Friday, April 17, 2009

the sweetness of mercy

the familiar picture of God as often torn between His justice and His mercy is altogether false to the facts. to think of God as inclining first toward one and then toward another of His attributes is to imagine a God who is unsure of Himself, frustrated and emotionally unstable, which of course is to say that the one of whom we are thinking is not the true God at all but a weak, mental reflection of Him badly out of focus
                                          a w tozer the knowledge of the holy

the beauty of the mercy of God is that i do not deserve it. i cannot earn it. i do not have to downgrade His holiness to receive it. He does not have to put His judgement on hold in order to move in mercy. His justice and mercy are in perfect unity.

i have been thinking about the lyrics to a song by luke wood, a friend of our out in kansas city, missouri serving as an intercessory missionary at the ihop base:

You have known our souls in adversity
when we strive against You
You extend Your hand time and time again
from the heights of glory to the depths of my heart

for You have bound Yourself to man
despite his unfaithfulness

You pour out mercy
You open Your heart
You pour out mercy
to reveal Your heart

all man's empty promises
lie broken at Your feet
but You have never broken one
You open up Your heart
time and time again

my favorite part of that song is in that last section, all man's empty promise lie broken at Your feet but You have never broken one. even though i have failed, continue to fail, and will fail again, He never fails. reminds me of numbers 23:19:

God is not a man, that He should lie, neither the son of man, that he should repent.

as much as i may desire to be righteous, apart from the righteousness of Jesus all the good things i do are filthy rags. i have heard descriptions on what the words filthy rags may be implying, and from what i understand it is not just like a dirty towel, but much more filthy if you understand without getting too descript. we have to repent of our good deeds just as much as from our bad ones.

it is a common temptation in the church in our generation to need to separate the God of israel of the old testament and the God of church in the new testament as two separate Gods. however, Jesus assured us when asked what was the greatest commandment that God is forever the same when He referred to the schema in deuteronomy 6: hear oh israel, the Lord our God is one God. i recently learned that the old testament speaks of the mercy of God more than 4 times as much as the new! He is the same God and to understand His mercy we need to keep the reality of His judgement and righteousness intact, not remove it. if God had to change in anyway in order to give me mercy i cannot rely on it for that would imply He could change at whim again away from mercy. i must believe that He is Himself the same always. tozer said it this way:

if we could remember that the divine mercy is not a temporary mood but an attribute of God's eternal being, we would no longer fear that it will someday cease to be.

God is and forever will be the same. His judgement doesn't stop in order to move in mercy, but He is fully every attribute of Himself at the same time without ever being in contradiction or compromise. tozer put it:
wherever and whenever God appears to men, He acts like Himself.
i have also found it common among those in our generation to downplay our sinful nature as humans in order to make God's goodness and mercy seem more attractive to the lost. do we realize how we cheapen the gospel or the love of God? to be able to to know the reality that i deserve the severity of His judgement because of the splendor of His holiness and righteousness that cannot be near a sinful creature such as myself, then i understand the humility it takes to receive the sweetness of His mercy towards me. if i cannot admit that i deserve judgement, then there is no hope in His mercy. to take a real look at the fact that because i am a man my promises lie broken at His feet, and to still know that He cannot ever lie or break His promise is the most sure hope that exists. even after the redemption of the cross of Jesus, i still need to reflect on my need for mercy, lest i take His sacrifice for granted or downgrade the enormity of my need for mercy. this is the journey towards humility.

and true humility, i believe, lies in the greatest commandment:

hear oh israel, the Lord your God is one God. and you shall love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

to embrace His oneness, to love with all and to cease to be fragmented in my affections toward Him... this is the journey i long to take.



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