thing that we want to grow in. This year we are going to see the potential of the seed in us grow. This year we are going to be purposeful and see some changes. Let us commit to growing so that everyone around us will see the change that is happening. We may not all become perfect but we will grow when we give ourselves to growing the seed of greatness given by God to everyone. Now is your moment and it is time to GROW!
“In silence and in meditation on the eternal truths, I hear the voice of God which excites our hearts to greater love.”
C. S. Lewis
1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
True confessions. Silence is naturally hard for me. I am not usually a quiet person. I love to have music playing while I work. I love to be entertained. The truth is I am probably like most people in the modern age. So when we talk about meditation, I used to get nervous. I think it was because I had a misunderstanding of what Biblical meditation is. But as I gain understanding it has opened up a new world when I choose to engage in Biblical meditation. In this article, I want to help break misconceptions and inspire you to incorporate this practice in your life. If I can learn it anyone can.
Meditation once was thought to be an important discipline for Christians. Contemplative thought was celebrated and encouraged. Christians were people who thought deeply about how life and the scriptures related. However deep thinking has gone to more modern thinking, which is given to us in short doses. Social media has not helped us in our ability to think deeply. Information now comes so fast that our minds can only handle the headline thoughts. Think about the last time you actually read an entire article from a headline you read. Notice that you may just be skimming this magazine article. If so, I caught you! Don’t be embarrassed, our culture is teaching us to think shallow. It is teaching us to think an inch deep and a mile long. We rarely go deep into a subject.
Another enemy of meditation is distraction. As I write this I am constantly reminded of the temptation to be distracted. My phone is the worst. When my text alert goes off I have to muster up all the self-discipline I have to remind myself that I am not bound by any law regarding the timely reading of someone’s text. Even when I am preparing for my Sunday morning sermons I am constantly reeling myself in. How is it when I was researching early Jewish customs on my computer, I ended up watching a video on the new vaccines for Covid? Many of us tell ourselves, “I’ll just be a second”. Then after I have wasted time on that, it will take about 20 minutes to fully reorient myself to what I was doing. It is truly amazing that with all the information out there deep learning and meditation are being left in the dust. I desperately want off that train.
Scripture is clear. We need meditation. Even the secular world sees the value of meditation. God created us for contemplative thinking. There are so many scriptures on this that I would take up all the space here to quote them. Just do a google search and you will find it to be true. God made us to meditate on Him and who He is. As believers, we don’t just center ourselves or think about our inward selves. Our meditation is on our Creator and more specifically His word. Notice the scripture above. Our meditation is on the word of God. You will find that when the Bible talks about meditation it is talking about meditating on God through His word. Much of the time our shallow thinking has taken over and robbed us of deeper thoughts on God. We must stop, take a pause and think about the truths of God. A ministry that I love introduced me to the idea of the 1-minute pause. I have learned to do that periodically. Just take 1 minute to stop and refocus my attention back on my God. I may think about Jesus’ great love for me. I may stop and just thank Him for giving His life for me. I may think about the things that I am facing and remember how big our God is. I may say out of my mouth. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Or “God I thank you that you will never leave me or forsake me” “Thank you that you will not leave me alone” but I won’t stop there. I will begin to meditate on what that truth means for me. I have to resist the temptation to think, “Oh, I know this already.” You see that is the trap. I will think about it for a solid minute. You may say, “that couldn’t help” But many times it is just what I need in the middle of the day to reset my mind back on the Lord.
There are many things you can do that will help you on your meditation journey. Just a few bellow
Find a quiet place. I know, I know, “you don’t know my house.” Which is true. But find something. I used to go out on my lunch break and find a park and that was it for me. Just somewhere the world can’t get to you.
Take a walk in nature. There are some great parks with trails.
In the car. Turn off that radio. Yes, even the Christian stuff. Take a moment just you and God. Podcasts and worship music are great but sometimes it can make us lazy. Sometimes we need our own thoughts, not just thoughts created by someone else.
Memorize some Scriptures that you would like to think about. Write them down and put them where you go regularly. The bathroom vanity is my favorite. Brush your teeth and brush your heart at the same time.
Stop reading your Bible on your phone. It can be wave after wave of alert interruptions. Also, the google and youtube temptations are way too much for most of us
Start journaling. Journaling is a great way to meditate and think deeply. Make your journaling part of your prayer. Writing out prayers is a wonderful discipline. Who knows you might go back later and see how God has answered them.
The biggest thing is to begin with something. Even if it is small. Believe me, you will grow in it.
If we have ever needed the practice of meditation, it is now. There is so much instability in our world. In a world that pushes the immediate stimulation of our minds, let’s push back against that. It will take some effort to push back but I promise you the rewards are life-changing. Remember that God is an ever-present help in time of need. Let us make a decision to be people that invite Him in. Let’s become people that meditate on our amazing God! Let us commit to reclaim the lost art of meditation.