Read Psalm 51
We are going to spend a little time on the topic of mercy. Mercy is a recurring theme in God’s word. Mercy is a quality of God and a quality of his people.
If you follow Jesus, then you are called to be merciful.
So mercy is just another word for grace or forgiveness, right?
Sort of but not exactly. Precise definitions are elusive, but let’s take a short at this. Mercy is God not giving us what our sins deserve. Mercy abates God’s punishment.
That mercy is rooted in forgiveness and grace. It’s all about who God is and not what we did or did not do.
Grace extends God’s favor and blessings to us even though we don’t deserve them. Mercy delivers us from judgment and grace extends God’s lovingkindness to us. Neither which we deserve based on anything that we did or did not do.
Mercy, like grace and forgiveness, is about God’s divine heart.
David—a man after God’s own heart—had surrendered to his lust with Bathsheba. That lust resulted in pregnancy and the sequel here is that David arranged for Bathsheba’s husband to get killed in battle.
Just when he thought he had put all of this in his past, Nathan who was both prophet and friend to David, showed the king what he had done.
When David realized just how far he had fallen, he was broken. He had disqualified himself from living in God’s goodness, at least at first glance. But in the course of his relationship with God, David learned that he was a God of mercy.
God’s desire was not punishment. God was not looking for more sacrifices. God did not want David walking around in ashes and sackcloth for the next 7 years. God’s desire is mercy. God is merciful.
So, David called out to God to have mercy on him. In this request, David acknowledged his sin. In fact, he said that he couldn’t get away from it. It was always there right in front of him.
David’s request was to blot out his transgression, take his sin away, create in him a clean heart. David knew how terrible his sin was but he also knew that it was not game over.
In verses 11 and 12 we see David seeking mercy and grace.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
That’s a bold request. Head hung low in shame asking God not to punish him is one thing but to be so bold as to ask to have the joy of salvation and sustenance was another.
To understand mercy, we must understand that God not only wants to forgive us but he also wants to bless us and pour his favor out upon us.
So why ask God for a half-measure of anything? When we seek his mercy, follow David’s example and seek his blessing and favor.
What’s our part? Repentance. We must desire to turn away from and leave behind that which is not of God. That doesn’t mean leave all of your worldly stuff at the pawnshop and get a receipt. Leave it all behind. You are not coming back for it.
We did this when we turned away from the world and professed Jesus as Lord.
We became a new creation. I am crucified with Christ. Christ lives in me, but the old creation just won’t go away and if we are not diligent, it takes a shot at getting its old job back.
We are his disciples. We are known by his love. We press on towards the goal. We are running a good race, and then we slow down or stop and take a breather in our race of faith and start focusing on others and what they are or are not doing and our eyes are no longer on Jesus.
It happened to Peter as he took a few steps on the water and then started focusing on the storm. So much for walking on water.
That’s when that old creature can get its hooks in us, when we lose sight of where Jesus is leading us and start focusing on everyone else.
The disciples struggled with this. They saw some people driving out demons in the name of Jesus and so they told them to stop. Why? They were not part of the group.
Jesus admonished them noting that they could not do this and the next moment become his enemies. If they are doing this and not against us, then we are surely on the same team.
The disciples were not quite ready for what would happen after the death and resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Their tight-knit little group would launch similar events all over the known world.
We do this too. We stop running our race. We stop following Jesus and we start judging other believers for how they respond to God’s grace. Who am I to judge another man’s servant?
When this happens to us, let’s repent. Let’s ask for God’s mercy. Let’s ask to receive God’s blessings as we get back in the race.
We know that God doesn’t want to hear our excuses. He wants to hear our confessions. He doesn’t want our apologetics for our divisiveness. He wants us in one accord in his love and mercy. He wants to give us his mercy. He wants us to know his heart. He wants us to live in his favor.
But first comes mercy. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. That’s a familiar scripture most know from Romans, but understand that we all need mercy to rescue us from that fallen state.
The dictionary defines mercy as compassion or forgiveness given to someone who is within your power to punish. Before we live in God’s favor, we need merciful forgiveness.
When we ask God for mercy, we must first repent. It’s not, God forgive me so I have a clean slate and can do this sinful thing again.
God grants us mercy knowing full well that we will likely sin again, and soon. It is our human condition.
God has always been merciful. He has the absolute right to judge and condemn but his divine heart is one of love and we know that love in his mercy.
His mercy is so great that his own blood was given in sacrifice. The mercy seat in the Old Testament was that place above the ark of the covenant—between the two golden cherubim—when God would appear in the Holy of Holies. Once each year, the high priest would enter with the bull’s blood and atone for his own sins and those of the people. Some translations read those that the people committed in ignorance.
But this was a foreshadowing of things to come.
The blood of bulls could not give people a clear conscience. The people had made their part of the prescribed sacrifice, but atonement was not complete.
Only by the blood of Jesus are we free of our sins. Only by the mercy of God, can this atonement be for eternity. Only in this New Covenant can we truly live.
All of this comes from God’s divine mercy.
When we truly examine our lives with eyes to see granted to us by the Holy Spirit, then we see that the difference between what we deserve and what we receive is mercy.
I am going on record today saying that I am a big fan of mercy. It is so intertwined with forgiveness and grace that we often see them as one, but know that it all began with God’s mercy.
As we move forward in our exploration of mercy, know with certainty that God created no one for the purpose of condemnation and eternal destruction.
As we move forward, know with certainty, that God knew we would fall short but that mercy not sacrifice was and is always his first choice. External rituals—even though they came from his own directives—give way to mercy.
There was sacrifice, but God in his mercy and compassion, make this sacrifice himself.
I know that mercy and grace and forgiveness are tightly intertwined, but this week set your thoughts and prayers on God’s mercy.
God is merciful.