August 13, 2010

To Live is Christ — depending on His mercy

Abraham’s servant asked God for help. God directed him where he needed to go and to the person he needed to see. When that was over, the servant said, 
Blessed be the Lord God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the Lord led me to the house of my master’s brethren. (Genesis 24:27)
One other prayer in the Old Testament is similar to this one. Jacob was afraid of his brother, Esau. He prayed to God and said,
O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies. Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. (Genesis 32:9–11)
The psalmist says a similar thing in Psalm 98:3, “He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

The only thing I can think of that would make a person bless God for remembering His mercy is realizing what he actually deserves from God. Because God is holy, and because our sin is like a fist in His face, He has every right to destroy us and start over. However, instead of giving us what our sin deserves, He remembers mercy.

Humility knows this is true. Abraham’s servant knew that God did not need to help him with his task. Jacob knew that God had every right to say no to his request. He had been rebellious toward God for much of his life. Why should God help him? As he said in his prayer, God answered Jacob because God is merciful.

Mercy means showing compassion toward an enemy. It means doing good to someone who deserves the opposite. When we rebel against God, or choose to ignore Him, God also has a choice. He could allow us to perish and die in our sin. Yet because He is not willing that anyone perish, He offers mercy and forgiveness through faith in His Son.

The Son is also merciful. Instead of letting us bear the punishment we deserve, Jesus Christ mercifully took our place, bore our shame, and died in our place. Mercy means that instead of eternal damnation, we are offered eternal life.

The gift of life is free, offered to those who take it. However, in taking it, everyone needs to remember that we are like people adrift in a boat. Christ calls us to throw out a rope and a hook and catch hold of Him; He is the shore, the safe place, the place of mercy.

Yet even as I do that, when I pull on the rope I also must remember that I am pulling myself to the shore, not the shore to me. Just because He is merciful does not mean that I can make Him to do what I want. Instead, I must align myself to Him, humbly realizing that if I got what I deserved, there would be no call, no hook, no rope, and no hope.

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