I can remember when I was a kid; a hot summer day with a couple of friends doing the stuff the boys do. In the backyard on a carpet of green grass which now had become our Colosseum. Gladiators clad with armour – dirty Chuck Taylors, jeans and t-shirts standing our ground, arms outstretched, crouched and ready, waiting for the signal. Someone yell – Ready, Set, GO…… With grunts, groans and the boasting of our adolescent strength, we battled, rolled and wrestled to hear those final words. When the moment came where the will had finally given way to the strength of the victor…. the words of the conquered foe rang out in the thick and distant air…. UNCLE!!!!!!
OK, maybe I got carried away with the nostalgic drama. But isn’t this how so many of us feel about life. Not all struggles end with two guys getting up and walking away friends. Not all foes are like this. We find ourselves under the weight of life to the point where both our strength and will have worn out and all we can do is surrender and say UNCLE!
Another way to look at this is Mercy! There is a point where we are saying “Just give me mercy. I’ve had enough. Please give me mercy!” Life doesn’t seem to be too merciful sometimes. And we feel totally out of control. I call it being on the train you cannot stop.
I recently had an incident where I appealed to someone for mercy. Instead, that person chose to “stick it to me”. In the midst of this God spoke some things to me about mercy. I began to look at mercy in the Bible and here are a few thoughts.
When God gave instructions for the Ark of the Covenant to be constructed, he said to place the testimony or commandments in the Ark and to construct a cover over the testimony called the Mercy Seat. This is where God said he would speak from between the wings on the Mercy Seat. I find that I have trouble hearing God speak to me until I am penned down by life or my circumstances, so to speak . It’s at this point of surrender and awareness of my need for mercy, that God speaks and I can hear. It happens to be where I reach the end of all my self-sufficiency and find God’s all-sufficiency.
In 2 Samuel 24 we find David asking one of his commanders to go out and count or take a census of his kingdom. This takes over nine months and when the commander returns, David realizes his pride has gotten the best of him. He repents to God and everyone else, but the prophet tells him there are consequence. God gives David three options: seven years of famine, three months running from his enemies or three days of pestilence. David responded, “I am greatly distressed. Let us now fall into the hands of the Lord for His mercies are great, but do not let me fall into the hands of man.” The Lord sent pestilence upon the land and seventy thousand people died and as the angel stretched his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the Lord said, “It is enough! Now relax your hand!” If I have a choice to cast myself into the hands of man or the hands of God to find mercy, I choose God. I don’t know too many people prone to mercy. So whose hands are you going to place your life?
In Matthew 18 we find a king wishing to settle accounts with his slaves. One man is brought to him who owes him a great sum of money. He could not pay, so the king orders him and his family to be sold to satisfy the debt. The slave pleads for mercy asking for time to pay what he owes. The king, moved with compassion, forgives the debt. This slave went out to a fellow slave who owed him money and seized him and choked him saying, “Pay me what you owe me.” When the king gets wind of this, he call the slave in and says, “You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?” Moved to anger he turned the slave over to the torturers until he payed what he owed. Matthew 5:17 says the merciful will be shown mercy. God is merciful, therefore we should be merciful. And if we are not then we should not expect mercy. The Law always demands satisfaction and mercy can only come from the one who has the power to pass judgement. It reminds me of an old hymn, “He payed a debt He did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay, I needed someone to wash my sins away….” It behooves us, when within our power to call accounts due and pass judgement, to give mercy. The law demanded what we could not pay, but Jesus who knew no sin, became sin for us, paying our debt. Jesus satisfied our debt and we were freed by God’s mercy and grace. How can we go out and not forgive our brothers from the heart when our greatest debt was mercifully satisfied by the Son of God, so that we might go free and live life free from condemnation and the power that once held us captive and separated us from a Father who loves us? Mercy is a part of the new nature that abides in those who have believed on Jesus in faith.
What does God require of us? “Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” Micah 6:8