Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people. (Ex 33:3)
After the Israelites worshiped the golden calf, God said that He would not go with the people, but would send an angel instead. So, God showed the Israelites that their perverseness made this severe punishment necessary for them. However, even in His judgment, He remembered to show mercy to them. The Ten Commandments and related laws defined Israel’s relationship with God. To obey those laws was to act righteously, because such obedience maintained the covenant between God and His people. As David wrote, “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy” (Ps 103:7-8).
Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. (Ps 116:5)
God’s justice and mercy are seemingly incompatible, yet God’s mercy is shown through His justice. As Jesus Christ died for sinners, He also manifested God’s righteousness. God’s justice and His mercy were demonstrated by Christ’s death on the cross. At the cross, God’s justice was meted out upon Jesus Christ, and God’s mercy was extended to all who believe in Him. We do not become righteous because of our own merits or inherent goodness; God sees us as righteous because of our faith in Him.
“Righteousness” refers to meeting God’s requirements. Who are the righteous? The ones who practice the word of God and do what is right in the eyes of God. Setting our own standards about what is right and wrong is an attempt at being God. Though we cannot determine righteousness, we can become righteous in Christ and be led in the paths of righteousness (Ps 23:3). We may live above the demands of the law and the temptations of the world because God has enabled us to participate in the divine nature through His promised Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:4). Through careful Bible study, we learn the instructions on the righteousness of God.
God is righteous and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. If we practice the word of God and do what is right in His eyes, God will grant us grace and peace.