September 26, 2021
Every one of us has an image of God. Each one of us has thoughts of God that influence, motivate or impact how we live. For years my image of God was that of a stern judge. This image of God caused me to rebel against God. I didn’t want anything to do with His rules. I wanted to do my own thing, and didn’t want to trust in God, because I believed He didn’t want me to have any fun in life. But this image also made me afraid of God. I lived with a fear that someday He would return and judge me for the sinner I had become. I had no idea that He really loved me, so I did everything in my power to suppress my knowledge of Him. I lived as a rebel without and masked my fear that someday God would catch up with me and judge me for how I lived. That was my image of God until He revealed Himself to me through His Son, Jesus Christ. Through coming to know Jesus, God changed my mind about who He really is. And what changed my mind, was that I found out that God was not an angry judge at all, but a gracious, kind and good God that wanted what was best for me. And ever since coming to faith in Jesus, God has continued to change my thinking about Him.
But what about you? If everyone of us has an image of God that influences, motivates or impacts how we live. What is your image of God? Perhaps your image of God like the young woman who grew up without a Father. Her image of God that of Father who is absent or distant and doesn’t really care about her.
Or maybe your image of God like the young man who sees God as a cosmic vending machine As long as He gives you the life you want, you’re happy to have Him as your God. But as soon as life gets hard, circumstances don’t go our way, you get angry with God because He’s not blessing you the way you want Him too.
Or maybe your image of God like that of the young woman who never felt right with God unless she did everything perfectly.? And since she continually fails to live perfectly, she always lives with a sense of guilt and shame, that somehow God is disappointed in her.
Now, I’ve just shared a few of the ways our thoughts about God can shape how we live. In fact, How we think about God may be the most important factor in how we live our lives. I mean, if you don’t believe God is truly gracious, you’ll probably spend most of your life trying to seek God’s approval, and always battle guilt. If you don’t believe God is compassionate, you’ll carry burdens God never intended you to carry and you’ll eventually burn out. If you don’t believe God is incredibly patient with your sins and shortcomings, you’ll always live in fear of His judgment. And if you don’t believe God loves you with a steadfast love, you’ll never experience the confidence and joy God wants you to enjoy as His child.
So today, we’re going to return to Psalm 145 to look at the great God David knew. For it’s here in Psalm 145:8, that we may have the best summary of thoughts about God that anyone’s ever expressed. Here are five thoughts about God that will give you a confidence to live with God without guilt, fear or shame. So, if you brought your Bible with you today, let me encourage you to open it to Psalm 145:8. And allow me to simple read this Scripture for us: The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Psalm 145:8
Now this may be one of best verses of Scripture to enhance your knowledge of God. In fact, this Scripture reveals to us just at least five ways we can experience God’s goodness in our lives. So, let’s begin to unpack David’s thoughts of God and as we do, may God not only teach us a bit more about who He is, but help us grow in confidence of the goodness of our God. So, let’s start with the first thought David always expresses of the God He knows:
- The Goodness of His Name: Yahweh “The Lord” God’s personal name.
Now God has revealed Himself throughout the Scriptures with many names. In Genesis 1, God is revealed to us by the name Elohim, the all powerful Creator. He is the strong One. Elohim emphasizes Gods’ creative power. And the shortened version of this name is seen throughout the Old Testament: El Shaddai, The Lord God Almighty or El Elyon, The Most High God, or El Olam, the Everlasting God. All these names emphasize God’s greatness, God’s power, God’s uniqueness. This is the incomparable name of God. There is no God like Elohim.
But Yahweh is God’s personal name. The first time God revealed Himself to Moses, He calls Himself Yahweh: “I Am that I Am.” And the most basic meaning of His name is that He is the self-existent One. God is the One who’s existence depends on no other. However, as God’s personal name, this is the name God uses to communicate to us that He exists to benefit those He loves, those who have entered a covenant relationship with Him. Again, throughout the Old Testament, we see His personal name in a number of ways He loves His people: Yahweh Jirah, He is the Lord who provides. Yahweh Rapha, He is the Lord who heals; Yahweh Shalom, He is the Lord our Peace; Yahweh Tsidkenu, He is the Lord our righteousness; and Yahweh Shammah, He is the Lord who is There.
This is the God David knows personally. He knows God as Yahweh, the Covenant God who exists for the well-being of His people. This is the God who chose David to be King. This is the God who chose David so that He could love Him and help Him lead God’s people. This is the God who protected and provided for David in the wilderness. This is the God who shepherds David’s life and gives him rest, peace, comfort and His presence. That’s why David was able to write in Psalm 23 of Yahweh, “Surely Your goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.” Ps 23:6
I share this aspect of God’s name with us today, because God’s name is not just His personal name or His Covenant name – but in the Hebrew culture, your name speaks of who you really are. It speaks of your character. And at the heart of God’s character is His bent toward always seeking what is best for those who love Him.
So, it is good for us to THINK on His name. To Know His name. God is knowable. God is infinitely interested in your well-being. God knows everything you face on a daily basis. He knows your needs. He knows your worries. He knows your fears. And because He is Yahweh, His natural disposition is to meet your needs; heal your hurts, carry your burdens and remove your fears with His goodness. This is who God is.
Does this describe how you know God? This is the God who is for you and loves you, and who proved His love for you by sending Jesus to die for you, so you could know Him. That’s the goodness of His name. Yahweh, the personal God who seeks the best of those who love Him. Now, let’s look at the first characteristic of God’s goodness that’s found in His name:
- The Goodness of His Grace David writes, “The LORD is gracious”
Being gracious is when God gives us more than we ever deserve. In fact, being gracious is giving to us what we cannot give ourselves. One Pastor said it this way: “Grace is the outrageous blessing bestowed freely on a totally undeserving recipient.”
Let me illustrate this. Say you’ve just stepped out your front door to see if your Amazon order has arrived, and you notice your neighbor’s 14-year-old grandson backing out the driveway in your neighbor’s golf cart. You’re a bit concerned, so you wonder what might happen next. Soon, he hits the street and is driving wildly toward your house, his head barely able to see over the steering wheel. Then all of the sudden he jerks the cart to the right, takes out your garbage cans, wipes out about three cacti and then veers right into the fence you had built last spring. As the dust settles, you see the boy step out of the golf cart with a sheepish look on his face, and you’ve got a decision to make. You have three choices:
First, you can treat him with justice. Justice gives you exactly what you deserve. “All right kid, you messed up, so I’m going to call the police and they’ll cite you for driving without a license. Then I’m going to tell your grandparents what happened. And then you’re going to have to get a job to pay me for what you destroyed.” That’s justice.
Now, you might choose a second option: mercy. Mercy is withholding what you deserve. So you say, “I’m not going to call the police, but I am going to have to tell your grand-parents and were going to figure out what the cacti cost and what the fence costs and what you are going to have to pay.” If you do that, the boy ought to be thankful because you’re not applying strict justice, you are choosing to be merciful.
But there is a third option: You can be gracious. “You messed up kid. You destroyed three cacti and ruined my fence. But I’m not going to call the police or get you in trouble with your grandparents. As for the cactus and fence, I can fix those. Instead, why don’t you join me for lunch on my patio, where I can find out a little bit more about you and what’s going on in your life. Then we’ll figure out a way to tell your grandparents without you getting in trouble.
What’s your reaction to that last choice? You might say, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. How’s the boy ever going to learn? If you don’t give him some justice, he might just drive off and do the same thing to another neighbor.” And you know, he just might. But that’s the risk and scandal of being gracious. You see, it’s also possible that your grace might impact that boy and change the direction of his life. Perhaps he’s been going sideways for a couple of years, but you’re the first person who didn’t lose his cool, the first person who showed an interest, the first person who’d ever been kind to him when he messed up. That’s being gracious.
We don’t normally respond to injustice with grace. That’s just not our nature. We want justice, we want people to pay for what they’ve done. And we want it now. But God is not that way. He is gracious to us. He doesn’t give us what we deserve. He does the opposite. He blesses rebellious sinners with the extravagant grace of Jesus. Our sin offends Him. Our sin tells Him we don’t believe He is good. But what does God do? Rather than gives us the justice that’s due us, He sends us Jesus to die for us, to take away our sins. Then He doesn’t just forgive us. He adopts us as His very own and gives us every spiritual blessing in Christ. This is who God is. He is gracious to us. He doesn’t just give us mercy. He gives us way more than we ever deserve. And when you know God as this God of extravagant and scandalous grace, He changes you. You want to love Him, be with Him, and learn from Him how to live. That’s the God David knows. Do you know this God of grace? Now, that’s the first aspect of His goodness to us. Now, let’s look at the next:
- The Goodness of His Compassion “The Lord is compassionate”
Being compassionate is at the heart of God’s covenantal relationship with His people. It is this characteristic within God that moves Him to help when you cannot help yourself. Perhaps the best way we can relate to God’s compassion is to compare it to the deep love a mother has for her nursing baby or the love a father has for a helpless child. David used this same word to describe God’s love for His children as similar to a father’s love in Psalm 103: As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:13-14
We are weak, but He is strong. We are helpless, and yet it is our compassionate God is predisposed to help the helpless. That’s why this word is often translated as “mercy.” For in His mercy, God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. This is very true for us when it comes to our salvation. We are helpless to save ourselves. But because God has a deep compassionate love for us, He saved us when we could not save ourselves. So then, God’s compassion is at the heart of the gospel. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
Here’s where we need to let God shape our thoughts of Him. He is deeply compassionate toward you. That means when there is something in your life you are not equipped to carry – He is predisposed to help you carry it. Are you worried about the future? Don’t be. You are powerless to affect your future. But God is not. He is controls the future. Are you tired of trying to measure up to some standard of living? Stop trying so hard. Let God help you. Are you in a relationship where you feel like everything is up to you? Stop carrying that burden yourself, and let God help you. His love for you runs deep. He is Jehovah Jirah, the Lord who provides. He is Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals, and He is Jehovah Shammah, the Lord who is there for you. Do you know Him this way? Remember this about your God the next time life overwhelms you. It never overwhelms Him. Rather, His compassion moves Him to help you.
Are you starting to see how His goodness to you can help you live with confidence, without fear or guilt? This is your God. The Lord is gracious and compassionate. He is also slow to anger. So, let’s look at this next characteristic of His goodness to you: The Goodness of His Patience
I really love this one. I am so glad God is not like us when it comes to patience. He literally holds back His anger. The word picture David uses here is that of a nose. This is an emotional anger that is expressed through flared nostrils. The thought is that God takes a long, deep breath as He holds His anger in abeyance. He refuses to let our offenses upset Him or keep Him from loving us.
You see, we offend Him whenever we choose to live apart from God. We wound Him when we exchange the glory of God for some lesser god. And the Bible is clear that we’ve all done this: For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23. So then, none of us have trusted God the way we should. None of us have honored Him by loving Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Instead, we have trusted in ourselves, put too much value in lesser gods for life and security, and have chosen to live most of our lives as if He doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter.
But the good news about our God is this: He is slow to anger. When we are sinful He doesn’t erupt with wrath toward us. When we hurt our loved ones, He doesn’t make us pay. In His goodness to us, He simply holds back His anger.
And you know what that does for us when we understand God in this way? It takes the pressure off. You no longer have to live in fear of an angry God. When you do mess up, you will find mercy not judgment – forgiveness not frustration. This is the kindness of God that seeks to do good to us, even when we deserve the opposite. But He’s not just that way with us, He holds back His anger toward all people. As the Bible says: “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
When this is your image of God, you can live free of fear and condemnation. So that when you do mess up, you can come to God and confess you sin and know He will keep on loving you. And when this is your image of God, His patience toward you will can change how you react to those who offend, ignore or frustrate you. It can make you less critical, less judgmental, and far more patient with those who fail you, frustrate you or even hurt you. Our God is slow to anger. And that’s a good thing.
Well, there’s one more characteristic of God, that needs to shape our thinking today: The Goodness of His Steadfast Love Here now is the power of God’s covenantal love to us. This is the love that moves God to initiate a loving relationship with us: a loving relationship that’s entered into when you put your faith in Jesus.
What’s so cool about God’s covenant to us is this: He initiates it. He establishes it and is committed to never breaking it. His covenant promise to us is totally one-sided. By this love He declares His unwavering loyalty to us. By this love He makes an unbreakable commitment to us. So, this is a strong love. The strongest most powerful kind of love. This is why when you enter into a relationship with God through your faith in Jesus, you will know that He will never leave you, nor forsake you. He will always be for you, never against you. And His love for you will never fail.
This is the kind of love that makes you want to say: “This is too good to be true! There’s no way someone could love me like that.” But it’s true. That’s why God’s love found in the gift of His Son Jesus Christ is such good news. In Jesus, He gives you what you don’t deserve. He gives you eternal life with Him. He makes you His child. He gives you the righteousness of Christ. He gives you a place to belong and serve in His Church. And He gives you the Holy Spirit to live within you, so you can know Him as the God of steadfast love! This is our God! The God who is rich in love.
Last week I was meditating on the steadfast love of God, and this is what God’s Spirit gave me and I want to share it with you: “His love is steadfast toward me. That means it never wavers. His love for me never changes. It is the same today as it was in eternity past. It is the same today as the day Jesus died for me. It is the same today as when He loved me in my worst sin. His steadfast love means there will never be anything I might do that will make Him love me less. And there is nothing I can do for Him that will make Him love me more. His love is constant. No matter what circumstance comes my way, it will not keep God from loving me. No pandemic, no health issue, no criticism, no political, financial or natural disaster – nothing can keep Him from loving me with His steadfast love. No man can change God’s love for me. So don’t fear what man might say or do. Gain confidence from His steadfast love. He is faithful in His love. So, I can count on Him to always be there for me.”
“The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.” There’s nothing God won’t do for you. He gives you more than you ever deserve. He helps you when you cannot help yourself. He refuses to let your offenses keep Him from loving you. For He loves you with His steadfast love.
This is the God who David knew and who made Himself known to us in Jesus. So, let me ask you today: Do you know this God? If you do, then let God’s grace to you, compassion for you, patience with you, and steadfast love for you – change you.
But if you don’t know this God, the good news is that God has made it possible for you to know Him through faith in Jesus Christ. So, if you hear His voice today, then God is calling you to come to Him by faith. And this how you can do that. The Bible says: “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:8-9
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” Romans 10:10-11
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:12-13
This is how you put your faith in Jesus and receive His salvation. This is how you enter into a relationship with the Lord who is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. If that’s you, if you want to know this God, would you call on Him in prayer with me today? Let’s pray.