Lent Devotional: Exodus 34:6-7
by Jonathan Haefs
Exodus 34:6-7 (click here)
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “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, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6-7)
“From dust you came and to dust you shall return… so repent and believe the Gospel!”
Every year, on Ash Wednesday, I look into the eyes of the people I pastor and say this over and over and over again. This moment is hard… and it is beautiful…
It is hard because we live in a culture that does everything it can to avoid the reality of death. But, on Ash Wednesday, again and again, I look into the eyes of people I love and speak the hard truth… “you will die.”
Over and over I tell people, one on one, person to person… the day will come when you will return to dust.
This moment is hard.
But this moment is also beautiful because we live in a culture that does everything it can to avoid the reality that it has no hope to offer in the face of death. But, on Ash Wednesday, again and again, I look into the eyes of people I love and speak the beautiful truth… “there is gospel good news!”
Over and over I tell people, one on one, person to person… turn from hopelessness and trust in the glorious hope of the Gospel!
This moment is beautiful.
On display each Ash Wednesday is the truth of Exodus 34:6-7. Here, the Lord reveals who he is to Moses by proclaiming “his name,” his character, and two primary things rise to the surface. The Lord abounds in steadfast love… and the Lord will not clear the guilty.
How can both of these things be true? How can God execute righteous judgment towards sinners and show steadfast love towards sinners? How can we deserve to return to dust and experience good news?
On the cross, God speaks the difficult truth that sin deserves death… we deserve to return to dust. Yet, from the cross God speaks the beautiful truth that Christ has defeated our death by becoming dust himself in our place!
How does God not clear the guilty, but execute his right wrath against sin? He does it by taking on flesh himself and becoming our substitute… he pours that wrath out upon himself! And this is also how he shows steadfast love to sinners who repent and believe this Gospel good news!
Yes, it is true that from dust I came and to dust I shall return… as Christians we do not avoid the reality of death BECAUSE we do not fear it! For it is also true that we have believed in the hope of the Gospel!
We do not fear the hard because we believe the beautiful!
We believe the Gospel!