July 9, 2006

The Mercy of God

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: The Attributes of God


The Mercy of God

Psalm 145:8-9
Sunday, July 9, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

Have you ever considered the subject of mercy?

Without a doubt we often overlook the times we fail to give mercy, but how often we are insulted and hurt when others fail to be merciful to us. When we admit our own wrongdoing or unworthiness or neediness, when all we can do is ask for the pity of another (with or without words) and they fail to demonstrate any compassion, those times are very noticeable and memorable.

We've all be in these situations before. Asking for forgiveness that is not granted. Asking for help that is not provided. Asking for understanding that is not offered. Asking for patience that is not bestowed. It's especially sorrowful when all we can do is plea: "Give me some favor!" "Cut me some slack!" "Grant me some mercy!" And what we receive is the boom of judgmentalism and condemnation.

Webster defines mercy as "refraining from harming offenders…a disposition to forgive or be kind…a blessing." It's easy to give others their due when they have wronged us. But it is quite another thing to deny our rights and conveniences and preferences and feelings for the well being of another.

Mercy is not giving to another what they deserve. Therefore mercy demonstrates God's grace in action by putting the needs of another above the needs of our self, especially since it often comes in the form of personal expense.

For the next six weeks, I'd like to commence a short series on the nature of God. I'd like to examine six attributes that define His character. As we learned last week, love increases with knowledge (Phil. 1:9). Therefore as we learn about God's character, I pray that you will not only be refreshed and encouraged, but also increasing in your love for God. As I intimated in the introduction, this morning we will examine the mercy of God.


Our example of mercy comes from the character of God. God's mercy has been defined by A.W. Pink as His "ready inclination to relieve the misery of fallen creatures." Wayne Grudem said it is "God's goodness toward those in misery and distress"

The Bible is chalked-full of verses that describe our Creator as a God of mercy. In the Psalm I read earlier we learned, "The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works" (Psalm 145:8-9). The Bible describes His mercy as "great" (1 Pet. 1:3), "abundant" (Psm. 86:15), "tender" (Lk. 1:78) and "everlasting" (Psm. 103:17). God is forever extending mercy to His children and even to those who blaspheme His name (Psm. 145:14-16; cf. Mt. 5:45; Lk. 6:35; Ac. 14:17; 17:25). There is no doubt that mercy is a dominant attribute of God. So we should not be surprised that the Bible calls Him the "Father of mercies" (2 Cor. 1:3).

King David was surely one who understood the mercy of God. The Bible records a time when the great king sinned against the Lord. Impressed by the success his military victories, David was pridefully moved to number his fighting men (2 Sam. 24:1). Although Joab, commander of his army advised against it, David's will prevailed. The Lord however was disgusted that David, by counting his troops, was essentially taking the credit for himself and failing to acknowledge the rightful source of his victories. David would be disciplined. Options were presented to him by the prophet Gad. David's response, "I am in great distress. Let us now fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man" (2 Sam. 24:15; 1 Chron. 21:13).

God is a merciful God, but unfortunately His mercy is tragically abused by most. God is not obligated to provide mercy nor are we a people who deserve mercy. Mercy cannot be earned. On the contrary, mercy comes to undeserving creatures as a token of God's goodness. And mercy comes not as a reason to continue in sin. "To sin because mercy abounds," said Thomas Watson "is the devil's logic." No, God provides mercy as a reason to repent and flee from sinning altogether! In Romans 2 we read, "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance" (Rom. 2:4; cf. 2 Pet. 3:15)?

How many souls sin against their Creator and then expect, or should I say demand, that He extend mercy, that He not bring upon them the just consequences of their offenses? They sin at will, boast of their wrongdoing, pleasurably violate His law and then are somehow perplexed or angered to learn that God will hold them accountable and even visit upon them earthly consequences for their transgressions (Gal. 6:7).

In his book, "The Attributes of God," A.W. Pink said, "Unspeakably solemn is it to see so many abusing this Divine perfection. They continue to despise God's authority, trample upon His laws, continue in sin, and yet presume upon His mercy. But God will not be unjust to Himself …To continue in sin and yet reckon upon Divine mercy remitting punishment is diabolical. It is saying, 'Let us do evil that good may come,' and of all such it is written, whose 'damnation is just' (Rom. 3:8).

We must correctly understand the character of God. We must not shape Him into our image, but accept and honor and love Him for the way He has revealed Himself in Scripture. Moreover, we will never rightly understand God's mercy until we see the wretchedness and depravity of our own sin. Until we see ourselves against the backdrop of a holy God, we will never appreciate His patience, His forbearance and His mercy in our lives. I do not overstate the point when I say that it is the mercy of God that allows one sinner to take another breath. We must put aside the lies that scream of all that we deserve. Biblically speaking, the only thing we deserve is hell. And when we begin from that point and then contemplate all the blessings in our life, we then begin to realize the mercy of God in action.

But when we see the mercy of God, I do run into a theological problem. I do not have a problem understanding why God allows bad things to come into our lives. God is holy and we are sinners living in a fallen world. The theological problem I face is how a holy and just God can bless a sinful creature like me with so many blessings, not only in this life, but also in the life to come! In other words, how can God be merciful to us without compromising His holiness? You see, for God to be holy and just, He must punish sin. So how can He be merciful without compromising His character? How can a holy and just God give us what we do not deserve?

I believe the best way we can understand this question is to look at an article that was in the Tabernacle called the "Mercy Seat." The Mercy Seat, made of pure gold, measuring about 2 by 4 feet, served as a lid or covering for the Ark (Ex. 25:17-20; Heb. 9:5). And the most notable item contained in the Ark of God was the Law, embodied by the Ten Commandments (Ex. 25:21). The Tabernacle was the place where God dwelt among His people. There He promised to meet with His people (Ex. 25:22; Num. 7:89) and even called the Mercy Seat which covered the Ark, His throne (Lev. 16:2; 1 Sam. 4:4; Psm. 80:1; 99:1).

But again we ask the question how can a holy God extend mercy by meeting with a sinful people? The answer was the Mercy Seat. Discard the Mercy Seat and you have a thrice-holy God standing directly above the Law contained in the Ark. As humans we are all guilty of breaking that Law and when coming to God, all we can expect is judgment. But fortunately in-between God and the Law was the Mercy Seat.

God's holiness demands that He punish sin. But God devised a way for atonement to be made for sin. An innocent animal would be sacrificed. God's wrath would be transferred and satisfied (propitiated). And the blood (which represented the life and the sacrifice) was to be sprinkled (guess where?) on the Mercy Seat. You can read about that in Leviticus 16. The claims of justice were met. God could dwell in the midst of His people who had broken His righteous Law. Because their sin had been put away through the blood sacrifice of another, He could extend to them mercy.

But in the New Testament we read, "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). You see the animal sacrifices were only temporary. They allowed God to pass over sin. But they ultimately pointed to the "Lamb of God," Jesus Christ, who would lay down His life and spill His blood to take away sin forever (Jn. 1:29; Rev. 5:6).

Jesus Christ lived the perfect life. He fulfilled God's law and then died as our substitute on the cross. As He stood in our place, God poured out His holy wrath on Him. Jesus Christ has become our Mercy Seat.

So how can a holy God be merciful to sinful people? How can God answer Habakkuk's prayer? "In wrath remember mercy" (Hab. 3:2). As the Bible states, Jesus Christ has become the propitiation for our sins (Heb. 2:17; 1 Jn. 2:2; 4:10). "God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love" (Eph. 2:4) gave us Jesus Christ. Paul lays it our perfectly in Romans 3. "Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:24-26).

Since sin has been put away in Christ, God retains His holiness and is able to extend mercy. As the Psalmist said, "Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psm. 85:10). You see, there is no mercy at the expense of divine justice. God's holiness must be satisfied, and it was through the shedding of His Son's blood at the Calvary.

Do you want to be right with God? You are given two options. One, you can seek to find favor with God by obeying His Law perfectly. But that is a futile choice. In the Bible we read, "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them'" (Gal. 3:10). Or you can admit you are sinner, fall down at the foot of the cross and beg God for mercy. We can receive Christ by faith and be clothed in His righteousness. Since God's wrath was already poured out on Him, it can't touch those who have fled to Him for refuge. Hebrews 8:12, "For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."

Let me ask you. Are you trusting in your own righteousness or are your fleeing to Christ for mercy and asking to be covered in His righteousness (Mt. 9:27; 15:22; 17:15; 20:30,31)?

In the Bible the story is told of a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisees were the epitome of first-century spirituality. In the temple the Pharisee prayed, "God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get." (Lk. 18:11-12). "But the tax collector (despised by the people), standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner'" (Lk. 18:13)! One trusted in self-righteousness and one saw his sin and unworthiness and begged God for mercy. Jesus said, "I tell you, this man (the tax collector) went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Lk. 18:14).

Our God fully understands the condition of His creatures. He knows our need for mercy. So He demonstrated that mercy in the greatest way possible by sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins (Lk. 1:78). Titus 3:5, "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit."

And through Christ we are recipients of God's unending mercy. Hebrews 4:16, "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Charles Swindoll once said, "(God's mercy) is both intensely personal and immensely practical. For when I am treated unfairly, God's mercy relieves my bitterness. When I grieve over loss, it relieves my pain and anger and denial. When I struggle with disability, it relieves my self-pity. When I endure physical pain, it relieves my hopelessness. When I deal with being sinful, it relieves my guilt" (Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotes, p. 237).

Mercy that begins now and extends into eternity. While deserving condemnation we get justification! While deserving shame we get glory! While deserving hell we get heaven!

So how do we respond? Understanding this truth and receiving this reality should naturally overflow into worship of praise and thanksgiving to our awesome God! Isn't that the context of Psalm 145 that I read earlier? Psalm 100:5 (NKJV), "For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.

When all Thy mercies, O my God,

My rising soul surveys,

Transported with the view I'm lost,

In wonder, love, and praise"

A.W. Pink


There is also another response to God's mercy. Receiving God's mercy will naturally lead our hearts to praise Him. But receiving God's mercy will also naturally lead us to extend mercy to others. The degree in which we do both of these is the measuring stick as to whether we have truly experienced and understood the mercy of God.

Paul is his most masterful epistle, the letter to the Romans, took the majority of his 16 chapters to unfold the grand doctrine of redemption - How God saves sinners in Christ Jesus. And then near the end, in chapter 12, Paul begins his practical exhortations. Understanding the doctrine is geared to motivate us to godly living. Thus chapter 12 begins: "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship" (Rom. 12:1).

As John MacArthur said, "The most compelling motivation for faithful, obedient living should not be the threat of discipline or loss of reward but overflowing and unceasing gratitude for the marvelous mercies of God" (Romans 9-16, p. 141). Understanding the mercy God has given us in Christ should lead to obedient living. Specifically, understanding the mercy God has given us should lead to an overwhelming display of the mercy we give to others.

God takes this very seriously! In the way we are forgiven, we are to forgive. As God is patient with us, we are to be patient with others. As we receive mercy, we are expected to extend mercy. That's why we read in James 2:13, "For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment." It was the Puritan, Thomas Adams, who once said, "He that demands mercy, and shows none, ruins the bridge over which he himself is to pass."

Unbelievers have proven that it takes no grace to condemn another's motives, or to run away from a situation when things don't go their way, or to ignore how their actions might affect others.

I'm afraid that our passion for truth in the universal church has spilled over to harsh judgmentalism. There are too many arrogant, self-confident and obstinate individuals in the church who have absolutely no understanding of mercy - Too many twenty-first Pharisees and not enough Good Samaritans (Lk. 10:30-31). We are dying on hills that require tolerance. We are hurting fellow believers in the name of Christ. We are justifying sin under the guise of righteousness. We must stand for truth, but let's not forget that the God of truth has called us to the priority of love. He has primarily called us to humility, self-sacrifice and the concern for others.

Many have become the Pharisees condemned by Jesus. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others" (Mt. 23:23). For we received mercy from God when we deserved condemnation, how can we fail to reciprocate with others (cf. Mt. 18:21-35)? Why are we so critical of our brothers and sisters in Christ? The answer is that we have obviously not tasted the mercy of God ourselves. Remember, Christ shed His tears for those who shed His blood!

Beloved, if you really wish to follow the heart of God, be merciful! Luke 6:36, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." If you really wish to get mercy, be merciful! Matthew 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." If you really wish to do what is best for yourself, be merciful! Proverbs 11:17, "The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm." If you really wish to show wisdom, be merciful! James 3:17, But the wisdom from above is…full of mercy." Are we really following the Golden Rule and extending mercy to others in a way we would like to receive it ourselves?

How would you feel if you made your sickness known to the church and no one from your church family called? How would you feel if you publicly asked for VBS donations and no one contributed? How would you feel as a ministry leader if people walked out in protest over the first thing they disagreed with? How would you feel if you worked hard to pull off the "Shore Praise" event and all you received was criticism? How would you feel if you were a senior citizen or single mom and no one offered to lend a helping hand?

For me, it becomes difficult to fathom when a sinless Being is more merciful with sinful beings that sinful beings are with each other. Remember, "Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy" (Jas. 2:13a)!

Are you here this morning without Christ? Are you in Christ, but convicted by your lack of mercy? The good news for you is that God is merciful! "But Pastor, I don't deserve God's mercy." Congratulations, you just fulfilled the first requirement for receiving it! None of us deserve it. If we deserved it, it could no longer be considered mercy! Acknowledge your guilt. Confess your sins. Turn to Him for mercy and forgiveness. He cares and He will bring healing to those who call upon His name because He is a merciful God!

other sermons in this series

Aug 6


The Greatness of God

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: Isaiah 40:25 Series: The Attributes of God

Jul 30


The Love of God

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 John 4:8 Series: The Attributes of God