1. Our Gracious God (1 Peter 5:10; Exodus 34:6-7; Hosea 1-3)


Audio (36:38)

Jean-Leon Gerome, 'Moses on Mount Sinai' (1895-1900)
Jean-Léon Gérôme, 'Moses on Mount Sinai' (1895-1900), oil on canvas, 29x49 in, private collection

Some imagine the God of the Bible to be an angry, remote Judge, ready to smack down any human that gets out of line. Judgmental. Mean.

This is not a new idea. About 144 AD, Bishop Marcion1 began to teach that the God of the Old Testament, whom he called the Demiurge, Creator of the physical universe, was a jealous tribal deity of the Jews, different from the heavenly Father that Jesus taught about in the Gospels. He was denounced by the Church as a heretic. Marcion was perhaps the first to reject the God of the Old Testament as judgmental and harsh, but with the rise of classic liberalism in the last century or two, many have made the same claim.

A careful study of the Old and New Testaments, however, yields an entirely different conclusion. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the same as the loving God whom Jesus calls Father.

As we get underway in our study of grace, we'll examine three passages that tell us something about the gracious God of the Bible. In the process we'll become acquainted with the primary Greek and Hebrew words that underlie the Bible's teaching about God's grace.

1.1 The God of All Grace (1 Peter 5:10)

As the Apostle Peter concludes his First Letter, he offers a doxology, a statement in praise of God's character.

"10 The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 5:10-11)

Defining Grace (charis)

Peter calls the God of the Bible, "the God of all grace." Grace characterizes him. He is composed of grace, filled with grace and running over.2

But what is this "grace"? The basic concept is "favor." We see this in Luke's description of Jesus' childhood.

"And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him." (Luke 2:40)

You could say that God's favor was upon Jesus.

But it gets a bit more complex. Charis ("grace") was a common word in the Greek world, often used as a greeting: "Grace to you." In classical Greek there are three primary meanings: (1) a charming quality that wins favor, (2) a response of thankfulness for the favor given, and (3) a quality of benevolence that gives favor to inferiors.3

Grace Is Under No Obligation

The New Testament writers use the word charis to describe the love of God toward sinners,4 especially "a beneficent disposition toward someone, favor, grace, gracious care / help, goodwill."

It is important to note that charis refers to the favor of the giver, not the worthiness of the recipient. Grace is favor that is not based on obligation, wage, reward, or worthiness.

When I was in the Internet marketing business, every Christmas I would send my business associates ten pounds of mountain-grown Mandarin oranges from California. It was called a "gift," but it was a kind of obligation. They had helped me and I owed them something at Christmas to thank them. It was reciprocal. But grace is different. Grace is favor that comes solely at the discretion of the giver. God is under no obligation to us whatsoever.

This lack of earning or deserving is what separates grace from wages, from what is deserved or owed. Grace (charis) is utterly without interest in the recipient's goodness or worthiness. Rather it is based on the goodwill of the giver only. It is "unilateral," a word defined in English as "done or undertaken by one person or party, one-sided."5 Thus Paul notes,

"And if by grace, then it is no longer by works;
if it were, grace would no longer be grace." (Romans 11:6)

There's much more to be said, of course. But now we're ready for a working definition of God's grace that might be worth committing to memory:

"Grace is favor that is neither earned nor deserved."

It is God's goodwill towards us. Grace prompts the best-known verse in all Scripture (which we'll examine in Lesson 3.2):

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish
but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

God's grace is expressed in love, in sending his Son to save undeserving sinners.

One important part of this series of lessons are three to five Discussion Questions in each lesson. We learn by reflecting on what we have learned, processing it, and thinking through its implications. Don't skip this step, or you will have gained head knowledge without heart knowledge! I encourage you to write out your own answer to each question, perhaps in a journal. If you are studying with others, discuss it. If you are studying online, click on the web address (URL) following the question and read others' answers or post your own. (Note: You'll need to register on the Forum before you can post your own answers. 
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/instructions.htm)

Q1. (1 Peter 5:10) How does grace (Greek charis) differ from earning wages? From earning favor by being good? What is a helpful working definition of Biblical grace? In what way does grace characterize "the God of all grace"?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2136-q1-grace-charis/

Restoration by Grace (1 Peter 5:10b)

Read verse 10 again and see the promise of grace.

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." (1 Peter 5:10)

God's grace calls us to "eternal glory" in Christ. He has dealt with our sins and opened heaven's doors. That is our future. But as we go through seasons of struggle, here's what the God of all grace promises do for us in this verse:

1. Minister to us personally. Greek autos is translated in the ESV, NRSV, and NIV as "himself." "God ... will himself restore you." Peter makes a particular point that God himself will tenderly care for his suffering saints. He loves you individually. As Jesus said, "The Father himself loves you" (John 16:27).

2. Restore us. The word means "to put in proper condition."6 The Father will give us a tune-up. Struggle beats us down. God refurbishes us.

3. Support us. This word has the idea of support, "set up, fix firmly in place." Figuratively it means "to cause to be inwardly firm or committed, confirm, establish, strengthen."7 We can be shaken by circumstances, but his grace helps us find our footing again. The chorus of an old gospel hymn says it well.

"Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
By faith, on heaven's tableland,
A higher plane than I have found;
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground."8

4. Strengthen us. The idea of this word is to increase our strength.9 God makes us strong again after a time of weakness.

5. Rebuild our foundations. This word literally means to provide a base or foundation.10 We have been shaken, but he reinforces our foundations in Christ.

The God of all grace is interested in your eternal salvation, yes! But he is also interested in sustaining you by his steadfast favor in the times when you go through the water and the furnace (Isaiah 43:2). The God of all grace is good and strong and renews our spirits. Hallelujah.

1.2 The Compassionate and Gracious God (Exodus 34:6-7)

Michelangelo, detail of 'Moses' (1513-1515), marble sculpture, Basilica of Saint Peter in Chains, Rome
Michelangelo, detail of 'Moses' (1513-1515), marble sculpture, Basilica of Saint Peter in Chains, Rome

The God of all grace first reveals himself to the Old Testament saints -- to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses. When Marcion the heretic was reading the Old Testament, he somehow missed one of the most important revelations in Scripture, which we'll examine here.

To set the stage, Moses has asked to see God's glory (Exodus 33:18). God grants his desire, but shields Moses in the cleft of a rock so the full radiance of Yahweh's Shekinah glory will not burn him to a crisp.

"6 He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.'" (Exodus 34:6-7, NIV)

When God reveals himself to Moses, he begins by speaking God's holy name twice -- Yahweh, Yahweh! As you are probably aware, when you see "LORD" in your Bible appearing in small capital letters, this is a sign that the underlying Hebrew word is God's name Yahweh. Since the Jews wanted to avoid taking God's name in vain, whenever it appeared they would substitute "Lord" (Hebrew adonai) in its place when reading aloud. This tradition has been passed down to most of our English Bibles.

Compassionate, Gracious, Patient, Loving, and Faithful (Exodus 34:6)

Now Yahweh begins to reveal his character.

"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness...." (Exodus 34:6)

Carl Friedrich Keil sums it up well:

"All the words that the language contained to express the idea of grace in all its varied manifestations to the sinner, are crowded together here, to reveal the fact that in His inmost being God is love...."11

Let's examine some of the "grace words" compressed into the verse:

Merciful

"Compassionate" (NIV, NJB, NASB), "merciful" (ESV, KJV, NRSV), "tenderness" (NJB) is Hebrew rachûm, "compassionate, merciful," an adjective used only of God. It is from the root rācham, "love deeply, have mercy, be compassionate," which refers to a deep love (usually of a superior for an inferior) rooted in some natural bond.12 God's first reaction is to care about us and what we are going through. He understands our weaknesses and his heart goes out to us. We see this in the New Testament, where Jesus' healings were often in response to his compassion for the hurting (Lesson 3.5).

Gracious

"Gracious" is ḥannûn, "gracious," from the verb ḥānan, "be gracious, to pity," depicting "a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need."13 The related verb denotes "kindness or graciousness in action, often expressed as a gift."14

"Gracious" is such a close synonym of "merciful" that the words occur together eleven times. Girdlestone differentiates the two word groups this way. "Mercy ["merciful," rachûm] expresses a deep and tender feeling of compassion, such as is aroused by the sight of weakness or suffering in those that are dear to us or need our help." In contrast, "grace ["gracious," ḥannûn] is the free bestowal of kindness on one who has neither claim upon our bounty, nor adequate compensation to make for it."15 In other words, the word translated "merciful" has to do with God's tender identification with our suffering, while "gracious" has to do with his response to our suffering.

Slow to Anger

"Slow to anger" (NIV, ESV, NRSV, NJB), "longsuffering" (KJV), means, "slow in regard to anger."16 It describes God's patience and his ability to listen to us without immediately erupting in wrath. God does not have a short fuse. He is not quick tempered. He is not set off by an inappropriate word or action. He is not the angry deity in the heavens ready to beat us over the head when we do wrong. He is willing to take time to listen to us, even if we don't express ourselves well -- or even know what to say.

This characteristic of God makes me reflect on my own life. If I am to be a "godly" man, then I must become like God is. I can remember a time when I was angry at my wife over a long period of time. She was doing something I did not like -- not something ungodly, but not suited to what I wanted. I was angry. It simmered. Then one Sunday morning I was in a church service where the pastor preached on forgiveness. God spoke to my heart, "Forgive your wife." Just that. "Forgive your wife." God showed me my anger and unforgiveness. When I forgave my wife, my anger dissipated. She didn't change, but I did. My God is "slow to anger" and so must I be.

Abounding in Steadfast Love

"Love" (NIV), "steadfast love" (NRSV, ESV), "faithful love" (NJB), "lovingkindness" (NASB) "goodness" (KJV) translate hesed,17 "kindness, lovingkindness, mercy." The exact meaning of hesed has been the object of some controversy.18 It is often paired with nouns like mercy, with the implication that hesed is one of the words descriptive of the love of God. Heath summarizes it this way:

"Hesed is the disposition of one person toward another that surpasses ordinary kindness and friendship; it is the inclination of the heart to express 'amazing grace' to the one who is loved.... It is a committed, familial love that is deeper than social expectations, duties, shifting emotions, or what is earned or deserved by the recipient."19

Perhaps the traditional KJV translation expresses hesed quite well after all -- "lovingkindness."20 We are called on to show a similar steadfastness in our love, whether it is reciprocated or not.

Abounding in Faithfulness

"Faithfulness" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "truth" (NASB, KJV), "constancy" (NJB) is 'ĕmet, "firmness, truth, verity," from the root, 'āman. 'Ĕmet carries an underlying sense of certainty, dependability. It is often coupled with another attribute of God, hesed, "lovingkindness, mercy, love."21 God calls us to be dependable just like he is.

I can't overemphasize the importance of Exodus 34:6 that describes the God of All Grace. Indeed, Exodus 34:6 is quoted in one form or another at least twelve times in the Old Testament as a summary statement of God's gracious character.22 The understanding of God in this passage is central in the Old Testament.

Q2. (Exodus 34:6) What do we learn about Yahweh's character in his self-revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai? What does this have to do with grace?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2137-q2-gracious-god/

Forgiving Wickedness, Rebellion and Sin (Exodus 34:7a)

This compassion, this grace, works itself out in forgiveness: The passage continues in verse 7:

"... Maintaining love (hesed) to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin...." (Exodus 34:7a)

"Forgiving" is nāsā', which has three separate meanings, (1) "to lift up, (2) "to bear, carry, support," and, as in this verse, (3) "to take, take away." Here the word stresses "the taking away, forgiveness, or pardon of sin, iniquity, and transgression." Often nāsā' is used in prayers of intercession. Sin can be forgiven and forgotten because it is taken up and carried away.23

And just what does God forgive? Sins most heinous:

  • Wickedness" (NIV), "iniquity" (ESV, KJV, NRSV) is 'āwōn. Its root verb has cognates to an Arabic word for "bend, twist" and the Aramaic word for "offense, iniquity." 'Āwōn means "iniquity, infraction, crooked behavior, perversion, etc."24
  • "Rebellion" (NIV) and "transgression" (ESV, KJV, NRSV) is pesha', "rebellion, revolt, transgression." The fundamental idea of the root is a breach of relationships, civil or religious, between two parties, a casting off of allegiance, a rebellion against rulers.25 I think of our treason against the King of kings, conspiracy to rebel against him, and realize just how much grace his forgiveness encompasses.
  • "Sin" is chattā't, the principal word for sin in the Old Testament, occurring hundreds of times. The basic meaning of the root is to miss a mark or a way.26

As I look at this comprehensive list of sins that God forgives, I don't see anything left out -- perversion, wickedness, rebellion against God, sin of all kinds. It seems to me to include both inadvertent sins and those committed with deliberate defiance (what the Old Testament calls sins committed with a "high hand," Numbers 15:28-31). Wow! God's amazing grace prevails.

Not Clearing the Guilty (Exodus 34:7b)

But how do we understand the second part of verse 7? Was this grace and forgiveness too good to be true?

"... 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation." (Exodus 34:7, NIV)

The word "Leave unpunished" (NIV) or "clear" (KJV, NRSV, ESV) is nāqā, "be clear, free, innocent."27 Durham translates the phrase as, "Certainly not neglecting just punishment."28 So "the guilty," those who hate the Lord,29 will not go unpunished. About whom is he speaking? Those who refuse to repent, those who reject or ignore his offer of pardon.30

To those who humble themselves in repentance, the gracious God offers pardon. But those who refuse to receive mercy, they will receive just and unremitting punishment for their sins. The phrase, "to the third and fourth generation" is "a typical Semitic idiom denoting continuity, not to be understood in an arithmetical sense,"31 as clarified by Ezekiel.

"The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son." (Ezekiel 18:20a)

Where the idiom is used in Exodus, I don't see this as a curse on unrepentant sinners so much as a statement of the truth that our sins are modeled for and copied by our children, and their children, and theirs through the generations. We must break the cycle. We must repent and submit to God -- for our sake and for our children's children.

Q3. (Exodus 34:7) What sins will Yahweh forgive those who repent? How might the sin of rebellion find its way into a believer's life? Why doesn't God forgive those who refuse to repent and surrender to him?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2138-q3-forgiveness/

1.3 God's Grace -- Hosea and Gomer

James J. Tissot, 'Hosea' (1896-1904)
James J. Tissot, 'Hosea' (1896-1904), gouache on board, Jewish Museum

We've talked about God's character qualities of grace. But the Bible often uses stories and parables to illustrate and fix God's character in our memories, such as Jesus' Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), which we'll examine in Lesson 3.4. But in the Old Testament, the story of Hosea and Gomer stands out as a powerful illustration of God's grace.

Hosea and His Unfaithful Wife Gomer (Hosea 1, 3)

To understand the story of Hosea and Gomer, we must know that in the Old Testament prophets, Israel is often depicted as Yahweh's wife, who has sometimes prostituted herself with other gods.32

"When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, 'Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.'" (Hosea 1:2)

This is not just a figure or gesture. This is for real! God gives a shocking command to a young prophet named Hosea when he is just beginning his ministry. I say young, because it was typical in Bible days to marry young.33 Hosea may have been an older adolescent at the time and his wife of choice, Gomer,34 perhaps even younger.

We don't know much about Gomer. Hubbard suggests that she was an ordinary Israelite girl who would only later become a prostitute and adulteress.35 But when you look at the text, it seems to me that Hosea is instructed to select a woman who was already unfaithful.36 Some have speculated that she was a temple prostitute at a Baal shine before her marriage, but I think of her as a teenage girl who was willing to sleep with the men of the town for some cash.

You are Hosea and have been given the command to marry a sexually promiscuous girl. What do you do? Cities in those days were smaller, towns smaller yet. Everyone knew everyone else. Typically, marriages would be arranged by your parents, but for some reason this isn't an option for Hosea. Perhaps his parents have died. So Hosea obeys God and looks around town for a girl he knows who has a reputation for loose morals. She would be pretty -- pretty enough to attract men. Gomer comes to mind, so Hosea goes to her and proposes to her. Girls with a bad reputation don't get too many proposals for marriage -- especially in Israel -- so she agrees. Or perhaps her parents agree for her, happy to get their scandalous daughter out of their house to be somebody else's problem.

Strangely-Named Children (Hosea 1:2-6)

At first, things seem to be satisfactory. Hosea hopes that God will relent in this terrible situation.

"He married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son." (Hosea 1:3)

The boy is Hosea's -- isn't he? Perhaps. The text says that she "bore him a son." But when the baby is born, Yahweh tells Hosea to name his firstborn son after a town that was the site of a bloody massacre.37

"Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel." (Hosea 1:4)

Gomer conceives again. The text doesn't tell us if it is his baby (see Hosea 1:2; 2:4-5). Gomer seems to have been secretly seeing some of her old customers again. Who knows?

"Gomer conceived again and gave birth to a daughter. Then the Lord said to Hosea, 'Call her Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer show love to the house of Israel, that I should at all forgive them.'" (Hosea 1:6)

Lo-Ruhamah means "not loved," perhaps indicating a great deal of stress in Hosea's marriage, as well as God's relationship with Israel. Next, another son is born.

"8 After she had weaned Lo-Ruhamah, Gomer had another son. 9 Then the Lord said, 'Call him Lo-Ammi, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.'" (Hosea 1:8-9)

Lo-Ammi means "not my people." There is a formal separation, if not a legal divorce.

Hosea's dear family is now made up of an ex-prostitute and three children with ominous names -- Jezreel, Not-Loved, and Not-My-People -- some or all of whom have been conceived by unknown fathers in shady liaisons around town.

Then the bottom falls out! Gomer leaves Hosea to become the live-in lover of another man, apparently well-to-do. She leaves the children for Hosea to care for? No lover would want them around. Now Hosea's and Gomer's marriage is an open scandal and the talk of the village. We don't know how long this goes on -- a horrible testimony for God's prophet!

I Will Speak Tenderly to Her (Hosea 2)

Chapter two of Hosea is a poetic discourse on the unfaithfulness of Israel who has forsaken the Lord like an adulterous wife. Obviously, Gomer is an allegory of unfaithful Israel.

"2 Rebuke your mother, rebuke her,
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband.
Let her remove the adulterous look from her face
and the unfaithfulness from between her breasts....
4 I will not show my love to her children,
because they are the children of adultery.
5 Their mother has been unfaithful
and has conceived them in disgrace.
She said, 'I will go after my lovers,
who give me my food and my water,
my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.'" (Hosea 2:2, 4-5)

There is more of the bitter condemnation, and then a ray of hope in verses 14-16.

"14 Therefore I am now going to allure38 her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.
15 There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
16 'In that day,' declares the Lord,
you will call me "my husband";
you will no longer call me "my master."'"39 (Hosea 2:14-16)

Restoring the Marriage (Hosea 3:1-3)

Hosea, the prophet who speaks in Yahweh's name, has been disgraced by his wife's conduct. Imagine that the scandal has hurt Hosea's own reputation as a prophet of God. But now comes another difficult command.

"The Lord said to me, 'Go, show your love40 to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves41 the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the [sacred] raisin cakes.'" (Hosea 3:1)

Raisin cakes were considered a delicacy -- one that Gomer's lover can afford, but not a struggling prophet.42

"So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley." (Hosea 3:2)

Hosea goes to the house of Gomer's sugar-daddy lover and offers him money to let her go -- and to refuse to let her come back! I doubt that she is a slave at this point, another man's legal property, but the payment is the cost of ending the relationship for good.43

"Then I told her, 'You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will live with you.'" (Hosea 3:3)

This restored relationship does not come without cost to Gomer. She must repent of her ways and be faithful to Hosea.44 These are essential so the relationship can be restored.

Gutsy Grace

Hosea, the husband, represents God Almighty, of course. Gomer, sad to say, represents us. Yes, Gomer technically represents God's people Israel, but for practical purposes, she represents us in our pre-salvation squalor, as we'll examine in Lesson 2. Recall the image of the prodigal son in the pig-pen feeding unclean animals, unable to nourish himself on the food he is paid to feed the pigs.45 Gomer is restored from a sordid, squalid, sleazy place into the home of her husband. A vivid story indeed!

The story of Hosea depicts a remarkable love -- and hope -- on behalf of Yahweh. It is gritty grace that charges into the man's home where his estranged wife is living and buys her back. No disguising the grossness; no covering over the stink with niceties. It is love that acts, that gives, that helps a woman so besotted with her sin that she can't or won't help herself. But the cross is a story of grimy grace as well. I can't help but think of the passages.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8, Lesson 2.1)

"18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." (1 Peter 1:18-19)

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45)

The "God of all grace" is the same in the Old Testament as in the New. He is the One who gives his only begotten Son -- with all that implies -- so that we might be set free from our sins and their punishment and spend eternity with Him. That is love. That, dear friends, is the quality of grace, the quality of tough love, that our God offers us through Jesus Christ. Grace is unflinching love that scoops us up from wherever we are, washes us off, and presents us to the Father as hard-won trophies of the cross.

Q4. (Hosea 1-3) Why does Yahweh tell his prophet to marry a girl of ill repute? What does the story of Hosea and Gomer teach us? How does the story illustrate God's relationship with Israel? What does it teach about grace?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/2139-q4-hosea-and-gomer/

New Every Morning (Lamentations 3:22-23)

The God of the Old Testament is the same gracious God of the New Testament. Jeremiah wrote in awe of Yahweh following the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 587 BC.

"22  The steadfast love46 of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies47 never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great48 is your faithfulness."49 (Lamentations 3:22--23)

Lessons for Disciples


Available in paperback, PDF, and Kindle formats

There are many lessons for us in the passages we have studied. Here are some.

  1. The basic concept of charis, "grace" is favor of the giver, not the worthiness of the recipient. Grace is favor that is not based on obligation, wage, reward, or worthiness.
  2. Working definition of grace: God's favor that is neither earned nor deserved.
  3. God in his grace will personally strengthen us after times of suffering (1 Peter 5:10).
  4. Yahweh recites his character qualities of grace and mercy before Moses on Mt. Sinai. This key revelation is quoted 12 times in the Bible (Exodus 34:6-7).
  5. Yahweh is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6).
  6. Yahweh forgives all kinds of sin and rebellion in those who repent, but does not forgive unrepentant sinners (Exodus 34:7).
  7. Hosea is told to find a promiscuous woman for a wife. She commits adultery and lives with another man, but Hosea brings her home at great expense. This is a type of God's grace towards backslidden Israel (Hosea 1-3).
  8. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament.

Prayer

Father, thank you that you are God of great mercy, shown to your people down through the ages. We feel secure that we are loved by a Father who is full of mercy, compassion, and steadfast love. Even though we stray, we know you'll seek us out and draw us back to you in love. We love you! In the name of Jesus our Savior, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 5:10-11, NIV)

"He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, 'The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.'" (Exodus 34:6-7, NIV)

"When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, 'Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.'" (Hosea 1:2, NIV)

"The Lord said to me, 'Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes.'" (Hosea 3:1, NIV)

"22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22--23, ESV)

End Notes

References and Abbreviations

[1] Marcion (c. 85 to c. 160 AD) was bishop of Sinope (modern-day Sinop in northern Turkey on the Black Sea).

[2] A similar statement is "God is love" (1 John 4:16b). In John's writings, "love" conveys much the same territory as does the word "grace" in Paul's writings.

[3] It is this latter usage that caused charis to be the primary Greek word used by the Septuagint to translate Hebrew ḥēn ("favor, grace"), which we'll consider in section 1.2 on Exodus 34:6 (ḥannûn, "gracious," from the verb ḥānan, "be gracious, to pity").

[4] "Charis, BDAG 1079, 2. "The LXX used charis to translate Hebrew ēn. When translated as charis, ēn refers to a quality that makes a favorable impression on someone, usually a superior. Grace, then, is not in the giver, not in the one impressed, but in the one receiving" (Louis B. Smedes, "grace," ISBE 2:547-552). Only Luke among the Synoptists uses the Greek noun charis. 1 John and 3 John do not use it, Jude and Revelation hardly ever. It occurs 51 times in books other than the Pauline letters, 27 of which are in Acts and 1 Peter. We find it 101 times in Paul, including many times in the salutations and benedictions at the beginning and end of his letters.

[5] "Unilateral," Meriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary.

[6] "Restore (NIV, NRSV, NIV), "make perfect" (KJV) is the Greek verb katartizō, "to cause to be in a condition to function well, put in order, restore," here, "put into proper condition, adjust, complete, make complete something" (BDAG 526, 1b).

[7] "Make ... strong" (NIV), "stablish" (KJV), "support" (NRSV) is the Greek verb stērizō, which has a basic meaning of, "to fix firmly in place, set up, establish, support," mainly of physical objects. Here it is used figuratively, "to cause to be inwardly firm or committed, confirm, establish, strengthen" (BDAG 945, 2).

[8] "Higher Ground," words: Johnson Oatman, Jr (1898), music: Charles H. Gabriel.

[9] "Make ... strong" (NIV), "strengthen" (KJV, ESV, NRSV) is the Greek verb sthenoō, "strengthen, make strong, from the noun sthenos, "strength, might, power" (BDAG 922; Liddell-Scott, 1595).

[10] "Make ... firm" (NIV), "settle" (KJV), "establish" (NRSV, ESV) is the Greek verb themelioō, means literally, "to provide a base for some material object or structure, lay a foundation, found." Here it is used figuratively, "to provide a secure basis for the inner life and its resources, establish, strengthen" (BDAG 449, 2a).

[11] C.F. Keil, Exodus, Keil & Delitzsch, in loc.

[12] Leonard J. Coppes, rācham, TWOT #2146.

[13] The adjective ḥannûn occurs 13 times, 11 times in combination with rachûm, "merciful" (Edwin Yamauchi, ānan, TWOT #694d.)

[14] Elaine A. Heath, "Grace," in Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville (eds.), Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets (InterVarsity Press, 2012), pp. 371-375, especially p. 372.

[15] Robert Baker Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament: Their Bearing on Christian Doctrine (Second edition, 1897; reprinted Eerdmans, 1956), pp. 107-108.

[16] ʾārēk, Holladay 27. The phrase consists of two Hebrews words: the adjective ʾārēk, "long" (TWOT #162b) and the noun ʾap, "nose, nostril, face, anger." Van Groningen notes, "By the act of breathing, emotions can be expressed. Perhaps it was observed that the nose dilates in anger. God is said to be ʾerek ʾappayim (literally 'long of anger,' i.e., long before getting angry). The thought is that God takes a long, deep breath as he holds his anger in abeyance. A ruler is said to be persuaded by a display of forbearance, patience, i.e., 'the long of breath' (Proverbs 25:15). The main use of ʾap is to refer to the anger of men and of God. This anger is expressed in the appearance of the nostrils (Gerard Van Groningen, TWOT #133a). Hamilton sees it another way: "It reads "God is long of nose." When he is angry, his nose becomes red and burns (Victor P. Hamilton, TWOT #162b).

[17] I am told that the "h" sound in hesed, the Hebrew letter khet or chet or het is pronounced like the sound of a camel spitting, though I can't personally verify this. Something like the ch sound in the name "Bach."

[18] Some see the core of its meaning in fidelity to covenantal obligations, real or implied, the ethically binding relationships of relatives, hosts, allies, friends, and rulers. However, when it comes to God, does his hesed arise from fidelity to his covenants or to his everlasting love? R. Laird Harris concludes that "it is obvious that God was in covenant relation with Israel, also that he expressed this relation in hesed, that God's hesed was eternal... However, it is by no means clear that hesed necessarily involves a covenant or means fidelity to a covenant. Stoebe argues that it refers to an attitude as well as to actions. This attitude is parallel to love, goodness, etc. It is a kind of love, including mercy, when the object is in a pitiful state. It often takes verbs of action, 'do,' 'keep,' and so refers to acts of love as well as to the attribute (R. Laird Harris, hesed, TWOT #698a).

[19] Elaine E. Heath, "Grace," in Mark J. Boda and J. Gordon McConville (eds.), Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets (InterVarsity Press, 2012), p. 372.

[20] "The word 'lovingkindness' of the KJV is archaic, but not far from the fullness of meaning of the word" (R. Laird Harris, hesed, TWOT #698a).

[21] Jack B. Scott, 'āman, TWOT #116k.

[22] Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 116:5; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; Nahum 1:7; 2 Chronicles 30:9.

[23] Walter C. Kaiser, nāsā', TWOT #1421.

[24] Carl Schultz, 'āwā, TWOT #1577a.

[25] G. Herbert Livingston, pāsha', TWOT #1846a.

[26] G. Herbert Livingston, chātā', TWOT #638c.

[27] The original sense of the word was probably "empty out." The root nāqā has the meaning "to be clean, pure, spotless," with the derived juridical notion, "to be acquitted, to go unpunished" (Milton C. Fisher and Bruce K. Waltke, TWOT #1412).

[28] John I. Durham, Exodus (Word Biblical Commentary 3; Word, 1987), p. 450, "certainly not neglecting just punishment...."

[29] A similar passage reads: "But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction." (Deuteronomy 7:10a), cf. Exodus 20:6. "Hate" (NIV, ESV, KJV), "reject" (NRSV) is śānēʾ, "hate, to be hateful.... It expresses an emotional attitude toward persons and things which are opposed, detested, despised and with which one wishes to have no contact or relationship" (Gerard Von Gronigingen, TWOT #2272).

[30] God does discipline us. "I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished" (Jeremiah 46:28, NIV). But in Exodus 34:7 there is a contrast between those for whom he forgives rebellion and those whom he does not forgive. Keil gets the sense of this passage when he says: "But that grace must be not perverted by sinners into a ground of wantonness, justice is not wanting even here with its solemn threatenings, although it only follows mercy, to show that mercy is mightier than wrath, and that holy love does not punish till sinners despise the riches of the goodness, patience, and long-suffering of God" (Exodus, Keil & Delitzsch, in loc.). Brevard S. Childs (The Book of Exodus (Old Testament Library; Westminster Press, 1974), p. 602) translates the phrase, "Yet he does not remit all punishment...."

[31] R. Alan Cole, Exodus (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; IVP, 1973), p. 156. You see the same idiom in the Ten Commandments in a prohibition of making idols ("graven images"). "You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments" (Exodus 20:5--6). Those who continue to hate Yahweh will be punished severely. But those who love him will be shown so much more love that the two are incomparable. "Thousand" is a Hebrew word indicating a very great number, like we use "a million dollars" to indicate a lot of money. Durham says that in Exodus 20:6, "thousands might be better be read 'an innumerable descendancy'" (Durham, Exodus, p. 287).

[32] Jeremiah 2:2, 20; 3:1; 31:31-32; Isaiah 54:5; Ezekiel 16, 23; etc. In the New Testament, the Church is seen as the Bride of Christ.

[33] We can calculate that some of the kings married young -- Joiakin at 16, Amon and Josias at 14. In later days, the Rabbis fixed the minimum ages at 12 for girls and 13 for boys (Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel (English translation, 1961; McGraw-Hill, 1965, two volumes), 1:29).

[34] Gomer's name (gōmer) comes from gāmar, "to complete or finish." I doubt that it has a symbolic meaning.

[35] David Allan Hubbard, Hosea: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity Press, 1989), p. 54.

[36] "The text leaves little doubt that Gomer was a practicing harlot before her marriage to Hosea, and that subsequently she went deeper into sin" (J.J. Reeve and R.K. Harrison, "Gomer," ISBE 2: 525, 2).

[37] When Jehu becomes king of the northern kingdom of Israel, he demands that the heads of all the male descendants of Ahab, the previous king, be brought to him at Jezreel -- 70 bloody heads placed in two piles at the city gates (2 Kings 10:6-8).

[38] "Allure" is the Piel participle of pātâ, here, "entice, persuade" (TWOT # 1853), "seduce, persuade" (Holladay 300, Piel 2).

[39] "My husband" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "Ishi" (KJV) is "my" + ʾysh, "the generic word for "man, husband" (TWOT #83a), the warmer, more intimate word for husband, "my [special] man" (Hubbard, Hosea, p. 85). "My Baal" (ESV, NRSV), "my master" (NIV), "Baali" (KJV) is "my" + baʿal, "owner, husband, Baal" (TWOT #262a).

[40] "Love" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "show your love" (NIV) is the Qal imperative of ʾāhēb, "love, like, be in love." "The intensity of the meaning ranges from God's infinite affection for his people to the carnal appetites of a lazy glutton" (Robert Alden, TWOT #29). It is used in verse 1 for a husband's love, an adulterer's love for a paramour, and for a delight in raisin cakes.

[41] ʾahăbâ, "love," based on the verb ʾāhēb, "love, like, be in love," used in three times in verse 1.

[42] The phrase, "sacred raisin cakes" (NIV), "raisin cakes" (ESV, NRSV), "flagons of wine (KJV) consists of two Hebrew words: the noun ʿēnāb, "grape(s) (TWOT #1647a) and ʾăšîšâ, "raisin-cake." Used in the Old Testament as a delicacy (2 Samuel 6:19 = 1 Chronicles 16:3; Song of Solomon 2:5; Isaiah 16:7). The reference in our passage may refer to the similar kawwānîm that people made for or offered to the queen of heaven, that is Ishtar, the Assyrian goddess of fertility (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-19), which explains the NIV's translation "sacred raisin cakes" (Victor P. Hamilton, TWOT #1851).

[43] The payment is confusing and the size of a homer unclear. However, "a reasonable guess is that the combined silver and grain value was about 30 shekels of silver and thus the equivalent either to the worth of a female slave (Exodus 21:32, cf. Leviticus 27:4 for the monetary equivalent of a woman vowed to the Lord), or to the cost of acquiring a cult-prostitute" (Hubbard, Hosea, p. 93, footnote).

[44] She may also have to undergo a period of sexual abstinence -- "not know a man," rather than, "not know another man" (Hubbard, Hosea, p. 93).

[45] Luke 15:15-16.

[46] "Steadfast love" (ESV, NRSV), "great love" (NIV), "mercies" (KJV) is hesed, "faithfulness, kindness, grace" (Holladay 111). We studied hesed in Exodus 34:6, Lesson 1.2.

[47] "Mercies" (ESV, NRSV), "compassions" (NIV, KJV) is the plural of raămîm, "loving feeling, compassion" (Holladay 337). This is from the same root as ḥānan, that we met with the adjective ḥannûn, "gracious," that we studied in Exodus 34:6, Lesson 1.2.

[48] "Great" is rab (from which we get our word "rabbi"), "much, plentiful, enough, abundant" (Holladay 330, 5).

[49] "Faithfulness" is ʾĕmûnâ, "reliability, faithfulness" (Holladay 19). This is from the same root 'āman as is 'ĕmet, "faithfulness" that we studied in Exodus 34:6, Lesson 1.2.

Copyright © 2022, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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