Bible Notes: God the Preserver of Man

Originally appeared on spirituality.com

Hebrew: Exodus 33:19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.

To understand this saying, a clue may be derived from the idea that Hebrew verbs eitherattribute action to the actor, or see action emanating from the actor.McFall, L., The Enigma of the Hebrew Verbal System, Sheffield: The Almond Press, 1982. A Heber Igerendszer Rejtelmei, Megoldasi kiserletek Ewaldtol napjainkig, Debrecen: Debreceni Reformatus Theologioi Academia, 1989. Accordingly, ancient Israelites were concerned with whether we attribute grace and mercy to the LORD because of His gracious or merciful acts, or whether grace and mercy emanate from the LORD because he is inherently gracious and merciful. An acceptable translation is: I do gracious acts in that which I am gracious, and I do merciful acts in that which I am merciful. The Hebrew verbs switch from attributive to emanative forms. English does not have the same perspective, so this translation has to write out the difference. First a snapshot of the action attributes specific deeds of grace or mercy to the LORD; then the words in that which are like an equal sign in an equation; then grace continuallyemanates from the inherently gracious LORD. It is exactly the same for mercy. The LORD’s acts of grace and mercy on earth make manifest His inherent principle of grace and mercy as it is in heaven. This is not about capricious favoritism, but it does raise the important questions: Is the LORD gracious or merciful in that which does not accord with the divine character and nature, forgiving without requiring reformation? Would that preserve man? Can divine Love encourage crime to prosper without penalty and still be Love? This statement about God accounts for the Biblical theme of atonement.

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