Aloha Friday Message – November 29, 2013 – Mercy: Part 1

1348AFC112913 – Mercy Part 1

Read it online here, please.

Genesis 19:16 – And while he lingered, the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the Lord being merciful unto him: and they brought him forth, and set him without the city. (the account of Lot at Sodom)

Genesis 19:19 –behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die: (also in the account of Lot at Sodom)

Exodus 34:6-7 – And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

This is the first in a series which will run through the season of Advent. The series will focus on the Mercy of God and how he helps us understand it. God’s Power, Wisdom, Presence, and Goodness all contribute to this attribute of Mercy.

The first two verses quoted above are the first occurrences in the Bible (using the KJV) of the words merciful and mercy. The first – merciful – is חֶמְלַת [chemlah] (khem-law’) and our equivalents would be mercy, compassion, or pity. The second – mercy – is חַסְדְּךָ֗ [ḥas·də·ḵā] (chas-de-kah’) and is more in the sense of kindness or lovingkindness, one of the thirteen attributes of God identified in the writings of Moses by many anciennt Jewish scholars. In scripture in both Old and New Testaments, God’s Mercy is always present, always available, and always generously dispensed.

I have heard more than one preacher say, “Justice is when you get what you deserve. Mercy is when you get what you don’t deserve.” Mercy is acting with generous and unmerited compassion or forgiveness toward someone who deserves punishment or harm and is subject to the power of the person(s) who have the authority and power to enforce that punishment.

God certainly has the power! He created us and everything in the known universe as well as everything we don’t know about because it is so far beyond our understanding. We know of our Creator as the Omnipotent God – all powerful. What does that mean anyway, “all-powerful?” This expresses the concept of a Divine Being with infinite limitless unchangeable Power. Now, those three adjectives are all pretty similar in meaning, so I want to supply you with some connotative meanings that clarify why I used all three.

First, Infinite: God’s power is never-ending because it is Eternal; he does not exist in or through time, rather, it exists only in him in totality. For God there is no present or past but only NOW and all of NOW is “contained” in him but he is not contained in time. Infinite is also Vast – immeasurable, multidimensional, incompressibly inestimable. There’s no way to guess how big or how small God’s power is for it has no boundaries except those imposed on it by the will of him who possesses it.

When we use our personal power – mental, physical, or spiritual – we require using our mind, body, and spirit cooperatively. If we chose to do what is right and just, our intellect and will direct our body to perform what our spirit desires. When we act against our intellect, will, and power we choose to ignore the desire of our spirit; we sin. We “know” intellectually and spiritually the difference between right and wrong. Whenever we use the Gift of Free Will to refute or ignore that knowledge, we sin.

In God, the entirety of these three aspects of human activity – intellect, will, and power – happen together is such perfect balance that they are in total accord with every act of God. You’ve probably heard or participated in the sophomoric – and yet essential – arguments about God’s omnipotence: “If God is All-Powerful, can he create a stone mountain so huge that he cannot move it?” My answer was always, “Why would he do that?” Some folks take that kind of argument more seriously than I do, so I look to people way smarter than I am and let them explain it. My favorite contemporary explanation is from C. S. Lewis in the Problem of Pain. I’m going to put the whole quote here:

“His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to his power. If you choose to say ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,’ you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words ‘God can.’ … It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of his creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because his power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.” (emphasis added)

Another more succinct way of saying this is, “Stupid questions have stupid answers, and are therefore irrelevant.” God’s omnipotence is axiomatic – self-evident, patently obvious, unmistakably and clearly True. And this is the common thread we will follow in this series. Whatever is of God is True. Omnipotence comes from the Latin Omni Potens – All Powerful, not merely Infinitely Powerful but All Power Full. There is no power outside of the Power of God for he is and holds and contains in his Being all the Power there is. Remember when we used the Identity Symbol () to try to convey the essence of God? You may be tired of this already, but let me set it out one more time (and you’ll probably see this in the next three messages, too).

LIGHT ≡ GOD ≡ LOVE ≡ TRUTH ≡ WAY ≡ LIFE ≡ FOREVER ≡ JUSTICE ≡ OMNIPOTENCE

How does God’s Omnipotence relate to his Mercy? He has the power to forgive because he has THE ONLY Perfect Justice. Justice? What is that word? The earliest root is from Old Latin – ious – which carries the connotation of a “sacred formula.” The Hebrew word צֶדֶק[tzedek] means “righteousness” or “justice” and is one of the attributes of the Lord the God of Israel. There is a passage in Hosea that can help us see this more readily. In Hosea 2:19-20, God speaks to Israel through Hosea and says, I betroth you to me forever; I betroth you to me in tzedek (righteousness), and in mishpat (justice) and in chesed (kindness) and in rachamim (mercy). I betroth you to me with emunah (faith); and you shall know God.”

 

Righteousness, Justice, Kindness, Mercy, and Faith are perfect only in God. In as much as MercyEnduresForeverwe are created in his image, we also have these traits, but in us they are greatly imperfect. God’s righteousness in us becomes our obligation and desire to do what is right and just (See Micah 6:8 again). It is only because of God’s great Justice that we have them at all. It is only because of God’s great Love that we retain them. It is only in God’s Kindness that he shares himself with us, in us, but though he inhabits his creation and the praise of his people, he is separate from and greater than these things. And because God is absolutely Just as well as absolutely Loving and Kind, he is also absolutely Merciful. Because he alone is all of these things at once, he is also Faithful for he can never deny or abandon what he himself has made or promised.

Over the past several weeks we have looked closely at Repentance and taken a quick look at Joy. There is a purpose in that. There are those who say, “Why should I repent? It won’t do any good. I’ll still be a sinner, and God won’t forgive me anyway.” Yes he will! Everything about him, and especially his Mercy, declares he wants every living soul – whether in this world or the next – to be with him. Trust in his Mercy and live eternally in his love!

Share-A-Prayer

  • Cancer patients
  • Chemical addictions
  • Wars, insurrections, terrorism, violent crimes
  • Climate catastrophes
  • Persecution of the faithful
  • Disease, famine, ignorance

Pick at least TWO and pray about them daily from today through Christmas night. If you want to add more, “JUST DO IT.”

WhatIfGifts

 

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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