"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 fourth generation".
Whole books have been written on this self description of God, so I would not attempt to delve into it all. But the issue of "forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty" thrills my soul. The great conundrum is how can God be equitable and forgive the rebellion of man. Surely, He must punish sin. But how can He, since the required punishment for rebellion is death? Since all men sin, all men deserve death. So how can He possibly be just and any man live?
In this passage, He gives a clue. He will both forgive and inflict the penalty for wrong. In Roman 3:21-26, the Apostle Paul provides an in-depth explanation. After explaining what Jesus accomplished, Paul says God is both the just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus.
Thank You LORD God, who but You could resolve the issue of my rebellion without my deserved punishment? Who else would have accepted my deserved death but You, Jesus? Oh LORD you are merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
Jesus' love for His disciples is evident, but to say He loved them to the end points to the cross. Love is a prominent theme in the next five chapters of John. In the first 12 chapters, love is used eight times. In chapters 13-17, it is used 31 times. So it is worthy of our study in preparation for the next few chapters.
Jesus focuses the disciple's attention on love by giving them the "new commandment" to love each other as He loved them, so the world would know they were truly followers of Christ Jesus. This is the only use of "new commandment" in the Gospels. The only other use of the phrase is in 1 John 2:7-8 and 2 John 5 which says, "And now I ask you, dear lady - not as though I were writing you a new commandment but the one we have had from the beginning - that we love one another".
The reason John says the command is old is in Leviticus 19:18. But Jesus' instruction in John 13:34-35 raises this old command to an unmatched level. The love Jesus has for these men is unique in this world. Since Jesus was soon to depart this world, the love these disciples had for each other, the same love Jesus had for them, would be the only display of Jesus' love in the world. Notice the term of endearment "little children" in verse 33. This is the only time Jesus used that term and He used it after Judas left. Jesus' command was for them to show the world His love, care and concern by the way they loved other followers of His. They were to treat other believers as His little children. Needless to say this "new command" was not just for the eleven men in the room but for all of us who are disciples of Jesus. Where else will the world see the display of Jesus love?
So there is no reason to wonder about the purpose of Paul's prayer at the end of Ephesians 3. "That according to the riches of his glory he may grant...that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Oh Holy Father, may it be true of us that the love we have for Your children would be the same love Your Son has for us. May the world know we are Yours by the way we love one another.