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This Week's Teaching: "God Isn't Always Nice But He Is Always Kind"
There's a difference between nice and kind. A nice person is pleasant and polite. They will spare the truth in order to spare your feelings. A kind person does acts of good and they will hurt your feelings in order to spare you even greater harm.
Last week we started talking about how God described himself to Moses. And we read in Exodus 34 where the Lord came down to Moses in the cloud, and he stood there with him and proclaimed his name: the Lord (Yahweh). And it says, "He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming: the LORD, the LORD, (Yahweh, Yahweh)." Then he describes himself as "the compassionate and gracious God."
Now that's what we're gonna deal with today, but just so we have it all in context, and we know where this is going, he says, "Yahweh, Yahweh, 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." That's the context.
Today we're dealing with that second statement. Now, last week I talked about how God revealed himself to Moses, even going back to Exodus 3. He said, "I AM who I AM ," meaning, "I always have been who I have been, and I always will be who I always will be. I. I AM. I am the root and cause and the sustainer of everything. There is none other but me. I AM. I'm self-sustaining. I AM the LORD."
And we connected that to this sense of his name. Yahweh. Yahweh. In the Hebrew it sounds a lot like "I AM." Yahweh.
He revealed himself to Moses and he said this is my essence: I am the one who was, who is and always will be. I am Yahweh; that's my name. And then he says in my relationship with you, I am the God of your fathers, and I'm your God.
This week he reveals himself as "the compassionate and gracious God." now both of those words have some overlay in their meaning and how we might translate them into English, and they carry this sense of "showing favor, being gracious, yearning towards, longing for, being merciful, being inclined towards." It gives this sense of "bending or stooping in kindness towards someone who is inferior." Not like looking down on them, condescending, but technically condescending; coming down to; descending from a place that is superior to someone who occupies a space that is inferior. Again, this isn't the insult, this is just the reality. Condescending, coming down, stooping down; as if someone who stoops down to a child in order to show kindness, to be at their level. The words "gracious and compassionate," it has this sense of mercy, of pity. And not pity that's insulting. But a condescension, a stooping down, a showing kindness, granting favor.
So I'm wrapping up that "gracious and compassionate and merciful" and I'm just saying, when he revealed himself, he said, "I am kind. I AM Yahweh, the LORD, God; I am kind."
If you believed God was kind, would it change how you relate to him? Whether you relate to him, whether you call out to him.
In Jonah, the book of Jonah, God taps Jonah on the shoulder and says, I want you to go to the people of Nineveh. The Ninevites were brutal toward the Jews, they were enemies. And God says, I want you to go and tell them that if they don't repent, I'm going to come and destroy them.
And Jonah resisted. But he eventually went and he proclaimed to the Ninevites. He says, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown." Prophetically, he says, "God is going to overthrow you because of your sin." But "the Ninevites believed God, a fast was proclaimed, and all of them from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloths. And when Jonah's warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat down in the dust, and he issued this proclamation: by the decree of the king and his nobles, do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything. Do not let them eat or drink." He proclaimed a fast. "But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence." And the official proclamation said, " Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion, turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish."
And the Book of Jonah records that "When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah, this seemed very wrong, and he became angry and he prayed to the Lord," and he says, "isn't this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is why I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish," Jonah said.
He said, "I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God. Slow to anger and a bounding in love. A God who relents from sending calamity."
This is the nature of God. He's kind.
Now in Romans 11:22, Paul says, "Consider the kindness and sternness of God." God is not just nice. He's not just pleasant and polite. He is demanding. He does call us to what is best and tries to protect us from serious harm. He risks offense. He hurts our feelings in order to spare us from great harm.
He's not nice, but he's kind. And he's stern, as we'll look at in coming teachings that yes, he is a punishing God, but he's kind. He's kind.
In fact, even when we look at how Jesus related to people, he wasn't always nice. He was kind, but he wasn't always nice.
In our house church, we were studying one of the stories in the gospels, and I always ask the question, after we read things, " Does this create any tension for you?" And someone said, "You know, I really think that I would've been nicer than Jesus there."
And at first we think, "Oh, you're not allowed to say that!" But I do believe that's true. Many of us would be nicer than Jesus. He called people out. He told them truths they didn't want to hear. He spoke their condemnation -- the condemnation that they themselves had chosen, but he named it in a way that allowed it to rest on them. He wasn't always nice. He was always kind. He was always calling people to something greater than just leaving them comfortable in their sin.
Consider then the kindness and sternness of God.
In Titus 2, we read that the grace of God has appeared to all people and it offers salvation to everyone, and it teaches us to say no to ungodliness. The grace of God, the kindness of God.
If you believed that God was kind, would it change how you relate to him?
I think a lot of people think that God is actually unkind and that it's their job to protect themselves from God, from this unkind God. That this unkind God is inclined away from them rather than toward them; is inclined to show disfavor rather than favor toward them; that this unkind God is just waiting to catch them in a bad situation so he can say, "See, I got you."
I think a lot of people think that God is unkind. When God described himself to Moses, he said, "I'm kind; I'm kind."
And so I want to encourage you, relate to God as if he's kind.
In the same way that if we believe that he is the I AM -- he is -- then yes, we want to know Him, who he really is. He is Yahweh. And if we relate to him as genuinely kind, we will trust him. We will trust him.
So my challenge to you as you chew on this in this coming week, relate to God as if he's kind, as if he is condescending to you, as if he leaves his lofty place and comes to where you are. And he stoops with a gentleness, with a kindness -- not always nice. He will tell you things you don't want to hear -- but a kindness because he wants to spare you from great harm.
Begin to relate to God as if he's kind, and you will trust him. You'll trust him with the things you face. This is the message this week.
Now, next week, we'll look at the next phrase where he says, "I am slow to anger. I'm slow to anger." Lean into this. God is kind. He's kind. Not always nice. He's kind. So you can trust him. Trust him.
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