On the Attributes and Justice of God

At Wednesday night Bible Study we’ve been studying the attributes of God found in Exodus 34:6: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” In our most recent study, we looked at some quotes from Abraham Heschel that I want to share with you:

“The prophets had no theory or ‘idea’ of God. What they had was an understanding . . . To the prophets, God was overwhelmingly real and shatteringly present. . . . To the prophets, the attributes of God were drives, challenges, commandments, rather than timeless notions . . . They disclosed attitudes of God rather than ideas about God.”

“To the prophet . . . God does not reveal himself in abstract absoluteness, but in a personal and intimate relation to the world. He [God] does not simply command and expect obedience; He is moved and affected by what happens in the world, and reacts accordingly. Events and human actions arouse in him joy or sorrow, pleasure or wrath. He is not conceived as judging the world in detachment. He reacts in an intimate and subjective manner. [God is moved, affected, grieved, gladdened and pleased by what people do.]”

“This notion that God can be intimately affected, that He possesses not merely intelligence and will, but also pathos, basically defines the prophetic consciousness of God. “

God is not indifferent to injustice, but God is slow to anger. (In the King James Version the Hebrew word for slow to anger is translated as longsuffering). That’s why, in the Bible, we continually see God giving people chance after chance, opportunity after opportunity, to repent and turn back to God. It is why, I believe, the years between Jesus’s first and second comings have stretched so long. Like the loving father in the parable, God is ever ready to abandon all dignity and rush down the road to welcome us home.

It is to our benefit that God is slow to anger, but it is also to our benefit that God will not allow injustice to stand forever. The world will be set right and all will be well in the end. No matter what we have done, it is not yet ever too late to turn to God. It is also never too early, and sooner is better than later.