Last week I spoke on Beatitudes briefly, because there is so much to them, but this week I want to focus on a bit of our discussion that we had, and focus on the word Mercy. Mercy is something I believe most of us want. When confrontation comes, we want mercy. Those of us who have come to Christ wants mercy. But at times giving mercy can be a hard thing. But for those of us who are in Christ, mercy must be evident in our lives. As one of the beatitudes, it is a stable in our Christian walk.
Last week I revealed to everyone that in my past, maybe because of my time in law enforcement I don’t know, I didn’t have a lot of mercy for people. If someone was suffering maybe for a reason that I thought that was justified, I could care less if they were suffering, or I wanted them to suffer more. A harsh reality about myself when you think about it, but I was not unlike many others. Cold hearted, yes. Without Jesus, yes. I believed the punishment fit the crime so to speak, and I was willing to administer justice if needed. I saw a lot of bad stuff, bad people doing bad things to good people, and it shaped my judgement even though looking back, my judgement was wrong. Yes, I believe there is penalty for wrong actions. If you break the law you pay. I speed and get caught, I pay a fine. If I lie, people don’t trust me, and that list could go on. That is a reality. But looking at myself, it was all about my heart how I looked at people and their actions.
When I came back to Christ in my early 20’s after falling away, I still had a hard heart. Not toward God, I was all about Him, but still toward people. Even though I had been shown mercy, I was not one to administer it. I still thought like the old me. I was merciful, but only on my own terms and by my own judgement. Still at times, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. I did not see people as Jesus saw them.
And this thought process is not uncommon. In the world in general everything is usually all about me, me, and me. And we can look back a long time, way back to the prophet Jonah whom God sent to Nineveh “to save”, and Jonah ran because he didn’t want Nineveh saved, he wanted it to be destroyed so the people would receive judgement. It appears Jonah thought a bit less for those people.
And really in the Book of Jonah, an important thing stands out, that Jonah knew God. He knew God was merciful. I believe Jonah was thinking justice.
That’s not all wrong, we can want Justice. God is a God of justice. He does repay. That is in His Word. But to truly be a child of God, to purely walk in the nature of God, we must surrender ourselves to His nature, and see through His eyes. He wants all men to have a relationship with Him to really know who He is. God deals with the justice part, we are to deal with ourselves, our own nature, and be light as Jesus directed us to do.
But looking at the Book of Jonah,
Jonah 4:1, “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, (Jonah was ticked that the people of Nineveh repented and God forgave them) and he was angry. 2 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; (and this shows who God is, with Jonah saying) “for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” God’s own words spoken to Moses.
Jonah knew God’s mercy. He probably experienced it. He knew God’s Word, he recited it. I believe at times we may forget God’s Word, and His nature, or even have a warped view of God.
For many of us it may be that we don’t know God. A common commentary I read is that people see God as this far off being who is in heaven who is the judge. He is about His law and us following it. And when we look at others whose lives do not line up with our own, or how we think they should live, we tend to place them in the judgement seat because they need to pay for their sins too. They may if they don’t repent, but God will be the judge of that, and not us.
We tend to forget who we used to be. We forget our sins of the past, or even our sin now, past or current anger, unforgiveness, we can forget our ugliness maybe towards others and God. And we forget at times we have a God who is gracious, kind, loving, and merciful, who sent Jesus ~2000 years ago to save us from ourselves. One who saved us from all of the things that would kill us, from eternal judgement, and with the Blood of Jesus, erasing volumes our sins, and ugliness, banishing them out into eternity. Poof, they are gone. For me if I was not saved, the volumes of my sin would fill the downtown Kenosha Library. But now, those volumes are erased because of my belief, my confession, and my forgiveness toward others.
And what God did for us, He wants to do for all of the other Nineveh’s out there. All the peoples whom we may think need judgement like we should have had, like Jonah.
The definition of mercy:
Compassion or forbearance. Forbearance means refraining from the enforcement of something (such as a debt, a right, or an obligation) something that is due.
And this mercy is shown especially to an offender or to one subject to someone's power; Leniency is given. Compassionate treatment. A blessing that is an act of divine favor, a compassionate treatment of those who are in distress.
And compassion for those in distress stood out to me. We were in distress once. I was. I was lost in this mess of a world with no true direction or identity, and I was found by a loving God, and He saved me from my distress and gave me an identity in Him. He had mercy on me.
“for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”
God is gracious to all us because He loves us.
Lamentations 3:22, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. “
Psalms 116:5, “The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.”
Where wrath and anger could have been shown by Him toward us, He relented, He held back, and covered us, and cleaned us up, and gave us a new heart, so we could look out at the mass of humanity and see them like He does.
That’s may not be easy at times. I prayed to God that I would have mercy for everyone. I prayed that I would not look on a person with anger because of their twisted screwed up life. Cause some of them are.
I had to look at them with compassion knowing that there is no Holy Spirit in them. They do not know the Savior; they do not know truth. So many have rage, have hate, and do ugly things in this life. Some are just hurting, lost, hunger, and sick. They are driven by the spirit of this world, and guess what, as ambassadors of Jesus, we are their only hope.
You see, Mercy is at the foundation of God’s covenant with man.
In Exodus 34, Moses is up on the mountain with God having two new tablets that God was to re-write the 10 Commandment on. And it says starting with verse 4:
“So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone.
5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.
6 The LORD passed before him (what a sight, or feeling that God Himself is passing by you.) and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, (So God speaks His name, twice. He proclaims His name, and says) a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. 9 And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”
And from that, God renewed His covenant with His people.
At that point, God set two paradigms for us invoking even His name, He put His stamp on it as Moses experienced His glory as he passed by.
Verse 6 contains five attributes: That God is merciful, gracious, slow to anger, full of steadfast love, and is faithful. The second part in verse 7 describes how these attributes are manifest in God’s dealings with His people, specifically, He forgives “iniquity and transgression and sin.” So God revealed in His name who He was. The Creator of Heaven and Earth, The Lord who was compassionate, and merciful.
This divine declaration by God, really helps us to understand His merciful nature. Israel sinned against God and broke His covenant. They created a false God to worship in the midst of seeing His power and glory. They deserved to die, but God changed His mind. He relented from punishing them.
The mercy of God was demonstrated by His “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Ex. 34:7). But not as a one-time event in order to portray it like it was one of God’s weaker attributes as one author put it.
The world thinks mercy is weakness. What a lie.
Mercy is a particular attribute that is central to the covenants portrayed in the Old Testament, and it continues today.
The author Asaph says of Israel in:
Psalms 78:37-39, “Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant. 38 Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. 39 He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again.”
King David said in Psalms 103:
“6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. 7 He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. 8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. (Wow, and some of us can’t forgive someone of something that happened a week ago, or 20 years ago.) 10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
And God’s mercy also provides motivation for true and genuine repentance.
Joel 2:12 “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.” 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.
But God’s mercy wasn’t limited to Israel in the Old Testament. Rather, it extends to all creation.
Psalms 145:8-13, “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 9 The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. 10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you! 11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, 12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. 13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.”
God’s mercy does not have a narrow focus as we may think, but it is abounding in love and grace. It’s pretty huge actually when you think of it. And as we as believers walk in it, we must give it out.
Because Mercy is at the core of the New Testament. Jesus. He was the culmination of the mercy of God. God’s mercy poured out to the earth and its people. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” “so whatever you wish others to do to you, do also to them.”
Jesus calling us to be loving, and merciful to those who may not have mercy, or even know what that means. At Youth for Christ, we have kids wanting to go home with or live with our missionaries because of the love and mercy those kids experience. They don’t know mercy or their view is warped on what it is. They don’t know love. Many like in this world, only strife, and even death. We are the light in darkness. We are to be Jesus to the hurting, and destitute. And even those who seem to have everything. If you don’t have Jesus, what do you have? Nothing……..
So we the prodigals and orphans who have received mercy by the selfless act of Jesus by the love of God. We as the Lord, must be merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” Having love for the unloved, and mercy even for the merciless or mercy less, so they will see God. If we don’t know mercy, we must seek out the God of mercy, and he will restore us, and restore our hearts so that we will walk out the covenant He made with man, so we can be Jesus to those that need Him.
God is a God of judgement, yes, but God is a God of compassion and mercy more. He wants all to call out to Him, and be His sons and daughters, and He wants all of us who have received His mercy through His Son, to freely give what we have received. Amen!