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Posts Tagged ‘mercy’

Mercy is not for the Lawless

April 12, 2008 Leave a comment

For I, the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands (of generations), to those who love Me and keep My commandments. Deuteronomy 5:9-10

And yet, God shows mercy again and again and again to those who violate his commands. The challenge of the Old Testament is not judgment and destruction but mercy upon mercy upon mercy to those who betray His word, oppress others and destroy the land.

When inequity has reach its fullness upon the earth again, He doesn’t send a flood. And yet, He still brings judgment. He brings the inequity into Himself and therby carries the judgment and the suffering and anguish caused all by all the inequity.

Some may foolishly read Scripture and suppose they are more merciful than God but they are not. We may have a great confidence in our untested morality but in a moment our true character is revealed by some secret thought of hatred, some killing word or even an act of betrayal disguised as righteousness. The great mystery in Scripture that we will never understand is the mercy of the Lord.

And as we gaze upon His lovingkindness, we can only bow in worship, offering praises to the one who alone is worthy of all praise.

Categories: commandments Tags: , ,

Joshua and the Flood

April 8, 2008 Leave a comment

18 Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. 19 There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. All the others they took in battle. 20 For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them, and that they might receive no mercy, but that He might destroy them, as the LORD had commanded Moses. – Joshua 11:18-20

Warning: This is when I turn off a bunch of readers with my questions.

Reading through Joshua looks very similar to the pattern of the flood. The flood brings judgment to all living things with the exception of Noah et al. And God promises never to flood the earth in the same way again. But He doesn’t promise to restrain judgment.

The book of Joshua reads like a series of local, particularized floods, bringing judgment to entire cities and tribes. We read these passages with our arrogant, self-indulgent sense of morality (which when really weighed will hold no water*), and we cannot grasp the angry God who orchestrates such an event.

But another question might be asked, “Why does he hold back judgment for so long?” The pattern in Scripture and in history outside of Scripture seems to be that God shows mercy to the undeserving (such as Ninevah) in ways and for periods far longer than we would show mercy. His mercy is unfathomable, but His justice is sure.

* – C.S. Lewis’ “Till We Have Faces” is one great response to our empty self-righteous morality.

Advent and the Justice of God

December 12, 2007 Leave a comment

“Truly God is good to Israel,
To such that are pure in heart.
But as for me,
My step had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”
(Psalm 73:1-2)

In his confusion, the psalmist cries out to God. The great high God of Israel seems to turn a blind eye to those who mock his name. The people of God falter while the wicked appear to be exalted.

The psalmist’s anguished question still rings in the hearts of God’s people. From businesses to families to nations, we watch evil people prosper. We see the people who take shortcuts move ahead. And it seems like those who try to walk right often fail.

Then the psalmist beholds the coming judgment, and he realizes that a day of accounting is coming. He rests in the fact that God will make things right.

The Christian Celts anticipated judgment day. In St. Patrick’s Breastplate they pray that they might be clothed “with the power of His descent to pronounce judgment of Doomsday.” In their manuscripts and crosses, Jesus is sometimes depicted at the “dread judge” coming to hold all men accountable for their evil deeds.

During Advent, we actually look to the coming Judgment Day. We expect a righting of wrongs, a day of rectitude. We may look toward this day, like ancient Israel, as a day when we will be proved right and those who opposed us will be exposed as in the wrong. We may expect this as a time when we will finally be vindicated.

As we look toward the coming day of days, we behold a day that came. The great day of woe was realized when the baby born in a manger grew up to be the man who bore the weight of sin and death. Jesus entered into the final judgment. He bore the crushing weight of woe upon himself.

This act of absolute justice strikes to the heart of evil. The cross heals my blinded eyes to see that I am not on the side of the righteous but on the side of the oppressors. While I cried out for justice, my own evil betrayed me as the offender. While I longed for my enemies to be exposed and humiliated and conquered, I was exposed as the one clothed in filthy rags.

Only then can I realize that what appears to be God’s blindness to evil is actually his longsuffering mercy. While some people think the God of the Old Testament is the God of vengeance, they are mistaken. The story actually reveals a God who is longsuffering, who continues to show mercy to evildoers, who withholds judgment again and again and again. Finally when he does bring judgment, He also brings a hope of restoration and redemption.

In the midst of revealing God’s judgment upon the evil in Israel, Zephaniah pictures a God who restores in gentle, lovingkindess.

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save:
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.
(Zephaniah 3:17)

As I look to the final unveiling of God’s justice, I no longer look with a fist of anger at those who cheated me, betrayed me, hurt me. Rather, I anticipate the complete unveiling of God’s glory with humility, realizing my own failures, my own tendency to hurt and cheat and betray. During this season of Advent, I look toward the end of all things and cry out with the publican, “Lord have mercy.”

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