Gracious and Compassionate

Ben Van Arragon

Read: Exodus 34:1-10

The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. (v. 5)

At the burning bush, God gives a name by which his people may call on him: “I AM,” or Yahweh. It’s a personal name given to establish a personal relationship. The Lord confirms this relationship by liberating his people from slavery, parting the Red Sea, raining bread from heaven, and inscribing his divine Law on stone. In return, the Israelites doubt, complain, and worship idols. The Lord should give up. Instead, he recommits to Israel and reissues the Law. When the new tablets are revealed, the Lord again declares his name. This time the name includes an addendum: “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love . . .” (v. 6).

The Hebrew word we translate “love” is hesed, which means more than one English word can cover: goodness, kindness, steadfastness, mercy, compassion. One of my seminary professors called hesed God’s “bitter love.” Bitter like the gold dust the Lord made his people drink after the golden calf. Bitter like the pain of a betrayed lover. Bitter because hesed is the love that cost God everything.

When it came time to affirm his covenant with Abraham, the God of the universe became flesh and went to the cross. When Jesus thirsted, he was offered our bitter cup. He took the bitter consequence of our infidelity, breaking his body and his heart for us. Our God’s name is Love. Receive him and be made whole. —Ben Van Arragon

As you pray, rest in the love of the one who gave everything for you.