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God: A Short Autobiography - Exodus 34:5-7

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In studying the Biography of God, there's no better source than God Himself. This is one of the primary passages in all of Scripture about who God is; it is His own autobiography. This is God telling us about Himself. As God reveals to Moses who He is, he begins by declaring His name and then listing several of His primary character traits. It's not unlike meeting anyone for the first time. We get their name and then learn some things about them. As we relate to God, then, these experiences are what we can expect to find.

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11/23/2008
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God: A Short Autobiography
Exodus 34:5-7
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary

In studying the Biography of God, there's no better source than God Himself. This is one of the primary passages in all of Scripture about who God is; it is His own autobiography. This is God telling us about Himself. As God reveals to Moses who He is, he begins by declaring His name and then listing several of His primary character traits. It's not unlike meeting anyone for the first time. We get their name and then learn some things about them. As we relate to God, then, these experiences are what we can expect to find.

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Biography of God, The

Biography of God, The

Thomas Jefferson. Martin Luther King Jr. Winston Churchill. C.S. Lewis. All outstanding men with amazing life stories, but in all of history, one biography stands out above the rest. The Biography of God gives an in depth look at His character and nature, and delves into the theological and personal profile of our Heavenly Father. As this series searches the scriptures to lead the believer to a discovery of who God is and how He is sensitive to the human condition, it will both lift up and humble at the same time.

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Detailed Notes

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I. His Designation: יְהוָה


A. The Statement of the Name


B. The Significance of the Name


 

II. His Description:


A. Beneficial Attributes: "Merciful, gracious, longsuffering"


B. Bountiful Attributes: "Abounding in goodness, abound in truth"


C. Balanced Attributes: "Keeping mercy, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin"

"By no means clearing the guilty, visiting the inequity..."

 


Think About This:



  1. What is the meaning of your name? How closely does your personality resemble its meaning?

  2. What does it mean to pray, "in Jesus’ name"?

  3. Of all of God’s listed attributes here, which surprises you most? Why? Which is most attractive to you? Why?

Transcript

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Let's open our Bibles to Exodus chapter 34, a text we looked at last time sort of as a preparatory approach and now e want to look at it more in depth. This is a message I'm calling "God: A Short Autobiography," because God is revealing who he is tom Moses.
I was watching one of the news programs recently and they gave a report that there are several bus ads running on busses in Washington, D.C. that are running from now until Christmas. And they're a little bit unusual, they're sponsored by the American Humanist Association. And here's what one of the ads says, "Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness' sake." Now they're lifting a line out of Santa Claus is Coming to Town and it's designed to target people at the holiday season. Why believe in God? Just be good for goodness' sake. Well the spokesman for this group, a man by the name of Fred Edwards said, "Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there's an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion." Awww. A similar campaign last month in England by the British Humanist's Association on the London busses said, "There's probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life. Interesting ads, I've never see something like that. The statements reveal something, in fact they're very revealing. On one hand, they're saying, "Life is lonely without God," the spokesman admitted that. On the other hand they're saying, "To believe in God must mean that I can't enjoy life." Now the first statement is true, life is lonely without God. In fact God made you that way. The Bible says we were created "subject to emptiness." God put the hole inside so we'd wonder why it's there. But the second statement is not true, that to follow God, to believe in God means you can't enjoy life. In fact I've discovered people who enjoy life the most are those who love God the most and realize the most that God loves them. The most compelling people I've ever hung around are those who are deeply in love with God to the extent that they believe in him and they obey him. And here's why it's not a worry to follow God or to believe in him and why it is enjoyable. And our text, in verse 6, and God describes himself and we'll read it all in just a moment, is merciful, gracious, longsuffering, abounding in goodness and truth. That's the kind of God we're talking about. He's enjoyable and it's not a drag or encumbrance to follow him.
An eight-year-old by the name of Danny Dutton from Chula Vista, California some time back was given an assignment for his third-grade class to explain God. How would you like that for an assignment? Explain God. Theologians can't even do that. But listen to Danny Dutton give it his shot, "One of God's main jobs is making people. He makes them to replace the ones that die so there'll be enough people to take care of things on earth. (pretty good so far) He doesn't make grownups, just babies. I think that's because they're smaller and easier to make. That way he doesn't take up his valuable time teaching them to walk and talk, he can just leave that up to mothers and fathers. God's second most important job is listening to prayers. Now an awful lot of this goes on as some people like preachers and things pray at other times beside bedtime. God doesn't have to listen to the radio or TV on account of this as he hears everything, not only prayers, he must have a terrible lot of noise going into his hears unless he's thought of a way to turn it off. God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere. (this kid has got some good stuff) which keeps him pretty busy. So you shouldn't go wasting your time by going over your parent's head and asking for something they said you couldn't have. Atheists are people who don't believe in God. I don't think there are any Chula Vista, at least there aren't any who come to our church." Well, rather than us writing an essay to explain God, the great thing about this section of scripture is this is God explaining himself to Moses, this is God's autobiography. It's such an important section of scripture that it is referred to no less than twelve, perhaps thirteen, times in the rest of the scripture going back to this self-disclosure of God. We'll look at this tonight.
J. I. Packer, someone that I love to read and respect greatly said, "Ignorance of God is the root weakness of the church." I'd agree with that, I would agree with that. So if that's the case, if that is even a plausibility, let's see what God says about himself in these verses. It's simple, he gives us his designation, his name; and then his description. Verse 5, "Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and fourth generation. This is God talking to himself to Moses in this very special meeting.
The first thing is God gives his designation, his name: the Lord, the Lord God, in Hebrew the probably pronunciation Yahweh, Yahweh, that's twice used. Now what's usually the first question when you stick out your hand and you meet someone? You say, "what is your name?" That's a all-important question to ask. You don't want to call them Number-something, or you're so-and-so, you want to know their name because the name is the designation of the person, it identifies a person. 
Now when I was born, my father's name is Louis Frank Heitzig and so he wanted to call me, his last son, they thought I'd be a girl and I was another boy, the fourth boy and so he said, "Well we're going to call him my name Louis. And I was named Louis Frederick Heitzig. But my mom said, "Not so fast. I've always liked the name Skip, let's call him that." And well they bantered back and forth as to which name I'd get and I got all of them. So talk about an identity crisis in school, nobody knew what to call me. But they often called me, "Heitzig," because at least that was a name that wouldn't change.
But in the Bible, a name is more than an identity tag. The name of a person in the Bible denotes character, reputation, even a person's authority. People in Bible-times equated a person's name with the person's nature. It was far more important what a child was designated and called, perhaps even than in modern times. Names make a difference.
One psychologist studied 15,000 juvenile delinquents and he discovered that those with odd or embarrassing names were in trouble four times a much as others. Interesting, isn't it? A couple of example that he gave, the Turner family, Mr. and Mrs. Turner called their baby girl Page. Now Page is a great name but when you put it with Turner, Page Turner. You know she would get hassled her whole life. Or the Piece family, P-I-E-C-E, Piece, named their son Warren. So it sounds like the Russian novel by Tolstoy, right? War and Peace. The Bacon family named their son Chris, middle initial B., get it? Chris B. Bacon. Not a good idea. 
Now in scripture, you find that parents will often give names to their child because they're hoping for some fulfillment of the name they're giving that child. So Judah means praise, beautiful name, the parents were hoping this child would grow up to praise the Lord. Samuel means God hears, what a great thought, I want my son to grow up listening to the voice of God. Others were named after the circumstances of their birth. So we have the twins that were born Esau and Jacob and Esau was born first and he was red and he was hairy and so they called him Hairy, that's what Esau means, Esau, hairy. His twin brother came up after him grabbing the heel so they called him heel catcher or one who stumbles another, Ja-cov, Jacob. And then there were people in the Bible who really got a raw deal. Like the wife of Phineas who named her son Ichabod. That just sounds bad. And it even means something worse, the glory has departed. How'd you like to live with that your whole life? "What's your name?" "The glory has departed."
Now the name of God reveals his character. What's interesting is that in the scripture you have three hundred different names of God. There's not always one name, there's three hundred different designations. Sometimes names are in combinations with other names or adjectives are given. But each one of them reveals a certain special facet of his character. So elohim, creator God, generally used to mean strong one or faithful one. Or the word term adonai which means Master. But here it's a different word, it's Yahweh, I am. It was the name that God gave to Moses about himself when at the burning bush Moses was being commissioned to be the deliverer of the children of Israel and Moses knew that the people would say, "Okay you say that God sent you, what's his name?" And so he said, "God, what am I going to say? Who am I going to say sent me?" And so God gives to Moses first of all what his name means and then the name itself.
I'm reading to you now out of Exodus chapter 3, "And God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.' And he said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you, this is my name forever and this my memorial to all generations." You say, "What kind of a name is that? I am?" Have you ever heard of anybody named I Am? No. What kind of a designation, what does it mean? It's in the first person of a Hebrew word haiyah which means to be, to be. And it's a very important truth to uncover and unpack what that name means. The idea of I Am that I Am means that God is self-existent one. I want you to think about this. God doesn't depend on anything else or anyone else. He is truly the self-existent one, he's not contingent, he's self existent. And that means that God doesn't have a creator, it means that God doesn't need a doctor. It means that God doesn't need a helper or a counselor, no one can ever inform God about anything he doesn't know, he is self-existent. I Am that I Am. That's his name.
The words I Am also refer to his eternal nature. It's in the present tense, he is the one that continually is, he's not the great I was, the great I-used-to-be-at-one time. He's the great I Am. He is always that way. And the third thing that the name itself tells us about him is that God is active in his existence. Because in the context of this revelation God will talk about what he is to these people: gracious, merciful, longsuffering. So obviously it tell us we're not dealing with a god who's detached and aloof and up in heaven snoring and doesn't care; he's very active in the lives of his people. Now just a note whenever you in your Bible, most of your Bibles, see the word Lord and it's all capitals like we have in this verse, LORD, they are translating Hebrew word of four consonants, we call it the tetragramatron, four letters. And it is perhaps and most probably pronounced Yahweh and that's the idea of I Am that I Am. Now you probably know that the Israelites thought it best to avoid pronouncing his name. After a period of time they just didn't pronounce it because they thought, "Better to avoid even mentioning his name than to abuse his name somehow." So what Jewish person would do and still does today, whenever they come in scripture to the term LORD (all capitals) Yahweh, they replace it with another Hebrew word adonai. Or, they simply bow their head and say hashem which means The Name. So this tetragramaton of YHWH is the ineffable name, it's so high, so holy, that they dared not pronounce it. And that's his designation.
Now let's look at his description. A list of attributes is given and we just sort of want to marshal or way through this. And I've divided them up in your outline into three sections. First of all beneficial attributes, this is what God say about himself. Notice what's first on the list. He's what? Merciful. Come on isn't that interesting that of all of the ways God could describe him first, it's not holy, it's not sovereign and it's not loving; it's merciful. That's the first description that God uses of himself. The Hebrew was rahum, it comes from a root that means a mother's womb. Isn't that interesting? A mother's womb. And so it's translated often compassionate because the idea is just of a mother would see that child and feel such compassion and tender love for a child, and not just a mother even father. In Psalm 103 verse 13 it says, "As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him." I remember how scared I was to be a father, it petrified me, I thought I wasn't up to it, I thought, ‘I can't do this, I could never love a little helpless infant.' Until the moment he was born. It was an amazing transformation to have another human being like that in your life and it was like a magic spell was cast. After that it was all over, I doted over that child, I still do, maybe to a fault to some degree. But I remember holding Nate in my arms, just last month (no, I'm just kidding) when he was a baby, he was just so small and so helpless and we were at a restaurant one time and he was in a high chair and he accidentally fell backwards and we couldn't catch him, he'd arch his back and he pushed his weight and his head hit a wood floor. And his eyes rolled back in his head momentarily. And just he emotion that swelled up of tender merciful compassion of a father and mother is something that I'll never forget. And even as children grown from that stage and become teenagers and become rebellious or get into trouble, parents no matter what especially mothers always love their children.
I did some pretty rotten things growing up, things that broke my mother's heart. She never stopped having compassion and loving. And God looks on his people like parents look on their own children, with the same kind of doting love, compassion. He's merciful. 
The second thing he says about himself is that he's gracious. Now this word comes up thirteen times in the Old Testament to refer to God, here's the idea of gracious is somebody stronger helping somebody weaker. I'm glad and I'll sign up for that one because it means I'm the weak one loved and helped by God the stronger one. That's the idea of what gracious means. What this means is that God will treat me and you well, not because we're strong, not because we deserve it but precisely because we are not strong and because we don't deserve it. Please understand that's the whole idea of grace, in the Old and the New Testament, somebody stronger helping somebody who is weaker. It's perhaps best summed up by Paul in Romans chapter 5 verse 8, "God demonstrates his own love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. So right off that bat, God is merciful, God is gracious. Now later on we're going to find it but we don't' find it until the end, the idea that God is just at the same time. At the same time, that balances it out. But you know there's a huge difference between those three attributes, justice, mercy and grace. Justice is you getting what you deserve. Mercy is you not getting what you deserve. And grace is even better than that, it's getting something you don't deserve. Example: if you were pulled over by a police office for speeding and he wrote you a ticket, that's justice, you deserve it. If he said, "Well I'm going to give you a warning, you were going thirty miles over the speed limit but I'm just going to give you a warning, don't do it any more," that's mercy. He didn't give you what you deserve which is the ticket. This happened to me not too long ago actually. I wasn't going thirty miles over the speed limit but the police officer told me I was going over the speed limit and he let me go, thank you Jesus. Okay, what would grace be then? Grace would be the office pulling you over, saying you were going over the speed limit, writing you a ticket, giving it to you, taking it back and say, "I'll pay it myself." That'll never happen by the way, just write that out of your wish list. That's getting something you don't deserve. And then maybe he would give you a tip on top of that, that would even be more grace. 
I used to love getting Nate stuff as a little kid, I loved to go shopping with him and get him stuff. In fact my wife had these little fun days called "I love Nathan days." And it just meant he got to choose what store to go to and what activity to do, it was all his choice. In fact there was a time when he and his cousin got into a fight and disobeyed her. And she did something very unusual, she said, "Get in the car." Got in the car, took him to the store and bought them a gift. And you know Nathan's looking like, "Uh, when's the other shoe going to drop here?" I mean this isn't right, this what are you going to take it away from me now and spank me here in the store?" And she just says, "I want you to learn a lesson, that the way God treats us is often this way. Not only am I not going to give you what you deserve even though my heart is broken by what you did, I'm going to give you a gift to show you how good God is to us." He said, "Mom, I'll never forget that."
Then, look at the third, longsuffering. God is longsuffering. You may have translation that says he's slow to anger. What does that mean? Well, you know what that means, he doesn't fly off the handle at you. Aren't you glad? God doesn't need anger management classes. God is slow to get angry. Oh, no mistake about it, God will execute his wrath in judgment upon this world but it sure takes him a long time to get there. He's longsuffering. Now here's what the Hebrew word literally means, are you ready? It means to have a long nose. Some of you with long noses like me are very grateful for this translation, it's a good thing, long nose because when a person gets angry, they show it in their nose. It gets red, their nostrils flare out and the idea of a long nose is that takes a long time for it to affect the whole nose. I know it's a strange background but that's the root of this word. God doesn't have a bad temper. In fact in II Peter God is not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance." There's been so many times like you have, "God why don't you do something about that." And I know what the answer is, God is saying through his word, "I will do something about that. But not yet, not now." He's very patient, it takes a long time before he will definitely judge. So those are some of God's attributes, those are his beneficial attributes. Let's go on and there's two more that I call his bountiful attributes because notice the next word: abounding. Abounding in goodness and abounding in truth. Now the word abounding, you know what that means, it means a lot. It means to great or to be filled or even to be overflowing. What that means to you and me is that there's enough of this for you. He's abounding in goodness.
We love to say it, God is good, all the time. All the time God is good. A good thing to be reminded of. Not only is he good he's got a lot of goodness, he's abounding in goodness. The Hebrew word is sometimes not translated goodness, sometimes it's translated lovingkindness or love. And it's the word hessed. Hessed in Hebrew. In human terms, sometimes it is applied to human beings, it simply means somebody who's loyal to another person. A loyal friend. But whenever it's applied to God, the fuller idea is that it's speaking of God as utterly constant and unchanging in his love. God's love for you never changes. It's not like God said, "you know I used to love you a lot more years ago. But now I've learned a few things about you and I've watched you, I don't love you as much." His love for you will never change. And that's the word hessed, that's a loyal steadfast constant unchanging love. 
Psalm 13 verse 1 reminds us, "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his faithful love (that's the word hessed) endures forever. He's abounding in goodness. But look at what's next: He's abounding in truth. Whereas Eugene Peterson's fun and excellent translation The Message "He is so deeply true." Or, we would say reliable, trustworthy. I have a friend, we used to nickname him Pencil. We call him Pencil because whenever he would make an appointment book he'd always put it in pencil, he'd never write it down in pen, because he would change it so often. So though he would say he'd be there at a certain place at a certain time, he might be there at a certain place at a certain time. When God makes a promise it's done, it's engraved, it's in pen, not in pencil. You can rely on God to keep his promises. How different is this God that we serve than say the Muslim god, with the whole idea of abrogation, that God can say something one minute and then another era completely negate what he said and change his mind and call what he called good last year evil this year. Our God never changes. He's abounding in that kind of truth. So these are great qualities, right? So far, great qualities. Did you know that there was a prophet in the Bible who was mad at God for these very qualities that God describes himself with? Yeah, you know his name don't you? Jonah. Jonah quotes what we just read in part but not like, "I love these attributes." It was, "I hate these attributes." I want you to see it. If you brought your Bible, turn to Jonah chapter 1. You have to go almost to the end of your Old Testament, it's tucked in the minor prophets. And if you don't want to turn there I'll just read. Jonah chapter 1 it says, "now the word of the Lord came to Jonah, the son of Amitai saying, "Arise and go to Nineveh that great city and cry out against it (now he should love tat because he hated the Ninevites) for their wickedness has come up before me.'" So again Jonah should say, "Excellent I've been waiting for this day, I can't wait to breathe condemnation on these Ninevites, God will destroy them." Look what he does, "But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa (you know the rest of the story) When he's really down in the mouth he comes to his senses and after he is whale vomit he decides, "I'll go," and he goes and he preaches the message of judgment, "You're doomed. Forty days this whole city is going to be toast." God doesn't destroy them. God doesn't destroy them because the whole city in an unparalleled fashion, never has this happened before, even in any Graham crusade, the whole city repents. You think any man of God would be so excited. Not Jonah. Chapter 3 verse 10, "Then God saw their works that they turned from their evil way and God relented from the disaster that he said he would bring upon them and he did not do it. (now watch this) But it displeased Jonah exceedingly and he became angry, And so he prayed to the lord and he said (now allow me to put a little emotion into what I think he prayed like and how it sounded) "Ohh, Lord, was this not what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish for I know that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, the one who relents from doing harm." He's quoting what we just read in his own memory. "Therefore now Lord please take my life from me for it is better for me to die than to live." The Lord said, "Is it right for you to be angry?" This is to me amazing. It's a paradox. Here you've got a God who is slow to anger and a prophet of God who is quick to anger, the very opposite of God. Angry. He got angry it says at God. Here you've got a God who is merciful and you've got Jonah who is Mafia. He wants them all destroyed. Now what paradox this is. You've got God and you've got a prophet misrepresenting God. And this leads me to the question based on the attributes that we have read and how Jonah treats this. As yourself this question: Do you people see in you a reflection of the character and nature of God? Merciful, gracious, longsuffering, abundant in kindness, abundant in truth. It's an important question to ask. It's simply important because we are Christians, we are followers of Christ, we are believers in God. And what did Paul say to us? He said, "Be imitators of God as dear children. Hey, if Dad's like that, then like Father like Son, or like father like daughter. Be imitators of God.
Jonah was the exact opposite of God. And he was a representative. You know I discovered that the healthiest place to live on earth is at the South Pole. If that's the healthiest place to live, there's no germs, they can't survive. And winds begin at the South Pole and move all of the contaminants northward. That's where the wind starts and they blow all of the germs, all of the contaminant, all the dust out. So it's regarded as the healthiest place to live. Yet, nobody really wants to live there. Nobody's signing up to go on a vacation to Antarctic. Because it's a hundred below zero most of the time. 
God's truth is here burning in all of its glory. And yet sometimes God's people are so cold about his truth. Yes, they're there to defend the gospel and to stand up against error. And germs can't be around them. They're quick to lash out about who's wrong and what's wrong. And while that is important, difficult to live around. Like Jonah, he's so cold-hearted to the very God that he says he represents. 
Let's go back to our text and we'll finish it up. There's a couple to finish up with and that is what I call his balanced attributes. Notice verse 7 that there are two phrases given and then two other phrases that balance it out beautifully. "Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin." But now flip the coin, "By no means clearing the guilty and visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation. Now it says ‘keeping mercy to thousands.' Here's what's amazing about this, that word hessed that I just mentioned, covenant love, loyal love, constant love. The word hessed is used again in this verse. Here it is, "Keeping mercy (hessed) but notice) for thousands." So why does God say it once and then say it again? Simply because he's saying, "Moses, it's not just for you and it's not just for your people. It's for thousands." And the idea is it goes on and on, it's for everyone. It's for everyone. God's love is not limited to one period of time, one nationality, one people group; here in the phrase he opens the door of his love to all peoples. All peoples.
What did Jesus say? For God so loved the world. What did the angels say in announcing the birth of Jesus Christ? I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. All people. God's love is for the African, the South American, the European, the Australian, the Albuquerquean; everyone. His mercy, his love is a door wide open to the entire world.
He says, "Forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." God loves to forgive people. I love seeing altar calls, I love doing them, I love seeing people coming forward. And I know that at that moment, as they're praying, I know that God is so jazzed to be able to forgive the sin of those who are coming forward. How do I know that? Because it says when one sinner comes in repentance all the angles in heaven are rejoicing. That must mean that God is also rejoicing. 
What were the first words that Jesus prayed on the cross? Remember what they were? "Father forgive them." The first thing out of his mouth. Do you know why? Because that was man's greatest need, to be forgiven. And so forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin and I won't bother to tell you the difference between those three at this time. The word forgive here means to lift up and to carry away. Because that's what God does with your sin. He lifts it up and he carries it away. So he's not going to bring it up again, "You know, remember a couple years ago, when you….?" It's over. It's done. And I love what Corrie ten Boom used to say, "He throws your sins into the deepest sea and then he posts a sin that reads, "No fishing allowed." Move on, get over it. 
Psalm 32, "Oh what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt." God's forgiven us. Boil it all down: God has a big eraser, for anyone who will admit their sin and turn from it, God will forgive it all. But flip that coin and it's done right here, "By no means (notice) by no means clearing the guilty." Now that's the balance of God's nature. The coin of God's eternal love is now flipped in this verse. This is the other side of his bountiful love and of his beneficial love. It's to balance out the truth that he just gave, and it's so important and he headline with those attributes. He is simply saying is that God is still just. God is still holy. And God can't repudiate his justice and just let sin go unchecked. He must judge it. He must deal with it. "By no means clearing the guilty. And this is how it works: either you will let Jesus Christ be punished for your sin or you will be punished for your sin." Those are the only two options. You either let Jesus become the sin bearer for you and it's over. Or you bear it yourself and it is never over. He's willing to forgive, he's willing to take iniquity and sin and get rid of it but by no means clearing the guilty. He's provided a way for sin to be forgiven. If you refuse his solution there is no other solution. There's none.
Finally, and we close. Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation." What does that mean? It means that it's God's nature to forgive but not to remove consequences of sin, that's what it means. Some misunderstand this verse to mean that God is going to punish children for their parent's stupidity or sin. That's going to be, if he did that that would be unjust. Ezekiel 18 says God does not do that. And he says it over and over again. 
Now I'm going to read this same verse to you in the New Living Translation which I think is helpful at this point. God says, "I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations." I forgive iniquity and rebellion and sin but I do not excuse the guilty and I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren. The entire family is affected, even children in the third and fourth generations. He's not saying, "I'm going to punish your kids but I'll allow the consequences that you enacted and it will affect all of their lives. Many children have suffered to consequences of their parents' sin. An abusive parent, children suffer. Alcoholic parents, children suffer for the choices of their parents. That's what it means, he won't remove the natural consequences. 
Now this takes us all the way to Jesus Christ. And you know why it does? Because here's God giving his name, a name is more than just a tag, it's a designation, it's a description of his character And so he says, "Not only I Am that I Am but this is what I am to you. I am merciful. I am gracious. I am longsuffering. I am abundant in mercy. I am abundant in truth, etcetera. That takes us all the way to Jesus Christ because in the name of Jesus we have I would call it God's best name, the fullest name. The name Jesus in Hebrew, Yeshua means Yahweh saves. God saves. Philippians 2, God has given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and those in heaven and those on earth and those under the earth and every tongues shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Yahweh save, Yeshua, Jesus. In the name of Jesus you have the great I Am with all of these attributes reaching down to us at our level, helping people. And he does that first by saving people. You shall call his name Jesus," the angel said to Joseph, "for he will" what? "Save his people from their sins." That's primarily why this great savior came to the earth.
So rather than listening to that ad, it says "Stop worrying about it and enjoy your life," I'm saying come to Christ where you don't have to worry about eternal life because it is yours. It is yours. But you have to receive it. All that God is, God will be to you. Whatever you need. And tonight some of you in here, if you're hurting and you're here tonight, hear this. Everything that you need that are listed in these attributes God is willing to give to you. They're like any gift, you have to receive. And it comes first of all by receiving him. You can say, "Well I want the gifts but I don't want the giver." It doesn't work that way. You've got to receive Jesus, that's the key.
Let's pray. Heavenly Father we've heard so much tonight about who you are. This isn't a description of somebody giving their opinion of God, this is you telling Moses who wanted to see your glory, just what you're like. You're the great I Am, self-existent, continually available and active in our lives; in a merciful way, in a gracious way, in a way that is very slow to anger and patient, in a way that is full of goodness and full of truth. You're so reliable, full of pardon, forgiveness. And Father I pray that we'd receive it. In Jesus' name. Amen.
Would you stand up? We have just a moment as we're closing with this final song and I'm going to give you an opportunity now to personalize it. Maybe you've never received Christ as your Savior or maybe you remember some experience as a younger child but you've never really surrendered your life to Christ. Tonight I want you to make sure that if you were to die you'd go to heaven. I want you to know this God who's filled with mercy and grace. But you've got to come to him. And you come to him his way and his way is through Yeshua, his son Jesus Christ; and receive him as Lord and Savior. And so as we sing this final song I'm going to ask you to get up out of your seat, if you've never received Christ. Or if you did years ago but you need to come home to him, whatever your circumstances are. And se we sing this last song, come forward and allow me to lead you in a prayer to receive Christ. Now I'm going to lead those of you have come in a prayer. Maybe you feel like anything but ten thousand charms as you're going to experience but you will as you grow in Him. The most important thing is that you give him your life. And so I'm going to ask you to pray out loud after me, I'll lead you. And I'd like you to pray from your heart out loud to him. Let's pray. Lord I give you my life. I know I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I trust Jesus who died on the cross and rose from the dead for me. I turn from my sin and I turn to you as my savior, s my master. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Additional Messages in this Series

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10/12/2008
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Can God Be Known?
Hebrews 11:6
Skip Heitzig
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Today we start a brand new series of messages I'm calling, "The Biography of God". The very subject matter of "God" is the loftiest of all subjects and the pinnacle of all pursuits. As we discover who God is and how He is perceptible to the human condition, we will be both lifted up and humbled all at the same time. The great transition that must be made, however, is to not stop with gathering information about God but by believing and acting in the light of that information, thus truly knowing Him.
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10/19/2008
completed
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Is Anyone Up There? Looking For Clues
Romans 1:18-22;Psalms 19:1-6
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We all remember the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her three friends come to approach the "Great Oz". Out of the corner of their eye, they notice a man pulling levers behind a curtain-working the mechanical, smoke-breathing Oz. The man then reacts by announcing, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" But how can they not? The man is the explanation for everything to them. They discovered that Oz didn't really exist! So how do we know that God exists and isn't a fabrication or projection of our own imaginations?
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10/26/2008
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"Now Hear This!" How Does God Speak?
Psalms 19
Skip Heitzig
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This is the age of communication. Cell phones, email, text-messaging, i-chatting and YouTube broadcasting are as common as coffee. (Some people are even talking the old-fashioned way—face to face with the person.) So how does God communicate? How does His message, His biography get out to the world? And more importantly, perhaps, who’s listening?
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11/9/2008
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I'm God...and You're Not!
Exodus 33-34
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The only way to know someone is for that someone to reveal himself/herself to us. We discover who that person is as he tells us about himself. Moses wanted to know God better and God tells Moses about Himself. This is the only place in scripture where God lists His own characteristics and qualities there are four phases to this touching story:
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12/14/2008
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The God Who Knows-It-All!
Psalms 139:1-6
Skip Heitzig
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A little boy climbed his neighbor's apple tree when he saw their car leave. He didn't realize while he was stuffing his pockets full of apples that another neighbor was watching through a pair of binoculars and saw the whole thing! God isn't spying on people, trying to catch them doing something wrong; but God is aware of everything. Such a truth has a profound effect on us: it can either be very comforting or else extremely unsettling. As we continue with the biography of God, let's consider what God knows.
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1/4/2009
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Godisnowhere
Psalms 139:7-12
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1/11/2009
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My God is Bigger than Your God!
Psalms 139:13-18
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There are so many different belief systems out there! Some people have a god that isn't very big and can't do very much. He smiles a lot but is weak and helpless to act. It's not a whole lot different from ancient times, really. The Syrians once said that Israel's God was "a god of the hills and not of the plains" (1 Kings 20:28). Their view of God was limited and powerless. So what's your view? Does it match the Bible's description of our Awesome God?
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1/18/2009
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God's Most Unpopular Attribute
Isaiah 6
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Ask most people to tell you the first word that comes to mind when they think of God and it will be "love" or "grace" or "forgiveness." All of these are wonderfully comforting attributes of God, but another key attribute that is seldom considered is His holiness. Today we observe one man's encounter with God, and we learn some lessons about what it means to have a personal relationship with a holy God.
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1/25/2009
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I Don't Get It! How Can Three Be One?
Matthew 28:16-20
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1+1+1=1. Is this New Math? No, it's the doctrine of the Trinity. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. At the very heart of the Judeo-Christian faith is the belief that there is only one God. Yet the Bible clearly teaches the plurality within the Godhead--three persons who are distinct from one another yet perfectly One in essence. What are we to make of all this? And why is it important? Today let's consider two major truth statements.
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2/1/2009
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Two Thirds is Not Enough
John 14-17
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"The mind of man cannot fully understand the mystery of the Trinity. He who would try to understand the mystery fully will lose his mind. But he who would deny the Trinity will lose his soul" (Harold Lindsey and Charles J. Woodbridge, A Handbook of Christian Truth). Last week we discovered that Scripture reveals One God in three distinct Persons. Today we consider the personality of all three Persons in the One God and Their role in our lives. Further, how can we relate to the Triune God in practical terms?
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2/15/2009
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The Dark Side of God
John 9:1-7
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"If God is in charge and loves us, then whatever is given is subject to His control and is meant ultimately for our joy" -Elizabeth Elliot. That perspective (which is the biblical one) is far from the typical sentiment about pain. Most ask, "If God really loved me, how could there be evil and suffering in this world--especially for me?!" To study God at all, this issue must be dealt with: Why is God’s world so messy? Where is the evidence of His power and love in such a suffering world?
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2/22/2009
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GPS: God's Positioning System
Acts 21:1-15
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Part of a relationship with anyone is knowing what that person expects. We wonder, "What does that person want from me in this relationship?" Relating to God is no different. So how can we know what God's will is for our lives? What kind of guidance can we expect? A notable example from Paul's life furnishes an excellent template for exploring this question. It was a confusing time, and many people didn’t agree with Paul's decision - but he felt it was God's will for him.
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3/1/2009
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How to Be God's Friend
Genesis 18:1-15
Skip Heitzig
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For the last fourteen weeks we've looked at "The Biography of God." In this loftiest of all subjects and the pinnacle of all pursuits, we've discovered Who He is, what He is like, and how to relate to Him. We must always remember not to stop with just gathering information about God--we need to truly know Him in a personal way. Abraham provided a model for us in how to do that as a friend. Four qualities form the template for being God's friend.
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There are 13 additional messages in this series.