“But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15, NIV)
But you, Lord… I love these words. But you, Adonai, master, the one to whom I submit are compassionate and gracious. David uses the name Adonai but the passage he was likely quoting was from Exodus 34:6 and there the name used is YHWH.
“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,” (Exodus 34:6) God Himself passed before Moses on Mount Sinai and declared this truth to Moses.
God declared this to Moses after Israel’s disobedience while Moses was on the mountain getting the Commandments. It was also after Moses destroyed the stone tablets that God had carved. Moses was back up on the mountain and asked to see the glory of God. This is when God declared these truths about His character. He reemphasized His existence as opposed to the false gods the people had again worshipped. I am the God who exists, YHWH. I, the One who exists, am compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithful.
In another passage, Nehemiah uses this quote. Nehemiah was with a group of people who were resettling Jerusalem. The people that had been living in Jerusalem had been corrupted by the pagan religions of the area. He had to retrain the people in the ways of God. They had been indoctrinated by false teachings and polytheism.
Nehemiah wrote a covenant agreement that reestablished faith in the one true God has the rule of the land. He had all of the leaders sign it and they read it to the people. In this covenant, Nehemiah says, “God is compassionate, gracious…” He lets the people know that it is their God and not the false gods of the area that is the god that really cares for them. Their God is the one that they should serve.
The prophet Joel uses this passage as a plea for change in a disobedient people. Jonah uses it in a prayer where he says he knew God would save his enemy because God is compassionate and gracious…
And David uses it in his song. He reminds himself and the listener that no matter what men are doing, the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. He is the Lord, master and ruler over all. It is the Lord, Adonai that we serve.
Knowing God and His character makes changes in people’s lives. It redirects our focus to God and His plans. It caused Moses to worship. It encouraged Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem to obey and serve. When Joel preached about the character of God, people repented and turned their life to the Lord. When David sings it, he was comforted and encouraged to persevere.
Oh, how I long to know and understand this revelation of God. “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” It is my desire to bask in this thought, to hold tight to the truth, and to keep it foremost in my thoughts. For I know that understanding and believing this about the Lord will cause my relationship with Him to grow. It will provoke repentance, induce worship, burst forth in the fruit of obedience and service, and it will give me the strength to persevere in the face of adversity. Oh Lord, I long to know you better.