Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Current Study: A to Z
Today’s Topic: The Marvel of Mercy
Hebrews 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Since starting a study on reconciliation at the beginning of this year, I have been overwhelmed with a new and powerful understanding of the spectacular gift of salvation. I feel like every day I’m on a treasure hunt, and that daily I’m going to uncover another chest full of gold coins and jewels. The deeper I dig, the more I discover. The simple truths take on greater significance with every discovery. The biggest problem is deciding what gem to share first. Imagine being up to your knees in a cave of treasure and then having to choose which piece to show first to an onlooker. That’s how I feel.
One starting place for me has always been the book of Nehemiah in the Bible. It’s the story of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by a remnant of people while most of the nation of Israel is being held in captivity in Persia. For me it is the spiritual allegory of rebuilding lives that are being held in captivity of sin. In the story we find all the elements of personal salvation depicted by national restoration. There’s confession of sin and repentance from sin. There’s forgiveness. There’s reconciliation. There’s restoration. But for me the most powerful and meaningful elements of the book show up after the walls are completed and the celebration of their salvation begins. The history of God’s people is reviewed, and in that time of reflection there is a huge emphasis placed on the mercy and grace of God. These two intertwined gifts of God to us are spectacular.
Very simply stated, mercy is “not enforcing deserved justice.” Grace is “giving undeserved favor.” In other words, God’s mercy is expressed to us by not giving us the punishment that we deserve for our sins, and God’s grace grants us the underserved gift of eternal life. Mercy forgives. Grace fills.
When Nehemiah gathered the people to celebrate the completion of the walls of the city, they had quite a worship service. We’re told in chapter 9 that they read from God’s Word for a fourth of the day. That’s three hours of Scripture reading. Then they spent three more hours in confession of sin and in worship. It was a six hour worship service. Don’t worry, I won’t use that as my time pattern for Sunday. But what I will use is the pattern of God’s Word being the foundation of worship, and the celebration of God’s mercy and grace as the basis for our worship. As the history of the people is reviewed, there came to them a sudden and fearful realization of their guilt before a holy and righteous God. They became deeply aware of their hopeless condition of sin. They even remembered the judgments God had brought down upon them in the past because of their sin. Then we read these words of mercy –
But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them…
Four times in this chapter the mercy and grace of God are celebrated, culminating with this statement –
You are a gracious and merciful God.
I am at a loss to explain this any further. My mind is captivated by the glory of God’s mercy and grace. Because of His mercy He has saved me. Because of His grace He has filled me with life. His life. Eternal life. I am His child forever. I can come to Him boldly. When I come to Him I find constant mercy that overwhelms my sin with forgiveness. From Him I receive unending grace to carry me through any and all times of need. Mercy withholds God’s judgment that I deserved. Grace grants God’s gift of eternal life that I could not earn. My dear friends, please don’t pass this over lightly. Let the marvel of mercy and the grandeur of grace overwhelm you with worship. Let us celebrate the splendor of our salvation. There is no greater treasure.