“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.” Exodus 34:6-7
“Well, you say, but though God is able to help me, I fear that God is not willing to help me, and therefore I am discouraged. But be of good comfort, says the Lord, for my name is Merciful, and therefore I am willing to help you.
But you say, though the Lord is willing to help me, yet I am a poor unworthy creature and have nothing at all to move God to help me. Yet be of good comfort, for the Lord says again, My name is Gracious. I do not show mercy because you are good, but because I am good.
Oh, you say, but I have been sinning a long time, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years. If I had come to you long ago, I might have had mercy. But I have been sinning a long time, and therefore I fear there is no mercy for me. Yet, says the Lord, be of good comfort, for my name is Slow to anger.
Oh, you say, but I have sinned extremely, so many sins that I am never able to reckon up and to humble myself for them, I have broken all my promises to God and all the vows I made to him, and therefore I am discouraged. Yet, says he, be of good comfort, for I amabounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Are you abundant in sin? I am abundant in steadfast love. Have you broken faith with me? Yet I am abundant in faithfulness also.
Oh, but though the Lord is all this to his chosen ones like David, Abraham and Moses, yet I fear the Lord will not be this to me. Yes, says the Lord, keeping steadfast love for thousands. I have not spent all my mercy on David or on Abraham or on Paul or on Peter, but I keep mercy for thousands.
Oh, but my sins still recoil on me. I am the greatest sinner in the world, for I have sinned all kinds of sin. I fear there is no hope for me. Yet, says the Lord, be not discouraged, for I forgive iniquity and transgression and sin, even all kinds of sin. This is my name forever.
Oh, but I am afraid to lay hold on this promise, for I think this is a doctrine of license. Do not say that, says the Lord, who will by no means clear the guilty. But if there is ever a poor, drooping, fearing, trembling soul that desires to know my name, here, says the Lord, is my name by which I will be known forever.
The name of God quiets the heart against all discouragements.”
William Bridge, A Lifting Up For The Downcast (London, 1961), pages 270-272. Slightly edited.
(HT: Ray Ortlund)