Torah reading: Exodus 30: 11 – 34:35
Haftorah reading: I Kings 18: 20-39
The LORD descended in the cloud and stood there with him as he called upon the name of the LORD. 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 loving kindness and truth; Who keeps loving kindness for thousands, for forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations. Exodus 34: 5-7
The scene here is of Moses on the mountain with God after the sin of the golden calf. God threatened to destroy the people of Israel and Moses interceded on their behalf. God appeared to Moses and taught him the thirteen attributes of His mercy.
Thirteen (13) is an important number for it signifies ‘the infinite’ or ‘eternal’. By describing His own character traits as ‘infinite’ the LORD assures us that by repenting for our sins and appealing to His mercy, forgiveness will always be available. The most hardened sinner who sincerely repents and turns to Him for forgiveness will be forgiven.
The prophet Isaiah echoes this truth when he declares: “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson, they will be like [white] wool. Isaiah 1:18
So let’s look at these thirteen attributes:
‘The LORD’ – God’s mercy is intrinsic to His nature; it existed before man ever sinned.
‘The LORD’ – God’s mercy is always available to us after we sin.
‘God’ – His power rules over nature and mankind; over all that was created
‘Compassionate’ – He has loving sympathy for our human frailty and understands us better than we understand ourselves.
‘Gracious’ – He shows mercy to those who do not deserve it
‘Slow to anger’ – He gives us more than enough time to acknowledge our sin and repent.
‘Abounding in loving kindness’ – God’s kindness extends to all men, bestowing gifts and blessings far more than we deserve.
‘Truth’ – He never fails to keep His Word; He is utterly reliable. What He said, He will do.
‘Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations’ – God remembers the righteous lives of our forefathers and extends kindness to their descendants. For example, He made promises to Abraham and to his descendants. Abraham’s obedience to God has impacted the entirety of his descendants to this very day.
‘Forgiver of iniquity’ – God forgives habitual/generational sin when we repent. Iniquity refers to strongholds of sin that are repeated by successive generations in a family.
‘Forgiver of transgression’ – God forgives willful, deliberate sin when we repent.
‘Forgiver of sin’ – God forgives sins of carelessness, thoughtlessness and impulsiveness when we repent.
‘Who cleanses’ – His mercy wipes away the sins of those who truly repent
”yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished’ – those who refuse to repent retain their sins and the consequences of those sins.
In Tune with Torah this week = Understanding these attributes should generate in us an abundant outburst of gratitude to ‘Avinu Malkenu,’ our Father and our King. The highest praise is due to him that He chooses to show us such great mercy, loving kindness and compassion.
Given that truth, then, is there not a secondary message here? If HE, the LORD GOD, shows such mercy and forgiveness towards us infinitely, should we not also freely forgive those who offend, insult or mistreat us in any way? Of course we should because it is the same LORD GOD who said, ‘You are to be holy as I am holy.’ Lev. 11:44-45
We who are so generously forgiven by God for our failures have no right to withhold forgiveness from others.