I Believe God Is Gracious
A Gracious God
When someone is consistently favorable towards people of lower status, they could be characterized as being full of khen. This is khen being used as an adjective, and the adjective form is khanun (חַנּוּן). (How is that throat clearing going?)
In the Bible, the person that shows the most khanun to others is God himself. Every human is of lower status than the creator God, but God consistently looks upon humans with favor. God treasures us, and he doesn’t show us favor because we deserve it. In fact, the story of the Bible is one that shows humans as constantly messing up—we lie, cheat, steal, and kill. We go out of our way to show God we don’t deserve to be favored. But despite our failings, God is khanun; he is gracious.
The context of the Exodus passage where God first calls himself gracious is a powerful example of this. God has just rescued the Israelites from slavery, brought them to safety, and made a covenant with them. And the first thing they do is make an idol statue, breaking two of the commandments of the covenant! And God’s response is to call himself “gracious.” He will continue to show favor on humanity even when we rebel.
This attribute of God, his graciousness, the consistent favor he shows towards humanity, is something the Bible celebrates. It is presented throughout Scripture as the undeserved gift it truly is. Take Psalm 103:8-10
as an example.
The Lord is compassionate and khanun (gracious) Slow to anger and abounding in loyal love. He will not always strive with us, Nor will he keep his anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
We can trust that God will be gracious with us, and it’s even something we can feel empowered to ask of him. We see this in Psalm 51
when David asks for God’s graciousness even though his circumstances are the result of his own sin.
Be khanun (gracious) to me, according to your loyal love, according to your compassion, blot out my rebellious acts.
The story of the Bible is about how God is relentlessly pursuing a relationship with humanity. He continually strives to show us favor even when we betray him or turn our backs on him. Throughout the Bible, we see the God of the universe find ways to reconcile with a hard-hearted and rebellious humanity. And that’s what it means that God is gracious.