Monday, August 5, 2013

God Unchanging - Grace and Mercy

 The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love ~Psalm 103:8

We read that Moses had a similar revelation in Exodus 34:6, and we can see that David not only mirrors Moses' own words quite closely here, but he does so again in Psalm 86:15, 111:4 and 145:8.  I tend to think of these passages often when I hear folks, Christian and non-Christian alike, compare the "Gods" of the Old and New Testament.  God is not a man that He should lie, but neither does He suffer from a personality disorder!

This truth about God is not only spoken of here; later on, in the days of the prophets and harsh judgment, we read very similar sentiments.  In fact, it is often missed that true love gives way and in fact enables the administration of just punishment- Even toward the object of affection.  For example, look at Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2, Nehemiah 9:17, Isaiah 55:7, and Jeremiah 32:18 to offer just a few.

A great Bible teacher and commentator once made the statement that there is a great deal to be found in some of the smallest and least suspected passages of the Bible. Indeed, he went on to say, much of what we meditate upon within Scripture can be found within some of the smallest portions- In this case, the phrase was: "Slow to anger."  The quote regarding this section of the verse specifically says the following: "not speedily punishing sinners, but patiently waiting for their repentance."
Mercy pardons sin, grace bestows favor undeserved, and the Lord has each in abundance.  In the word's of Charles Spurgeon, "All the world tastes of his sparing mercy, those who hear the gospel partake of his inviting mercy, the saints live by his saving mercy, are preserved by his upholding mercy, are cheered by his consoling mercy, and will enter heaven through his infinite and everlasting mercy. Let grace abounding be our hourly song in the house of our pilgrimage. Let those who feel that they live upon it glorify the plenteous fountain from which it so spontaneously flows."

There is a great disparity which exists, however, in the concept of biblical grace and mercy, and the twisted understanding of the same by much of humankind.  God's justice MUST be met, so His mercy and grace will only carry each of us for so long in this life.  Eventually, we come to the crossroads whereat we choose to abide in our sinful behavior and thus abandon our First Love, or to flee our sin and cling to He who gave Himself up for our redemption. Choose we the former, and we will see ourselves set aside for the day of judgment; but if we take hold of the latter, we will find ourselves sheltered beneath His wings in the worst of the storm (for we are bequeathed only so much as we are able to handle by the strength afforded us through the Holy Spirit).
Contrast this understanding of God's divine grace and mercy, however, with that understanding by which the unsaved and unbelieving world carries out their debauchery.  It is the mindset of those who have heard and reject that they are simply not ready, and they will turn to God when their need is greatest: Little do they understand that they are drowning and marked for death, so their need is indeed at its greatest.  Likewise, those who have not yet heard continue to sin in blissful ignorance; their misdeeds counting against them, certainly, though the irony is that they survive by sole merit of the grace and mercy they know nothing about.
Between the two, however, the first group's crimes are greatest; the latter abuses the grace and mercy of God through ignorance, but the former willfully, gleefully and without remorse abuses that gift which they know of, yet which they refuse in a misguided attempt to make the "good times" last as long as possible.

Note now the only difference which can be drawn between God's actions within the Old Testament and His actions and responses of our time: It was His own slow response to sin; His own patience and longsuffering; that prevented judgment against the peoples of the world from falling more often than it did during the Old Testament period.  It is the blood of Christ which now dissuades the diverse and varied punishments of our just and holy God from falling more often now; yet by His own work, God holds His wrath for the day of judgment more completely now, as it is the blood of His only Son which cries out (in stark contrast to the blood of Abel) for continued patience, longsuffering, grace and mercy.
Ephesians 1:7-8 tells us this much- That if not for the shed blood of the Lamb, we would not have the grace we now know; nor would we have the sort of forgiveness we now understand; nor would we live beneath the covering of mercy we so often take for granted. By direct and absolute intervention, God Himself provided a means by which all of humanity could survive and live eternal- Yet such an offer is not an automatic thing, though it is, according to the Word of God, retroactive (that is, our sins are removed from us through the acceptance of the Sacrifice).

How dare we so cheapen the wondrous workings of a graceful and merciful God by saying that we are encumbered by having to do such great work as to merely accept His gift?!  Far too many have had this attitude in regards to the great and glorious work of our Lord, and far too few ministers illustrate the full passion of our Redeemer so as to set these minds aright.
Therefore, let us carefully bear in constant and perpetual remembrance Paul's statements from Romans 5:20-21-
"Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Some have used this verse to accentuate their claim against God; saying that only a cold and cruel psycho would introduce a law with the specific intent of causing sin, an offense for which this "psycho" imposes death.  However, it ought to be pointed out that this is a horrible interpretation and/or translation.  Look at this passage again, this time in contemporary English-

"The Law came, so that the full power of sin could be seen. Yet where sin was powerful, God's kindness was even more powerful. Sin ruled by means of death. But God's kindness now rules, and God has accepted us because of Jesus Christ our Lord. This means that we will have eternal life."

The law, then, was introduced in God's grace and mercy; not to cause sin to increase- Sin is sin; it is anything which goes against the nature of God- Instead, the law was introduced for the express purpose of exposing the seriousness and extent of sin to humanity.  It was introduced to show the need for reliance upon the Lord, not because of what He did, but because of human kind's own weakness.  It is through this understanding of the unchanging nature of our God that we are able to sing with the psalmist, "the Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love."


  1. Something else to bear in mind:

    God's actions in the Old Testament were done by His "lovingkindness." That word in Hebrew, when translated into Greek, was identified with the Greek word for grace. If you were to read the Greek Bible, then you'd see grace in Old and New.

    1. Very true, and one of the things I love about the Greek Bible. Thank you for commenting!


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