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The Lord’s patient love

“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. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished’ ” (Exodus 34:6,7).

What does God look like? We don’t know for sure, but we do know this: He has a really long nose.

The Lord’s long nose

We learn about God’s long nose when he appears to Moses on Mount Sinai: “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. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.’ ”

Nowhere in those verses is there anything about noses, but there is a strong reminder that God punishes sin. God despises and detests every single sin we commit. The impure thoughts we think, the selfish actions we take, the hurtful words we say—God hates all of them. Our sins are deserving of God’s anger and punishment.

But God doesn’t get angry right away. He doesn’t have a short fuse. Yes, God describes himself as a just and righteous God who must punish sin, but he also describes himself as “compassionate and gracious . . . slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” God’s dominant characteristic is not that he gets angry with sin but that he is slow to anger.

That’s how I know God has a long nose. The phrase “slow to anger” comes from the Hebrew words erek appayim, literally “long nosed.” You see, when people get angry, their nostrils flare and their noses seem to get bigger. But the longer the nose, the longer it takes to get big with anger. So when the Bible says God has a long nose, it means God takes a very long time to get angry with you.

The Lord’s gracious forgiveness

You see that truth play out in your life, don’t you? Think back to the sins you committed over the last year. It’s quite the pile, isn’t it? And that pile of sins deserves punishment. You, the perpetrator of those sins, deserve to have God’s nose flare with anger.

But is that what happens? Will you suffer eternal punishment for your sins? No. Instead of damnation and hell, you receive forgiveness. Forgiveness for each and every sin. Forgiveness where it most certainly was not warranted. Forgiveness for seemingly unforgivable sins.

[God’s] compassion and grace, that love and faithfulness, are yours, dear Christian. They are yours because God’s anger flared against Jesus on the cross.

Why does God forgive sinners so easily? Because God has a long nose. He is slow to anger. He is compassionate and gracious. He abounds in love and faithfulness. And that compassion and grace, that love and faithfulness, are yours, dear Christian. They are yours because God’s anger flared against Jesus on the cross. And having spent his anger on Christ, God smiles on you with patience and love.

So what does God look like? We don’t know. But we do know that God has a long nose. And because of that, we know how God looks at us with patience, forgiveness, and love.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for being slow to anger with us. May your gracious forgiveness motivate us to live for you. Amen.

Learn more about FIC’s newest contributing editor at forwardinchrist.net/evan-chartrand.

Author: Evan Chartrand
Volume 111, Number 05
Issue: May 2024

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