Listen here.

Key passage

Listen, Lord, and answer me,
for I am poor and needy.
Protect my life, for I am faithful.
You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you.
Be gracious to me, Lord,
for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant’s life,
because I appeal to you, Lord.
For you, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive,
abounding in faithful love to all who call on you.
Lord, hear my prayer;
listen to my plea for mercy.
I call on you in the day of my distress,
for you will answer me.

Lord, there is no one like you among the gods,
and there are no works like yours.
All the nations you have made
will come and bow down before you, Lord,
and will honour your name.
For you are great and perform wonders;
you alone are God.

Teach me your way, Lord,
and I will live by your truth.
Give me an undivided mind to fear your name.
I will praise you with all my heart, Lord my God,
and will honour your name forever.
For your faithful love for me is great,
and you rescue my life from the depths of Sheol.

God, arrogant people have attacked me;
a gang of ruthless men intends to kill me.
They do not let you guide them.
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth.
Turn to me and be gracious to me.
Give your strength to your servant;
save the son of your female servant.
Show me a sign of your goodness;
my enemies will see and be put to shame
because you, Lord, have helped and comforted me.

Psalm 86

Quotes from Chapter 16

A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger…

Exodus 34:6

The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed:
The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.

Exodus 34:6, 7

Short of the incarnation itself, this is perhaps the high point of divine revelation in all the Bible.

Even if he causes suffering, he will show compassion according to the abundance of his faithful love.

Lamentations 3:32

The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, forgiving iniquity and rebellion. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generation.

Numbers 14:18

… but you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love, and you did not abandon them.

Nehemiah 9:17

For you, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive, abounding in faithful love to all who call on you.

Psalm 86:5

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth.

Psalm 86:15

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.

Psalm 103:8

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love.

Psalm 145:8

I will make known the Lord’s faithful love and the Lord’s praiseworthy acts, because of all the Lord has done for us—even the many good things he has done for the house of Israel, which he did for them based on his compassion and the abundance of his faithful love.

Isaiah 63:7

… return to the Lord your God. For he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and he relents from sending disaster.

Joel 2:13

The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will never leave the guilty unpunished. His path is in the whirlwind and storm, and clouds are the dust beneath his feet.

Nahum 1:3

When we speak of God’s glory, we are speaking of who God is, what he is like, his distinctive resplendence, what makes God God. The bent of God’s heart is mercy. His glory is his goodness. His glory is his lowliness.

They will sing of the Lord’s ways,
for the Lord’s glory is great.
Though the Lord is exalted,
he takes note of the humble;
but he knows the haughty from a distance.

Psalm 138:5, 6

The only two words Jesus will use to describe his own heart are gentle and lowly (Matt. 11:29) And the first two words God uses to describe who he is are merciful and gracious. His highest priority and deepest delight and first reaction—his heart—is merciful and gracious.

“Slow to anger.” It takes much accumulated provoking to draw out his ire. The Old Testament speaks of God being “provoked to anger” by his people dozed of times. But not once are we told that God is “provoked to love” or “provoked to mercy.” His anger requires provocation; his mercy is pent up, ready to gush forth.

Fallen humans are to provoke one another to love (Hebrews 10:24). Yahweh needs no provoking to love, only to anger. We need no provoking to anger, only to love.

“Abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” He is not simply existing in large-hearted covenant commitment but abounding in it. His determined commitment to us never runs dry.

“Keeping steadfast love for thousands.”

Know that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps his gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love him and keep his commands.

Deuteronomy 7:9

It is God’s own way of saying: There is no termination date on my commitment to you. You can’t get rid of my grace to you. You can’t outrun my mercy. You can’t evade my goodness. My heart is set on you.

If we would know the name of God, and see God as he is pleased and delighted to discover himself to us, let us know him by those names that he proclaims there, showing that the glory of the Lord in the gospel especially shines in mercy.1

Richard Sibbes

The Christian life, from one angle, is the long journey of letting our natural assumption about who God is, over many decades, fall away, being slowly replaced with God’s own insistence on who he is.

When John speaks of the Word becoming flesh he says, “We have seen his glory”—we have seen what Moses asked to see but couldn’t—”full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

The Lord passed by Moses and revealed that his deepest glory is seen in his mercy and grace. Jesus came to do in flesh and blood what God had done only in wind and voice in the Old Testament.

When we see the Lord revealing his truest character to Moses in Exodus 34, we are seeing the shadow that will one day yield to the shadow caster, Jesus Christ, in the Gospels.


  1. Richard Sibbes, The Excellency of the Gospel Above the Law, in The Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. A.B. Grosart, 7 vols. (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1983), 4:245.

Questions

  • Cite different Scripture passages that answer the question ‘Who is God?’
  • What are we speaking of when we speak of God’s glory?
  • What are the first two words God uses to describe who he is? Why is this significant?
  • What is the contrast presented in this chapter between God’s anger and God’s love?
  • What does it means that God is provoked to anger, but not to love?
  • How is God’s love contrasted with our love in this chapter?
  • How is God’s love described?
  • How is Christ the revelation of God’s character?
  • How are the truths taught in this chapter about who God is significant in your life?

This article is adapted from: Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund and Gentle and Lowly Study Guide by Robert Zink.