YHWH El Rachum
Names of God – part 27
LORD God of Mercy
YHWH is God’s actual name which he revealed to Moses from the burning bush, it implies the personal nature of God and El the creator which is immeasurably beyond us. These two names are held in contrast here, a God who is both close and strange to us.
The third part of the name here is how God relates to us:
Rachum means merciful or compassionate, it is really as simple as that.
What is not so simple is that this is really the second part of part 26 in this series when I looked at God being a God of revenge. Revenge and mercy are two sides of the same coin with God. But before that a look back at the Jewish law.
The LORD passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
Exodus 34:6 ESVUK
Now fast forward to the prophet Jonah. He had been given a message to give to Nineveh, one of his country’s enemies. Jonah knew God was a god or revenge, but he knew God was also merciful. So if he delivered the message the people of Nineveh might repent: Repent means turn back from what you are doing or mean to do. If Nineveh repented Jonah knew that to God relationship is more important than rules, and that God would also repent, turn from what he said he would do.
But Jonah had a cunning plan, he thought if he went as fat as he could in the opposite direction, Tarshish, probably now Spain, that God would be pouring terror down on the country he hated, Nineveh, while he was well out of it, sitting with his feet up on the Costa Del Sol sipping a sangria and tucking in to tapas. But the best plans…
…sometimes I wonder about the wrong things in the Bible, like how many times Jonah would have had to wash his hair to get rid of the smell of fish vomit. Eww. But God got his way, the message got delivered, the people of Nineveh did repent, and Jonah had a big sulk. He told God:
And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.
The moral of this story is that there are always consequences to actions. The good news of that story is that God, in Christ, has taken the consequences for you. You could be like Nineveh, fully deserving of God to come down on you in shock and awe or be the carrier of a grudge like Jonah, or you could have other problems of your own. But God is the same now as he was in Jonah’s time, not just a God of revenge, but also a God of mercy. God still puts relationship above rules. If you change your ways, which is what repent means, then God will repent too, change his mind about the bad stuff he has planned.
That is God’s mercy.