A gracious and compassionate God

The Bible readings for today are: Psalm 86.1–17; Isaiah 33.1–22; Matthew 15.29–39.

Some Christians speak disparagingly of the Old Testament. They seem to think that God is there depicted as a vindictive tyrant or an obsessive law-giver. I concede that there are some difficult passages (as there are in the New Testament) but overall, it clearly presents God as gracious, compassionate, forgiving and loving. Psalm 86 contains one of the great statements about the nature of God. It is repeated (with variations) about eight times in the Hebrew Bible and first occurs in the story of Moses’ encounter with God in the cleft of the rock (Ex 34.6 cf. Num 14.18; Neh 9.17; Pss 103.8; 145.8; Joel 2.13; Jonah 4.2 ). It serves, for me, as a summary of the nature of God as depicted in the Old Testament and it is beautifully demonstrated in the person of Jesus.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
(Psalm 86.15)

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