Mercy is a central part of God’s nature—in fact, His name is mercy. In Exodus 34, God responded to Moses’ desire to see His glory. And as He passed before Moses, verse 5 says that He “proclaimed the name of the LORD.” And the proclamation that rolled forth was: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”
I don’t know about anyone else, but many times when I would read this Scripture, I would find myself quite focused on the latter half of the verse! I trembled at the God who punished the guilty and allowed iniquity to be a generational inheritance! Due to my own woundings in life, I found it hard to see the other side of God’s character—His overwhelming heart of mercy. And I think my struggles with perceiving (and receiving) mercy have been due, in part, to how I learned to interpret much of Scripture.
There are many ways to view the story that is told from Genesis to Revelation, from the creation account until the return of our Conquering King. We can choose to focus on the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden, or we can rejoice over the prophesied redemption that God promised would come through one of their offspring. We can obsess over the moral failings of the forefathers of the faith and the children of Israel, or we can marvel at those who walked with God and how He walked with them.
In the Word of God, humanity’s cycle of sin, repentance, and redemption are on display for us. And if we look in this mirror closely, we can most definitely see ourselves. However, how do we view the story that is there? While we certainly don’t want to minimize the cost of sin, I would argue that it would also be unproductive for us to navel-gaze at our individual and corporate failings. Do we choose to obsess over our fallen nature? Or can we look at our rather challenging corporate journey with God through His eyes of mercy?
The more we allow the Holy One to shape our character to look like His, the more that we will be able to see the beauty in our human experience. This story isn’t about what we have done, it is about what the Creator is doing and who we are becoming through Christ. For there is a crimson road that is woven throughout Scripture, throughout human existence, and throughout our individual lives. In the face of all of our failings, we can rejoice that God has paved a way back into His presence through His great mercy.
Exodus 34:6 (VOICE) Then the Eternal One passed before him. Eternal One: The Eternal God, full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger, and abundant in loyal love and truth….