Monday, May 11, 2009

Thought Number 269... Finding Mercy, Grace, Longsuffering, Goodness, and Truth in the New Testament

a person named Paula e-mailed me with the following question:
I was searching for the New Testament mirror passage of the description of God in Exodus 24.  God described Himself in a face to face meeting with Moses in 5 words - merciful, gracious, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and abundant in truth.  Since the Old and New Testaments are mirrors I am seraching for the matching description of God in the New Testament.  I am the Way, the Truth and the Light is not the one I am searching for. Can you tell me?
Paula, I think you are referring to Exodus 34...  Exodus 34:6 (KJV) is a partial sentence, so here are verses 6-7: 
And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
You used a curious expression, that the Old and New Testaments are "mirrors".  I'm not sure what you mean by that.  In the sense that both testaments proclaim the same God and do not contradict each other, I would agree.  I also would agree in the sense that both testaments point ultimately to Christ, though in different ways.  However, I hope you would agree that the New Testament is not a "pixel by pixel" (or point by point) literal reflection/restatement of the Old Testament.  In other words, while the concepts about God's nature (for example) are surely found in both testaments, you may or may not find these concepts packaged into the same verses (or even books) much less in the same exact words.

In addition, the Old and New Testaments (and actually also, the Old Testament across the historical time periods) on one hand represent a progressive revelation of God to humanity.  So in this sense, there may be instances where the testaments actually do not match up very well at all.   One complaint I hear frequently from non-Christians and new Christians is that it seems like the Old and New Testaments talk about two different Gods.  And indeed it can appear like that at first glance-- precisely because God is revealing himself progressively over time.   Note: it is clear by your question that you yourself are convinced that both testaments proclaim the same God (and rightly so).  I'm just using the complaint of many to illustrate the truth of the progressive nature of the revelation found in Scripture.

That said, insofar as I know there is no single passage in the New Testament that contains all of those five words from Exodus 34 in describing God.

However, the New Testament does contain all five words (and/or concepts) throughout its content, as shown in the following examples from KJV (and there are many more):

Luke 6:36
Be ye therefore merciful, as
your Father also is merciful.

John 1:14
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,)
full of grace and truth.
[Remember that John 1:1 identifies the Word (Christ) as both "with" God and "being" God.]

2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Romans 2:4
Or despisest thou the
riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Again, these are just some examples.  These concepts abound throughout the New Testament and are repeated both literally and by example (the most obvious example being Christ's incarnation and work on behalf of the people in life and death).

Hope that helps!
God is God... Get used to it.

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