Exodus 34:6-8 (ESV)
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 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.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.
(This is part 15 of our study on ‘Who is God‘)
God is merciful.
One of the most amazing things about God is His mercy. Because it is His mercy, balanced with His righteousness and holiness, that gives us Jesus. It is His mercy that brings us salvation. It is only by His mercy that we are here today.
What is mercy? The dictionary says something like this – Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
Mercy is one of the key themes throughout the Word of God, throughout all of time. It was Gods mercy that kept the world turning when Adam and Eve sinned. It was mercy that kept the promise of God alive when His chosen nation turned away from Him – over, and over again. It was Mercy that caused Jesus to become man and pay the price for our sins.
The Bible is full of stories of mercy. The exodus. The bronze serpent (Numbers 21). The sins of David, and all of the other Kings of Israel and Judah. Even small parables like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
Psalm 103:8-14 (ESV)
The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
What does this mean for me?
God is merciful towards those who fear Him, to those who love Him. Go back and read the verses from Exodus and the Psalm above. God knows us – He created us! He knows our weakness. Yes, He will punish sin, but He will also be merciful with us. God doesn’t just take us outside and shoot us at the first sign of dissent! Instead, he might in his mercy correct us in some way, but He will also forgive us. We could never pay the debt for our sin – but it has been paid for us. God is merciful.
Yes, we need to look out for sin. Yes, we need to avoid sin. Yes, we need to put our words into action and do the right thing. But when we fail (and fail we will), God is merciful!
God is merciful to others. Sometimes we look on others, and forgetting even the grace that God has had towards us, condemn them in our hearts because of their actions. We look, and we judge (and could probably do with a reading of Matthew 7:1-5 again). But God is merciful! Who are we to know the heart of that person? Who are we to know whether God is working in their lives as well? Who are we to know anything? And who are we to forget that for our own sins we deserved death and eternal punishment for rejection of our very own Creator! God is merciful not just to you, not just to me, but in some way God is merciful to all people – we need to thank Him for that (for we are part of all people), not take time to judge others.
2 Peter 3:8-10 (ESV)
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
So in the end, what are we to do? We need to know – completely know – that God is merciful. Part of that knowledge has to also be that God is Holy (for it is because He cannot stand sin that we even needed mercy). We all need to see the absolute depravity of our natural state, and then we can truly understand and rely on the mercy of God.
Psalm 57:1-3 (ESV)
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me.
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!