February 01, 2022 | Letters from the Lead Pastor by Brandon Lenhart
Exodus 34:5-6 (NLT), “5 Then the LORD came down in a cloud and stood there with him; and he called out his own name, Yahweh. 6 The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.”
The previous passage of Scripture is the first time in Scripture where we read that GOD is “slow to anger.” Moses had just asked GOD if he could see Him face to face, but GOD denied the request to protect Moses because no one can see GOD face to face and live. However, GOD gives Moses the privilege of seeing the result of His passing by. This experience leaves Moses transformed spiritually and physically.
What does GOD mean when He calls out that He is “slow to anger?” Well, as we learned this past month, being slow to anger can also mean “longsuffering” or “patient.” However, the literal reading of the phrase in Hebrew actually means “long-nosed.” Why is this?
In ancient times, when a person would describe what anger was they would explain it in terms of facial changes. When a person gets angry, their face oftentimes turns red, especially around the nose. Thus, an angry person would be considered “short-nosed” or “hot-nosed” in the ancient middle-eastern context. If a person was “long-nosed,” that meant that it took a long time for them to become angry, thus, they were “slow to anger.” Of course, this conjures some interesting imagery in the mind, but it does give tangible expression to the issue of anger.
The next logical question is, “Does GOD really get angry?” And the correct answer would be, “Yes, but not like humans do.”
So what does GOD’s anger look like according to the Bible? Well, GOD’s anger is usually expressed in His withdrawal and/or “handing over.” For instance, when the Israelite people decide to worship the so-called gods of other nations, and offer sacrifices to them (in some cases human sacrifices), after centuries of warning and pleading with them to turn back, GOD turns them over to these nations by withdrawing His protection over them. Examples of this can be found in 1 and 2 Kings when GOD allows the nations of Assyria and Babylon to conquer, subject, and exile the nation of Israel.
GOD’s anger isn’t shown in lightning bolts to zap people into subjection to His will, but rather in allowing people to succumb to the consequences of their sin in perpetual rejection of Him and His will. However, this isn’t GOD’s first response. GOD’s first, and consistent response is warning and patience. Sometimes His patience lasts generations before He allows judgment to fall. This is why He can proclaim to Moses that He is “The GOD of compassion and mercy… slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.”
Do you know this aspect of GOD? Have you come to know His compassion and unfailing love and faithfulness? As you read through the Bible this year, take note of GOD’s love and patience for you. Lean into the expression of His compassion and faithfulness.