When We Are Tempted to Slam on the Brakes at the Fuller Revelation of God’s Mercy

May 17, 2013 at 11:40 am | Posted in Selected Psalms | 8 Comments
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All 26 verses in Psalm 136 end the same way: “his [God’s] mercy endureth for ever.” When we see the great and wonderful and awe-inspiring things that God has done for His people in creation, in blessings, in salvation, and in deliverance, we become enthusiastic worshipers, and joyfully repeat the mantra, “His mercy endureth for ever,” over and over again.

He is the God of gods and Lord of lords! (vv. 2-3)
Yes! His mercy endureth for ever!

He made the earth and the whole universe! (vv. 5-6)
Hallelujah! His mercy endureth for ever!

He made all the lights in the sky and the heavenly bodies! (vv. 7-9)
Amen! His mercy endureth for ever!

He killed all the firstborn sons of all the Egyptian moms and dads! (v. 10)
Praise His name! His mercy endur… Wait… Hold on a minute… Suddenly, we’re not so enthusiastic, are we?

To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:

Psalm 136:10

wait what

And what about verse 15? “But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.” How many families lost their loved ones in the watery grave of the Red Sea when the Egyptian army followed the Israelites into the parted waters? How many 15 and 16 and 17 year old Egyptian little brothers lost their lives, adding to the grief of their mothers and grandparents who had already lost their sons and grandsons and husbands by the hand of the Lord? This doesn’t sound like forever-enduring mercy to us.

See, in Christian ministry, our primary goal is to teach and to learn God’s Word so that we can apply it to our lives. But doing this often means doing the difficult task of staring straight into God’s revealed truth without dressing it up or watering it down. When we get happy about the truth of God’s mercy, we need to remember that God’s mercy toward some can at the same time be His judgment and vengeance toward others. God does not offer a smorgasbord of His attributes for us to sample. We don’t get to pick and choose what we happen to like about Him, or what is easy to understand about Him, and leave the rest.

Here is a Bible truth about God’s mercy: No one deserves it. It wouldn’t be mercy if it was deserved.

Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:

Psalm 136:23

And God’s mercy never needs to be reconciled with His righteousness, holiness, justice, or wrath, because, in God, His attributes are never at odds with each other. They simply flow from His divine nature in perfect sovereign harmony.

Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation. I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Psalm 85:7-10

We did not cause God’s mercy; we were not the source of God’s mercy; and we do not get to dictate the terms of God’s mercy. It endures forever, because God endures forever. He is immutable, and all His attributes are likewise. He is the Redeemer. We are the redeemed. This makes us sing and shout, not dispute and doubt.

The Great Rescuer

January 14, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Posted in Biblical Greats, Resurrection, Selected Psalms | 13 Comments
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Psalm 116 is about being thankful to the Lord after we have called on Him in a time of great danger and He has rescued us.

Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.

Psalm 116:7

The psalmist had been at rest, but then trouble came.

I said in my haste, All men are liars.

Psalm 116:11

Men he trusted had lied about him.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

Psalm 116:3-4

They almost caused his death, but He called on the Lord, and the Lord rescued him.

I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

Psalm 116:1-2

This Psalm is probably from a testimony given in the Sanctuary. It contains parts of Psalm 56, other Psalms, and parts of Isaiah.

Let’s identify two of four main principles found in Psalm 116:

1. God answers the prayers of His children.

I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.

Psalm 116:1

Whenever you find yourself in danger, call on the Lord. New, first-time parents will be keenly aware of this principle. Dad is at the far corner of his yard, perhaps on the top of a ladder, pruning a tree. Or mom is carrying a scalding hot pot of boiling water from the stove to the sink. Suddenly their new-born infant lets out a shriek of pain from his crib. Dad leaps from the ladder like a reckless school-boy! Mom instantly drops the pot of water! They race for the baby’s room without any regard for their own safety. Why? Because they love their child, and it sounds like the child is trouble. If wicked, sinful, intrinsically selfish, fallen mortals react this way when their child cries out in distress, how much more will our loving Heavenly Father (Who loves with a perfect love) come to the aid of His children when they – being in real danger – cry out for help?

Have you ever known of a situation where one child called on a parent for help, but the parent didn’t or couldn’t come help because he or she was already busy helping another child? This can’t happen with God. He is never “too busy” to hear or to come to the aid of one of His children. We should trust God in all types of troubles, and there are some troubles that are obviously hopeless unless we are rescued.

The Holy Spirit applied the plea of Psalm 116:3 to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in Acts 2:24.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.

Psalm 116:3

Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

Acts 2:24

2. God’s attributes tend toward rescue.

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.

Psalm 116:5

Grace is when God gives us what we do not deserve. Mercy is when God withholds from us what we do deserve. Any time we are in danger, we are experiencing what we deserve. Rescue is what we do not deserve. However, God delights in grace and mercy.

The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.

Psalm 116:6

We have a tendency to respond to God’s grace like spoiled children. First, we are amazed by grace. Then, we start to assume grace. Pretty soon, we are demanding grace. When is the last time you simply and uncritically just believed that God does what He says He will do because He is God?

Next time, we will take a look at two more principles from Psalm 116.

Not What We Deserve

October 15, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Jeremiah, Uncategorized | 13 Comments
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Recently a candidate for political office responded to his party’s nomination with an acceptance speech. A key theme of this speech was the idea of entitlement. Or, to put it another way, “getting what you deserve.” In this relatively short speech, the words “deserved” and “deserve” were used nine times.

-“hope and change…is what Americans deserved
-“You deserved it because you worked harder…”
-“You deserved it because… [you] put in longer hours”
-“You deserve it because your family depended on you.”
-“We deserve better.”
-“my children deserve better”
-“my family deserves better”
-“my country deserves better”
-“Our children deserve it [a better future].”

Now, I realize that not everyone who reads this will be a Christian, or even believe the Bible. But if you are truly a Christian nothing should horrify you more than the idea of “getting what you deserve.” Christians are supposed to understand that what each and every person born into this world “deserves” is the wrath of the holy God. I know we like to pretend that we’re basically good people, but we’re not. We are all sinners.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Romans 3:10-12

When some politician stands up and starts telling you that you “deserve” hope, or change for the better, or a fair chance, or even a second chance, you had better reject that message as vain deceit.

Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

Ephesians 5:6

You do not “deserve” good things – no matter how hard, or how many hours, you work. Neither our families, nor our country, nor the children that God has entrusted to our care deserve any blessing whatsoever. Our culture, our government, our schools, our homes, and, sadly, even our churches are not “worthy” of any sort of a better future. We are corrupt, wicked, and wretchedly sinful. That is Bible theology 101 – whether we like it or not!

As a Christian, I want absolutely no part of what I “deserve.” What I want is grace and mercy. If you ever hear someone even hinting that God’s blessings, His love, and His mercy and grace are things that you deserve, flashing red lights and loud blaring warning sirens should immediately be exploding behind your eyeballs. Grace and mercy – by definition – happen when God gives us what we DO NOT deserve and withholds from us what we DO deserve.

The same speech referenced above contained this sentence: “You deserved it because you worked harder than ever before during these years.” How un- (if not anti-) Christian! Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, and all sorts of other denominations and false religions believe that you can “earn” your way into God’s favor, but Biblical Christianity deals in truth. We had better start proclaiming the truth of what is going to happen to those to whom God gives a “recompense” (what they deserve) rather than grace and mercy.

For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes. And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things.

Jeremiah 16:17-18 (emphasis added)

A C.A.L.M. and Merciful Marriage

September 24, 2012 at 9:23 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, I Corinthians | 13 Comments
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A “C.A.L.M.” marriage is a marriage where the spouses are:

C.ourteous
A.ccomodating
L.ongsuffering
M.erciful

Christian love in marriage…

…[d]oth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

I Corinthians 13:5 (emphasis added)

In other words, true Christian love tends to think the best of the other person. It is not “censorious.” It makes charitable judgments. It assumes the best, not the worst, about your spouse. In a word, it’s “merciful.”

Even if you have a spouse as wonderful as mine, there are times – believe it or not – when your spouse will be wrong. There will be other times, though, when your spouse might be wrong.

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

Proverbs 18:13

If I assume the worst about my spouse, I am being foolish (the Bible kind of “foolish,” which is the dangerous and deadly kind) and setting myself up for shame. I must learn not to think evil of my spouse just because something appears evil. Instead, when something looks amiss, I must learn to talk about it with her – courteously, accommodatingly, with a view toward mercy: “calmly.”

However, I also need to address the situation where something evil has actually taken place. Should I not think evil then? No! I must not be quick to judge the motives of my spouse. What did Jesus say when they were crucifying Him? Did He say, “Father, keep track of these who are driving the nails so that later on You can punish them more severely?” No, He said, “Father, forgive them.” Why? Because they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).

Try your best to make charitable judgments about your spouse’s motives. Consider extenuating circumstances. Consider ameliorating (not necessarily exonerating) factors and exacerbating factors. In marriage we are to be merciful, and look for factors that excuse, not factors that further incriminate.

You will be injured in some way in your marriage. When that happens you need to be prepared to be C.A.L.M. (courteous, accommodating, longsuffering, and eagerly looking forward to extending mercy). If you are truly a Christian, then you realize that, if anybody has been treated mercifully, it is you. Would you greedily receive Christ’s mercy while refusing to extend it your spouse?

What Does God Want from Me?

December 23, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Posted in Micah, Uncategorized | 11 Comments
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The Lord is truly righteous. In Him is no sin at all. He desires to look at His creatures with love. But therein lies the problem. Human beings, created by God, are sinful. How does a completely righteous God look with favor upon an unrighteous people? The answer is that He doesn’t. Instead He first declares His people to be righteous.

For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.

Psalm 11:7

God’s creatures also reach a point (deep down, whether they admit it or not) where they desire to know that God’s countenance is facing toward them, and not away from them. Therefore, they ask, what does God require of us that He may look upon us in love?

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Micah 6:8

If God will look with favor upon a man, He first requires that that man treat people fairly and obey God’s laws. However, man can never do this in and of himself. He can only love mercy if he himself has experienced the mercy of God. He can only walk humbly with God if he has first humbled himself before God. God requires righteousness, and God-pleasing righteousness can never be achieved by man until it has been imputed to him by God Himself.

If you have received Christ Jesus as your Savior, you have humbled yourself before God, and experienced His mercy. Now you are righteous in God’s sight, and may “do justly,” with God’s help and with His loving eyes upon you.


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