God has the most fascinating, intriguing, and unique character. There is a Christian song written in 1867 that attempts to showcase the almost paradoxical, but perfectly united character traits of God. Sung to a rather quick-paced tune, this hymn effectively informs and overwhelms us with God’s excellencies.
“Immortal Invisible” by Walter Chalmers Smith (1867)
Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
Thy justice like mountains high soaring above
Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all life thou givest—to both great and small;
In all life thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but nought changeth thee.
Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart
Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.
All laud we would render; O help us to seeThe last two stanzas are the original edition. Most hymnals join the first two lines of the last two stanzas to make a single last stanza.
’Tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee,
And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.
This hymn does not have a chorus, but among all the many affirmations of God’s character in the Scriptures, there is a chorus that repeats itself, almost word-for-word, in Scripture a number of times (can some gifted believer not add this as a chorus to the above hymn?). This is how it goes:
The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulnessExodus 34:6 (ESV)
This is the first occurrence in recorded history of this chorus of God’s character. It was spoken audibly on Mt. Sinai to the prophet Moses. It’s context is one of God’s promise to forgive lavishly, while still maintaining justice in every generation (Ex 34:5-9).
The next occurrence of this chorus to God’s character is from the pen of King David. The context this time is one of personal neediness (Ps 86:1) and trouble (Ps 86:7). After a plea for grace (Ps 86:6), David gives thanks (Ps 86:12) for …
you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.Psalm 86:15 (ESV)
Psalm 103 and Psalm 145, again from King David’s heart, both retell God’s wonderful deeds and excellent character. Not surprisingly, this chorus of God’s character is found in each of those Psalms (in verse 8 of both so it is easy to remember).
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.Psalm 103:8 (ESV)
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.Psalm 145:8 (ESV)
This chorus of God’s character revived a true knowledge of God in the prophet Moses. It was the highlight of Biblical meditation for King David. Two of the later prophets repeated this chorus too. They did so to affirm God’s forgiveness for those experiencing the results of sin.
Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him,Joel 2:13-14 (ESV)
O LORD, … I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.Jonah 4:2 (ESV)
Let this chorus of God’s character likewise comfort you as you walk humbly before the Lord, meditating on His glorious being, filled with knowledge of the God of the universe!