What does Mercy look like to you. Do you have an image of what mercy entails? What do we mean and expect from God when we say in our Liturgy “Lord Have Mercy Upon Us?” How would you define mercy? The dictionary defines mercy as having compassion or forgiveness toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.
The misconception is that to show mercy is passive only. That it is a THOUGHT – a mental ascent – I will forgive / have compassion on someone.
That is not a biblical understanding of mercy. Mercy is not about being passive. In fact, with God, it’s just the opposite – God’s mercy is about action – and sometimes intense action.
Our reading from 2 Chronicles is an example of this. Israel is God’s chosen people; the people through whom the promise of God will come to all humanity. Yet his people have walked away from the ways of God. Being God’s people is more than a status – it is more than just being THE PEOPLE – it requires obedience – an obedience to God’s ways, no more and no less. So God, in his mercy, sends messenger after messenger to his people – prophet after prophet – to tell the people to change – to turn back to him.
My first encouragement to you this morning is that God’s mercy is patient.
How patient is he with us? How patient is he with his church? Outrageously patient. Our reading from 2 Chronicles shows us how restrained God is. The religious leaders of Israel, the priests and the officers were unfaithful to God and this has meant that the people are also unfaithful. The nation from the top down had turned away from the creator God. They had not just turned away from God – they had begun to follow all the abominations of the nations.
How patient has God been with you and I – when we get it wrong when we ignore him, when we fail to do the things he has asked of us? Infinitely. He has not judged us as we deserve time and time again.
One of the prophets sent to tell the Israelites to return to God is Jeremiah. He becomes a lone voice – a minority against the huge majority who are defying God.
To be in the majority does not mean you are right your thinking or position – the majority can be wrong – just as being in a minority does not mean you are wrong or mis-guided. A minority in scripture often has another name – a remnant; God’s people who stood against the tide of unfaithfulness to him.
God is patient.
But God’s mercy does not remain patient.
The people do not listen. What a dangerous place to put oneself – ignoring the words, the commands, the pleading and the petition of the living God.
The consequence is that God sends Babylon against Israel. Jerusalem is destroyed and the people of God sent into exile for a generation – 70 years.
Has God’s mercy ended?
No. But how can sending an army to destroy the nation of Israel and send them into exile be merciful?
When we persistently ignore God he will get our attention – and that may sometimes require what we would consider extreme action. God’s judges Israel for it’s rebellion but his judgment is NEVER, NEVER devoid of mercy in scripture. Even in God’s judgment there is mercy and that is shown by the fact that Israel survives. Psalm 137 – By the rivers of Babylon
God’s mercy is active.
God actively gets Israel’s attention.
God’s active mercy is both physical and spiritual. We see in our Gospel reading physical mercy – the crowd is hungry and from the other gospels we know Jesus had compassion on them and he tells his disciples to feed them. The disciples see no way that they could feed a crowd this size, but Jesus takes what is available and miraculously feeds them all.
Jesus’ healing are physical acts of mercy.
Our Epistle reading shows us God’s active mercy spiritually. Paul says that God is rich in his mercy – and that is shown in the incredible verse that says even when we were dead in our trespasses made us alive together with Christ.
In other words God’s mercy takes the initiative. He makes it possible for us to be reconciled with him. And He does that through judgment – judging his son, Jesus Christ, in our place, that his mercy may be made available – and through the resurrection of Jesus Christ making us alive spiritually and physically.
So, God’s mercy is firstly patient and secondly it is active.
Thirdly, God’s mercy is also available – to absolutely anyone. Paul says that the life given through Christ happened while we were still dead in our sins.
This mercy has nothing to do with us – whether we are nice people, or whether we are from good homes or not, or whether we have tried to be moral or not – it has absolutely nothing to do with these things – it comes down to one thing – do you believe what God has said and done in and through Jesus Christ is absolutely true? If yes then the mercy of God is poured out upon you.
All that is required to receive God’s mercy is to ask him for it.
Psalm 31:22: I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from your sight.” But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help
Psalm 116:1 says I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Proverbs 28:13 says Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
And finally just hear the words of Isaiah, 30:18 Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him
What a fantastic image – the Lord God – the creator of the universe waits to be gracious to US. He is waiting to show us mercy. He says this morning to each of us “I want to be gracious to you, I am available – come on Andy, come on Prince George, I am waiting.”
And his showing mercy to us glorifies his name. We should want him to show us mercy because it glorifies him – his name is made great when we come to him asking for his mercy.
God’s mercy is patient; God’s mercy is active; God’s mercy is available now, and finally God’s mercy is eternal.
Paul tells us a wonderful truth in our epistle reading – that when we come to know the living God – being saved by grace alone God raises us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places.
When we believe and accept Jesus as Lord and savior we enter into his death, resurrection AND ascension. Our place is with Jesus for eternity – that is assured – it is guaranteed to all who follow Christ. Of course we are not perfect yet – we struggle, we still do the things we do not want to do – we are not yet without our bad tempers, or bad thoughts, or bad words, or bad actions – but the right to receive it fully has been secured and the new life has already begun here on earth. We are being governed by heavenly standards and motivated by heavenly impulses. Its power, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, enables us to be more than conquerors.
In view of God’s mercy, his patient, active, available and eternal mercy, where are we with God this morning? Is God being patient with us right now? Are we separated from him, doing our own thing, ignoring the ‘prophets’ who are sent to us to say ‘come to God – give your life to him – he loves you and he wants you to be in his kingdom.’
Or maybe is he actively showing his mercy to some of us right now. Maybe things are tough in life – is God trying to get our attention? Is he beckoning us to come to him and allow him into our life? Maybe we are already walking in God’s mercy right now – is God’s name being glorified in our lives? Or do we need to hear this morning that God’s mercy is available – its available to you I regardless of what we have done, or where we have been in life – he is waiting to be gracious to you, he is waiting to pour his mercy on us and we have nothing to bring to God for this – just our yes Lord – we believe and we are yours forever. Or maybe some of us are praising God because we know this morning that the Mercy of God in our life is eternal – and we are rejoicing and glorifying his name – and so Sunday morning’s is about the joy of praising his name.
Wherever we are let us cry out to him this morning asking for his holy spirit to fill us. As we come forward to share communion together ask God to meet with you in a powerful way. If necessary ask someone to pray with you after the service – speak to someone if you need to speak with someone. But please do not delay – God’s mercy is available this morning – he is patient, he is active and it is eternal. Receive it – and receive it fully.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.