Slow to Anger, Abounding in Love

God is moved by his covenant of "abounding love and faithfulness."

Scripture References & Transcript

Exodus 34:6-7

Exodus 19:3-6

Exodus 19:8, 24:3

Exodus 24:7

Exodus 24:8

Lamentations 3:22-23

John 3:16

1 John 4:1

Exodus 34:7

Proverbs 14:29


Muhammad Ali is often known as one of the greatest heavyweight boxing champions of all time. Now, if Muhammad was still alive, he’d be upset with me for saying that. He’d say, I’m not one of the greatest, I am the greatest, because his mouth was as fast as his jab. He liked to say things like, I’m so fast I can turn off the light and be in bed before it’s dark. One time where he was challenged, he’s about to take off on a plane, the flight attendant came down and said, Mr. Ali, before we can take off, you need to buckle your seatbelt. And he said, Superman, don’t need no seatbelt. And the flight attendant said, Superman, don’t need no plane. You buckle that seatbelt. And he laughed and buckled his seatbelt. It may be the first time in his life he admitted defeat. If I’m honest with you, there was a time in my life when I didn’t seek to be Superman.

I sought to be super Christian. I wanted to send less than other Christians. I wanted to know scripture more, to pray more, to be more filled with the spirit. And while that might seem like a good aim, the result was a lack of peace, a lack of joy, a lot of frustration, sometimes even shame. And I say, why would that be? ’cause I was trying to live out of who I was, not out of who God is. The Christian life takes off. And we’re not trying to be super Christians, but we’re recognizing that we worship a super God. It’s why this series on Exodus 34 is so personal to me over the years it’s been life changing to make the mental and heart shift, not to be so obsessed with who I am, but just stop and revel and worship who God is. If you’re new or starting new series on Exodus 34, we started last week and I want to do what we did last week.

Have you stand if you would, and we’ll read this passage together. We’re gonna be camping for a number of weeks. Please read with me. Exodus 34, 6 through seven. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming the Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Father, I don’t have the words or the skill to accurately paint the wonder of who you are, but I pray in spite of me, Lord, that your words would lift us up to look at you, to feel so blessed. And Lord, do you also by your grace, call a few of the lost ones home. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. You can take your seat.

What’s so astonishing to me about Exodus 34, 6 through seven, where God reveals to us who he is, is what happens immediately prior to that event. God has just delivered Israel from slavery three months before, and they had been in slavery for 400 years. Think of that. 400 years. What does that mean? It means that your father and mother were slaves. Your great-grandfather and great-grandmother were slaves. Your great-great-great, great-grandmother and grandfather were slaves. You had no identity other than what we are is we’re slaves, we’re owned, we do what they want us to do. They knew no other experience. That was their identity As a nation, we are slaves. And God invites ’em to become his bride. In Exodus 19, three through six, this is so amazing. Here’s what we read. God tells most again, three months after the Exodus. Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel, you yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.

Now then if you’ll indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples. For all the earth is mine and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. God wants ’em to transform the way they look at themselves. You’re not a nation of slaves, you’re a kingdom of priests. You’re the elite. And then he says, holy nation, that literally means set apart. God could have chosen any people on the face of the earth. He could have chosen the nation with the strongest military, the richest nation. He chooses a nation of slaves and says, you will be mine. Never in the history of the world has there been more unequal relationship than this. Now, I can kind of relate to this in my own marriage because as Lisa and I have aged, she’s aged much more gracefully than I have.

And so when people that don’t know us see us together, they don’t assume that we’re together. One time she’s working at a book table at one of my conferences and a woman came up to her and said, you must be so proud of your daddy <laugh>. And Lisa said, I am, but he didn’t write these books. It’s only three years apart. But I lost my hair, I gained some weight. I didn’t moisturize as Lisa told me to. Just a public service announcement to you, 30 something husbands, if you don’t want this to happen to you, I know it feels girly to moisturize, but hey, 30 seconds, twice a day, it’s not that big a deal. I’m trying to save you. I’m a lost cause. You can still save yourself. That’s a free public service announcement. And so you have sort of the same thing here tho.

Those two don’t belong together. And you look at the God of the universe who could choose anybody and he chooses a nation of slave. So it’s not surprises. Okay? We’re in. Absolutely we’re in. And we see this several times. They pledge their loyalty. Exodus 19 8, 24, 3 and then 24, 7, all that the Lord has spoken. We will do and we will be obedient. And so Moses says the covenant is complete in Exodus 24, 8. When he does this, Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people and said, behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words, unbelievably exciting and loving marriage ceremony.

And then immediately an horrific honeymoon. Unbelievable response. Trying to set it up. Picture the ugliest, the dumbest, the weakest, and the poorest man on the planet, the most beautiful, the most intelligent, the kindest. The wealthiest woman on the planet says to him, Hey, let’s get married. Of course he’s gonna say yes. And so they do. And then he rewards her by cheating on her on their honeymoon. That’s the book of Exodus. Moses goes up to Mount Sinai, he’s there 40 days. It’s not overnight, but it’s not that long. But it’s too long for Israel to wait. Exodus 32, 1. When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, come make us Gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him. So they make a golden calfs.

They exchange the beautiful God for a cow. ’cause that’s what they did in Egypt. Egypt was filled with bovine gods. Hathor had the head of a cow. Isis had the horns of a on her head. Memoir was the sacred bull of raw that was pictured as having golden skin, which is very like the calf they made. The ultimate was the Aus bull seen as the manifestation of Pata, who they thought was the creator. God. The Aus bull was real, an actual bull. He lived in this palatial accommodations better than anybody lived in. And only the very elite got to see him. Jeff Bezos, mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, those kind of people were the only ones that got to see him. And when he died, all of Egypt mourned as if the Pharaoh himself had died. Think how? How did that happen? They had left Egypt, but Egypt hadn’t left them 400 years. They were slaves. 120 days their God’s bride. And suddenly they’re going back to Egypt. So the ugliest, the dumbest, the poorest, the weakest man on the planet marries the most beautiful, the wealthiest, the most intelligent woman on the planet and cheats on her. But it’s even worse than that. Where did they get the gold to make the bull? Do you remember?

Ask yourself, how does a nation of slaves get gold to make a bull? They, they made bricks out of straw. They were slaves. Their ancestors were slaves. Where did they get it? If you read in Exodus 12, God tells Moses, I’m not just gonna deliver you from slavery. You’re gonna pillage the Egyptians. You’re not gonna have to fight a battle. You’re gonna pillage ’em and I’m gonna make it so awful for them to let you go. They’re gonna open their jewelry boxes and they’re just gonna shower you with their gold. In essence, God is saying, you’ve been slaves. I’m gonna send you out as brides. This is your dowry. You’re gonna become rich from the plunder of the Egyptians. And that’s what happened. They were so traumatized by the 10 commandments. Boom, they’re gone. That’s where they got the gold. And this is what’s so horrific. The ugliest, the dumbest, stupidest, the poorest man on the planet cheats on the most beautiful, the most intelligent, the wealthiest woman in the world on her honeymoon with a prostitute. And the woman would say, how did you have money to hire a prostitute? I had to pay for the wedding. I paid for the honeymoon. I paid for your tax. This man has to admit, I sold my wedding ring, the one you gave me when we got married.

That’s how I paid for the prostitute. That’s what Egypt did. You say, how could they do that? And my response is, why do we do that? Can we be honest? God has showered us with his grace, his holy spirit, his mercy, spiritual treasures beyond imagining. And we say, God, I I’m gonna stop doing this. I’m gonna start doing that. I won’t do this again. I promise not to go there again. And yet we do again and again and again. If God wasn’t the God he is, we would have no hope for. There are no Super Christians story of scripture. There is one super God. Because Israel’s story is our story. We are just as faithless. We are just as rebellious. We spite God’s goodness and generosity to us every bit as much as they did. And it’s in the face of this shocking betrayal that God tells Moses who he is.

That’s the background. You talk about street cred. Moses knew what had happened and here’s God saying who he is. And God frankly had backed it up. And so in this context, God describes himself as slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Now this phrase in Hebrew slow to anger is Eric abim. It literally means long OB nostrils. Now if you’re taking the class that Ramona and I are doing on Wednesday nights about how to read the Bible, you know you can’t just literally take the words and and make sense of what it means. But the reason I’ve kept this I think is a beautiful example in illustration of what it means to be slow of anger. It means that somebody does something so offensive like Israel did to God. And so just flying out the handle, there’s this deep breath through the nose holding it and letting it out. Try it with me. Let’s start practicing it through your nose. Take a deep breath, hold it, let it out. Doesn’t it change the way you look at everything? So imagine somebody does something that gets you really angry. You’ve just scrubbed the floors and three kids come in and make it look like a disaster scene. Can you

And then act, let’s say you’re a single gal. You’ve met the man of your dreams. He’s the one and he’s finally asked you out. And you know the dress that will hook him. He will propose to you that night if he sees you in that dress. And so an hour before the date, you go into your closet and your roommate had borrowed the dress without your permission, spilled wine on it and you can’t wear it. And now you’re gonna be alone for the rest of your life. Can you go and then act? I asked one of our staff members’ wives, what husbands do that makes wives most angry? And I don’t wanna give her name, but her husband leads worship here.

And she said, oh Gary, it’s not what husbands do that make their wives angry. It’s what they don’t do. How could you not see that? How could you not get involved? And I wanted to tell you, you were married to a great husband. ’cause I could tell her from many decades in marriage ministry, a lot of things husbands do to make their wives angry. But look, whatever makes you angry, just pictured in your mind, maybe you’re driving, maybe you’re at home, maybe you are at weak long nostrils means we just, we hold it and we let it out slowly. And if you’re looking for the right kind of relationships, that’s what you should be looking for. If you are single and you wanna have a great marriage, find somebody who has long nostrils. All right, on the first date, take out that ruler. I don’t know if this is gonna go anywhere.

I wanna see how long your nostrils are. If you want a great job and you’ve got three offers from companies, choose a boss who has long nostrils. ’cause you’re gonna mess up and you’re gonna need it. But more to our point this morning, if you wanna worship a beautiful God, if you want your life changed by the only being that is God, choose a God with long nostrils. And Yahweh says that him, he doesn’t have a short fuse or a hot temper. He has long nostrils. Long nostrils means your anger doesn’t determine how you respond. Something else does. In this case, it’s a covenant. God doesn’t let his anger determine it’s the covenant. That’s where we go to the next phrase. Abounding in love and faithfulness has said, and ame in Hebrew now has said, has no English equivalent. We can’t use one word to define it.

We, it just takes a bunch. But when you look at how scholars have wrestled with this in the best translations, I think it’s pretty clear what it means. I like the NIV abounding. It’s not just a little bit, it’s abounding in love. And faithfulness points back to the purpose of that love. It is based in covenant. Dr. Ian Deree describes it as loyal love, which I think is a great description. He goes on to say this, even when his people sin against him and face the consequences of their sin, they may still appeal to the Lord’s has said, as the writer of Lamentations does, in the midst of the destruction of Jerusalem in 5 86 BC, the has said of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is your faithful. I love this. The has said of the Lord never ceases.

This is who he is. It’s who he’s always been. It’s who he always will be. He will never stop chasing after us to show us his abounding love and faithfulness. He will never stop being committed to us because his love and faithfulness is based on a covenant. Now, Kurt talked about that covenant a couple months ago when we were doing our series through the Bible. I won’t go along, but I have to explain it, for those of you who weren’t there to understand it. In eight, in chapter 15 of Genesis, God makes a covenant with Abraham. He was still called Abraham at the time and they used the traditional mode. What they would do is they would cut animals in half. They would lay one side of the carcass on the right, one side of the carcass on the left. Two people making the covenant would walk through it together.

The significance being, if I break this covenant, so shall be to me, you will split me into like we have these animals. Now, what made the Abraham Covenant so different is that when it came time to go through it together, God put Abraham asleep and he went through it solo in, in the form of a flaming torch. And it’s God telling Abraham, I will make this happen unilaterally. I’m committing to this. And we look at the history of Israel. It’s what he had to do. ’cause we were never faithful. His people have never been faithful, which tells us God isn’t moved by his anger. As justified as it is, how could God not wanna just destroy Israel after what they had done? He’s moved by his covenant of abounding love and faithfulness, which means something terrible happens. And what do we do? Breathe in through our nostrils, we hold it.

And our first response, instead of the natural response, how do I make this work in spite of what they’ve just done. Now this, this is how out of the world this is wives, let me ask you. If you are the most beautiful, the most intelligent, the healthiest, and the wealthiest woman on the planet, husband’s a tip. You should be elbowing your wife right now. That’s you babe. That’s you. He’s describing you all right? And you’re married to the dumbest, the sicks, the poorest man wise. Please don’t elbow your husband’s at that one. And then he you, you marry so far beneath you and he rewards you by cheating on you, on your honeymoon with a prostitute by selling the wedding ring you gave him to signify the ceremony is your first response to go, how do I make this marriage work? Now some of you are laughing, <laugh>, no, it’s like, get outta here.

You’ll never see me. I’m talking to my lawyer. In fact, if I’m your pastor, I might even say, you know what? Good that you find out now before you have kids, we don’t respond this way because we’re not God. God has responded this way throughout all of history. It’s his plan. He made a perfect world for Adam and he perfect. They sinned and messed it up because God made other arrangements. And then at the time of Noah, it got so bad he said, I gotta wipe it out and start over. And it didn’t get any better. He, he made the promise to Abraham. And then that launched generations of dysfunctional families. Until you go to the time of judges, when everybody does what is right in their own eyes, it’s a disaster. And so he brings forth the monarchy coupled good generations. Solomon’s son ruins it.

And then you go where the temple gets destroyed. God brings Ezra and Nehemiah back to rebuild it. Throughout all of God’s history with his people, he does great things. We mess it up. Great things, we mess it up. Great promises. We break them, we mess it. Up until until God of you know what I’m gonna say? Until the fulfillment of God’s has said and I met comes in Jesus. John three 16. For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For one John four, one, this is love. Not that we loved God, but that he loved us. He sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Do you realize what is happening here? After we betrayed God broke our pledge to him, hired a prostitute, prayed for it. With the ring that he gave us, God sent us the most beautiful, the purest, the the most precious savior and redeemer, who instead of divorcing us, died for us. I’m still gonna win you back. He says, abounding love and faithfulness indeed Never, never has there been a love like this. FB Meyer describes God’s love as the entire Amazon River coming down the valley to water one flower. That’s God’s abounding love and faithfulness.

But there’s a but slow to anger implies that God can get there. It it doesn’t go there fast, but it implies that yet that’s a possibility. In fact, we haven’t been quoting the last part of this passage that Kurt gets the pleasure of preaching on in a few weeks. But verse seven says this, yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished. He punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation. John McKay says this, slow to anger does not present the Lord as a frustrated deity who eventually loses patience and strikes out against those who have thwarted him. It rather acknowledges that the Lord is reluctant to act against his creation even when it is in rebellion against him. He waits long to give the sinner the opportunity to return in repentance. But he is not forgetful.

He will not condone sin at a time of his choosing. He will act decisively against it. God’s wrath and anger are mentioned over 600 times in scripture. We’re not proclaiming his word. When we try to leave that out, he will suffer long. He will forbear, he will offer his love. But if we spur that love, we will face his wrath. John Mark Comer gives a great example in of this. In his book, God has a name. It’s an example of Jesus. Jesus was familiar with the temple. We know he was there at 12 years old, but it wasn’t really till the end of his life that he cleansed it and he drove him out. What was going on there? What made him so angry? Well, at the time the place of worship had become a place of prophet. You had to bring a perfect lamb, an unspotted goat to sacrifice and, and they would bring their goats from afar.

And the priest would always find a spot. You can always find a spot. Ah, this, this lamb isn’t acceptable, but you’re in luck. We have pre-approved lambs. It cost you five times what it cost back home. But hey, it’s worth the God worshiping God, isn’t it? If you didn’t bring your lamb, you bring your money, yeah, that Roman money is tainted. That’s not good for God’s temple. You could have to translate it into temple money and it may be 30 to 40% surcharge to do that. But hey, you’re here to worship, aren’t you? Now Jesus saw this when he was 12. He saw it when he was 30. He saw it dozens of times. He’s 31 and he’s 32. And he’s imploring the Pharisees. He meets with some of them privately. He teaches, he gives parables. He he’s honest about what this means. He teaches and he teaches.

He demonstrates and he demonstrates. And it keeps going on until finally near the end of his life. And many scholars believe this was the act that made the Pharisees say, we’re done with him. We have to kill him. Say, all right, I I warned you. And now here come the whips. There go the tables. Judgment has come. Jesus demonstrated. God’s has said, and I met, which tells us today, where are you at? To reject Jesus is to reject God’s love and bring the full force of God’s judgment upon your head. Why Jesus is the manifestation of God’s love. We need love, but we also need forgiveness. And they’re interconnected in scripture. If you reject God’s forgiveness, I don’t need it. Yeah, good luck with that one. Or I don’t want it that way. I don’t want it through Jesus, you bring God’s wrath upon your head. There’s nothing left for you. This is a fulfillment of who God is because of Jesus. You and me get a choice. God will shower us with his abundant love and faithfulness regardless of what we have done. Or we can reject him for the last time and face the full force of a terrible anger.

So what does this mean for us? Last week, my wife pointed out, I didn’t really get into any applications. So let me have a chance to do that this week. We wanna be who God has called us to be. Will we grow long nostrils? Will we display abundant love and faithfulness in our own life? Scripture says is God is slow to anger. We’re to be slow to anger. Proverbs 1429, people with understanding control their anger. A hot temper shows great foolishness. I know a young man who works with a very influential private equity firm in New York City in 2008. A lot of companies lost a lot of money and this private equity firm lost over a billion dollars. And one of the reasons for that is they had a young analyst in his thirties who read the market entirely wrong. He cost the private equity firm hundreds of millions of dollars, hundreds of millions.

He he thinks his career’s over. How do you face the F? So he goes to the founder of the private equity firm says, I’m resigning. I can’t get it back. It’s done. And the founder says, you cost us hundreds of billions of dollars. You sure as heck are gonna help us earn it back. I cleaned it up for Sunday morning. But you can get what he was saying today, that private equity firm is worth four over $400 billion. And that young analyst a couple years ago was appointed a co CEO. Sometimes businesses profit from being slow to anger and going toward love and faithfulness. And so when my loved ones disappoint me, and my initial reaction is, I’m done with you, will I take that breath? Hold it. Remember my commitment? Okay, they did this. How do I maintain this covenant? It makes me wanna double down on my marriage.

You know, the average marriage breaks up at year seven or eight. ’cause it was new. It was fun year seven or eight. It’s not new and it’s not fun. And they say, if it’s not new, if it’s not fun, I’m done. Because we resent everything our spouse does. We’re not thinking, how do we keep it going? I’ve seen parents do this with some kids. We’re done with you even more in this day and age. I’ve seen adult kids do it with parents. We’re done with you. Forget what relationship we had, we’re done. It’s over. We do it in our work life. Most people today stay at a company only four years. And the number one reason of leaving is personnel issues. You displease me, you frustrate me. I’m out of here. We’re done. But if we will aspire to be who God calls us to be, man, you wanna be the most amazing husbands ever.

You might have to say like, you don’t have the most hair, you don’t have the most money. But if your wife could say, here’s where you could start today. If your wife could say, 10 years from now, in spite of all his failings, how I would describe him, he was slow to anger. He was abounding in love and faithfulness. Your wife will feel like a very blessed woman. It’s what our kids want their parents to be. They didn’t give us the biggest home. We didn’t go on the best vacations. But you know what? When I think back to my mom, man, I tried her patience. She was slow to anger and she was a bounding in love and faithfulness. How do I bring them back? Maybe you’re a teacher and you’re faced to deal with the dysfunction of a broken society. Kids that come to school without a breakfast and broken homes and they just throw that dysfunction into your face day after day. And it’s so easy to say, I am done with this. I don’t need this. What if you take the breath?

How do I show these kids the abundance, abounding love and faithfulness of God? It’s what we aspire to be as a community here at Cherry Hills. We wanna be a community that faithfully proclaims the message of God, please, Lord, let us preach the scriptures. But that’s the first half. We wanna learn to faithfully reflect the manner of God, not just tell people what God says, but reflect who God is so they could see it in us. We’d be a different kind of people. And it’s what drew me here to Cherry Hills because it’s so hard to find leadership that is committed to this. I remember reading the Dallas Willard book years ago, and he talked about a pastor of a growing church. But one day somebody messed up in tech with the PowerPoint slides. He could barely wait for the sermon to get done until he marches back there and he just lets it out and screams at him, didn’t realize they hadn’t turned off his mic. And this is a church where it went into the bathrooms, it went into the atrium, it went into the parking lot.

Two weeks later, he announced he felt called to go to another church. <laugh>. I suppose that he did. Can I just say I, I’ve been in hundreds of churches. I’ve seen what’s, I was asked to speak the Sunday after a group of elders asked a pastor to resign. No financial malfeasance, no problem with other women. He was quick to anger and lacking in love. And that was the reason it ended. That’s why I’m so grateful here. Like just working under, seeing our leadership, seeing Kurt Taylor, our senior pastor. I’ve seen many situations that would make senior pastors fly off the handle. And God has given us a pastor who has been slow to anger. He breathes in, he says, does this really have to be the end? I’ve seen it time and time again. It’s the community we wanna be. I read a news item of a pastor’s wife of a big church that got kicked off a plane ’cause she was quick to anger and lacking in love and they pushed her off.

I can’t imagine our beloved Lauren Taylor, Kurt’s wife ever being kicked off a plane. But Lauren, if you’re here, please don’t ever make me miss. I know you won’t. But it’s, it’s like that’s what we’re looking for. And so there are a lot of things you can find in a church, more charismatic speakers, flashier surroundings or whatnot. But in the end, isn’t it worshiping a super God, accepting that as our life and then looking for a place where that can be reflected? I love what Dr. Ian Deed says in Psalm. This is his quote in Psalm 23, 6. The Lord declares that the Lord’s goodness and his said will pursue him all the days of his life. The word pursue normally describes the action of pillaging armies and covenant curse. But the psalmist is convinced that instead of the covenant curse he deserves, the Lord’s faithful love and goodness will hunt him down relentlessly. Instead is, it’s not a glorious word. In the time of the Psalms, they thought, I’m being hunted down by hate. I’m being hunted down by murderers. They wanna destroy me, they wanna wreck me and steal everything I have is the psalmist says No. I’ve met the God who pursues me with his goodness and his love and his long suffering.