WHAT IS MERCY?
[Mercy: Compassion; kind forbearance; an act of kindness – can also be portrayed as: grace; forgiveness] The scriptures describe God as merciful, depicting His compassion; His forbearance; His acts of kindness, His grace and His forgiveness in various ways. There is a vast difference between the mercy of God and the mercy of man. Very seldom is man merciful to his enemy, yet God’s mercy is shown first and foremost to His enemies: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For … when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” <Rom.5:6-8, 10 (NIV)>
HOW IS GOD’S MERCY DIFFERENT?
“I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.” <Jer.9:24 (NIV)> “my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him,” declares the LORD.” [Ephraim/Israel] <Jer.31:18-20 (NIV)>
“In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.” <Isa.54:8 (NIV)> “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” <Isa.55:1 (NIV)>. Mercy is God’s undeserved act of kindness to mankind; extended to us, not according to any righteous act that we have done or could do <see Deut.9:5, 18; Rom.9:16; Titus 3:5>. God knew the absolute helplessness of mankind under the curse of sin, and acted in mercy toward us – mercy freely given to mankind <see Psa.84:11>. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” <Eph.2:4-5 (NIV)>
WHY DO WE NEED GOD’S MERCY?
We are all under the curse of sin! Apart from the mercy of God we could not exist! “What shall we conclude then? …… that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.”Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” <Rom.3:9-20, 23 (NIV)> “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” <Rom.5:12 (NIV)>
There is no one found righteous before God <v10>; all have sinned <v23>, because sin entered the world through Adam and we are all descendants of Adam <5:12>. No one seeks after God <v11>; no exception is allowed. “All have turned away” <v12> echoing the thought of Romans chapter 1, that mankind had opportunity to know God but discarded him to their own detriment and confusion. What effect does sin have on the sinner? The effect is total, because our entire being is corrupted – the throat, tongue, lips, mouth, feet and eyes – total depravity <13-15>; mankind’s entire being is adversely affected by sin – his whole nature is permeated with it. Human relations also suffer, because society can be no better than those who constitute it. Some of the obvious effects – conflict and bloodshed – are specified <vs. 15-17>. The root difficulty is: “There is no fear of God” in any one <v18>, and because of this, the Law holds everyone accountable to God <v19>. Consequently, the Law makes us all conscious of sin <v20>; “So that every mouth may be silenced.” <v19>. When human achievement is measured against what God requires, there is no place for pride or boasting, only for silence that lends consent to the guilty verdict. In the various biblical scenes of judgment, the silence of those who are being judged is a notable feature <Rev 20:11-14>, and the reason for the verdict is given: “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'” <Matt.25:44-45 (NIV)>
When the explanation is given, no appeal is attempted, the Judge of all the earth does right <cf Gen 18:25>; therefore, all mankind – “the whole world is accountable to God.” <v19>, and the final word <v. 20> is – justification before God cannot be attained by attempted observance of the law, no matter how much man may take satisfaction in such observance; Jesus indicated that no one had succeeded in keeping the law <John 7:19>. Therefore, for mankind to spend eternity with God, we must accept His mercy! However, the simplicity of the gospel message is often spurned because we are asked to do nothing but only believe and trust God for our salvation, meaning, we cannot work for, or contribute to what Christ has done for us at Calvary! In this is seen the mercy of God! That God would grant us His mercy although we do not deserve it. “He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” <Psa.103:9-10 (NIV); see also 30:5; Hab.3:2>
THE UNIQUENESS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
[Philip Yancey in his book “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” makes this observation]: “The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. Of all world religions, only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional”. God’s mercy is unconditional to all sinners for God extends His mercy to us in spite of whom or what we are.
SALVATION IS ONLY BY GOD’S MERCY (GRACE)
“it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved” <Acts 15:11 (NIV); see also Rom.3:24; 11:16; Eph.2:4; 1 Pet.1:3>
GOD’S MERCY (GRACE) EMPOWERS US FOR HIS SERVICE
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them– yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” <1 Cor.15:10 (NIV)> we can never in this life or in eternity repay God for His mercy to us; however, God’s mercy places us under a deep obligation to work hard in serving the Christ who saved us and as we work for Him it is really the grace of God that empowers us.
GOD’S MERCY (GRACE) CAN BE MADE INEFFECTIVE
“As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.” <2 Cor.6:1 (NIV)>; do not allow the gospel message to fall on deaf ears, give careful thought to what you hear; “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard” <Heb.2:1 (NIV) see Heb.3:7-8; Gal.2:21>. God’s unconditional gift of salvation cannot be earned; otherwise it is no longer by grace <Eph.3:7>. The gift of God’s grace to Paul demonstrated God’s power in reaching out to Paul’s self-righteousness, saving him, commissioning him and strengthening him for service, and God can still reach out to self-righteous people today. Those who struggle with life’s difficulties and problems can have comfort in His mercy because we are not left alone to deal with temptations in our own strength, God invites us to approach Him in our time of struggle so that in our difficulties we do not reject His mercy; “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” <Heb.4:16 (NIV)>; His grace is given to the humble <Prov.3:34> not to the proud.
RESPONDING TO GOD’S MERCIES
2 Kings 6:24 – 7:11 records one incident of God’s mercy to His people: the northern kingdom of Israel had sinned greatly against God, Samaria was under siege by Ben-Hadad king of Aram and the siege lasted so long that there was no food left for the people, they sinned even more by eating unclean animals, and worse of all – their children <see curse – Lev. 26:29; Deut. 28:53, 57>. God, in His mercy, caused the Aramean army to hear the sound of chariots, horses and a great army during the night, and assuming that the Hittites and Egyptians were coming to the aid of Samaria, they ran away, leaving behind all their armour, horses and food. “Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die? If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’– the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.” <2 Kings 7:3-4 (NIV)>. Arriving at the Aramean camp they found it deserted, then they went and reported their findings to the guards at the gate to the city; God spared the city even though their sin was so great.
There are those that will call out to God when His mercy is available <see Lk.17:13; 18:38>, but there are those that will wait until it is too late <Lk.16:24>. Today, God’s mercy is extended to us even though we do not deserve it <Rom. 3>; His mercies to us are numberless – they are constant and sure, they follow us all day long, and from day to day, and we cannot repay Him for all His mercies.
We must understand, however, that one day God’s mercies will come to and end for those who continually reject Him! Our response is to accept His mercy and to be faithful in our service to Him
THE MERCIES OF GOD! WHAT A THEME FOR MY SONG
[Author: Thomas O. Chisholm]
The mercies of God What a theme for my song
Oh I never could number them o’er
They’re more than the stars in the heavenly dome
Or the sands of the wavebeaten shore
For mercies so great, What return can I make
For mercies so constant and sure
I’ll love him, I’ll serve Him with all that I have
As long as my life shall endure
They greet me at morn when I waken from sleep
And they gladden my heart at the noon
They follow me on into shades of the night
when the day with its labour is done
His angels of mercy encompass me round
Wheresoever my pathway my lead
Each turn of the road some new token reveals
Oh For me life is blessed indeed.