Mercy is not getting what you deserve.
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
For the past year I’ve been leading a Bible study on the Book of Job. One of the overall “cries” of Job – not in so many words, but in general – is that God would have mercy on him.
Job loses all his wealth. His ten children are tragically killed all at once, and Job develops a serious illness, but one that does not lead to death (although he wishes it would, just to end his suffering).
While Job looks for answers from God to why all this is happening to him, mercy seems to be the underlying focus of what Job is looking for.
A Bible commentator defines mercy as “love toward those who are in misery as a result of their sin and guilt” (R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of Luke, © 1961 Augsburg Publishing House, p 88).
Have you ever been in a similar situation? Many people feel this way, especially at this time of year – the weeks leading up to Christmas.
As one movie puts it, “Boy, the holidays are rough. Every year I just try to get from the day before Thanksgiving to the day after New Year’s.”
When I was a kid I loved Christmas. Even as an adult, I still love Christmas. But I think I love anticipating Christmas just as much. The day before Thanksgiving to the day after New Year’s are some of my most favorite times of year.
I look forward to the time I spend with my family and friends, the music, the special worship services, and quiet evenings at home with my wife and sons.
But over the years I’ve visited people in various stages of life that are not looking forward to this time of year. Some are anticipating their first Christmas without a husband or wife or child.
Some are ill or in pain and are just plain tired and worn out.
I was visiting a sweet older lady the other day and she mentioned several times that she is looking forward to “going home,” by which she meant heaven. Her eyes lit up when she talked about going home, so much so that I realized that she’s looking forward to dying as much as I look forward to spending Christmas with my family.
And I think for the same reasons!
It is all about God’s mercy. While “grace” is sometimes defined as “getting what we don’t deserve” – that is forgiveness and salvation, “mercy” is sometimes defined as “not getting what we do deserve.”
The coming of Christ is full of mercy, for those who “fear” God. This is what Mary sings about in Luke 1, a song we most often call the “Magnificat.”
“Fear” in this sense means having faith in God, believing in him as our Lord and Savior.
Lost in our sin, we deserve death and eternal damnation. But God sent Jesus to be our Savior from sin. By faith we receive this salvation, and we can say that God has mercy on us!
Instead of dreading death, we who fear God can look forward to death! Because it means eternal life in heaven! It means that we will have a happy reunion with all those who also fear God and receive his mercy.
The coming of Jesus the first time – at Christmas – was God’s mercy in action. Because Jesus would grow up to live a perfect life and die on the cross to forgive all our sin.
The coming of Jesus the second time – on the Last Day – will also be mercy for those who fear God. Because it will mean the end of death, and pain, and sorrow. It will mean eternal life in heaven.
As we get ever closer to Christmas Day this year, let us keep in mind this thought on mercy:
“All God’s mercy during past generations led up to this crowning mercy, and all God’s mercy throughout coming generations flows from this supreme mercy” (ibid p 89).
Heavenly Father, thank you for your grace and mercy. I pray that I will always have a holy fear of you so that I may receive your mercy every day and also be able to tell others of your mercy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
© 2017 True Men Ministries