Aloha Friday Message – April 21, 2017 – what is Mercy?

1716AFC042117 – What is Mercy?

Read it online here, please. And please, when you visit there, use one of the social media links at the bottom of the page to share this post. Thank you! E pili mau na pomaika‘i ia ‘oe a me ke akua ho’omaika‘i ‘oe, ʻŌmea! (May blessing always be with you and may God bless you, Beloved!)

Micah 6:8He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Hosea 6:6For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Romans 11:30-3230 Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

Joel 2:12-13 12 Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; 13 rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.

This coming Sunday is called Divine Mercy Sunday – for Catholics around the world. For Christians of other denominations, it is the first Sunday after Easter. I want to touch again on the topic of Mercy. There was a short series on Mercy back in November-December of 2013. Today I’ll start with some thoughts recently gathered, and occasionally touch on older material from that series.

In addition to the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday, there are some current events that have tugged at my heart which affect the way I want to approach the subject. Let me begin with another item occasionally mentioned previously; it’s from a conversation between Abram and God found in Genesis 15:13-16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation; for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” (Click the link to see this in context.) To me, this is significant because it speaks to the patience of God – itself a Mercy. This statement occurs on the day God and Abram entered into the Covenant Promise that Abram would become Abraham, the Father of Many Nations. He would be the progenitor of the people who eventually took over the Promised Land, the Land of Canaan. But that would not happen until the fourth generation – about 400 years from that day in Abram’s history. God knows the life-course of every living soul. He patiently waits for each soul and each nation of souls to acknowledge his Sovereignty and to return to him. The Amorites were very powerful as a nation – and also very wicked. Nonetheless there were some good persons among them as well, and some of them became allies of Abraham, and later even of the nation Israel.

The point here is that eventually, despite God’s good patience, they reached a point of no return, where they would never repent; and when that point is reached and God’s patience is exhausted, God allows that the “wages of sin” overtake the sinners, and thereby they are removed from life. There are other instances where this kind of thing happened. One of them, perhaps the most notable, is Noah. God had reached the limit of his patience with the evil that was perpetrated on the earth and reluctantly decided to start over; but, he kept a remnant of Creation – one family, and at least one pair of all living creatures. I have always felt strongly warned when, in the account of the Deluge and the Ark, we read in Genesis 7:16 – 16 And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in. God shut Noah, his family, and all the creatures in; and on the flip side of that, he shut everyone and everything else out. Is there a point in a sinner’s life where God can act like that; shut the sinner out of his presence?

Yes.

If you believe there is a Heaven, there is also a Hell. To put it in the simplest terms, Heaven is Eternity in the Presence of God and Hell is Eternity in the Absence of God. But, God is patient, and because of his mercy we have access to forgiveness, salvation, and Eternal Everlasting Life. That phrase in not a redundancy. Eternal means life without end. Everlasting means Life which is constantly renewed and revivified. If you don’t believe in Heaven or Hell, or God for that matter, then God will patiently wait for you to figure out that you’re missing something until such time as you are out of time and stand before Jesus on The Day of Reward (usually called Judgment Day). On that day, you will received the Reward for the conduct of your life, and that reward will be possible on the basis of Christ opening the doors to Heaven and Hell and dividing the souls before him between those locations. It is going to happen. But there is still God’s Mercy.

What are we to do? How will we know this Mercy? You’ve seen Micah 6:8 here many times. It is the clearest statement I know of declaring God’s expectations of us. We must do the right thing, be merciful to others, and walk humbly before God. It seems very simple in concept, yet surprisingly elusive in practice. God wants us to be loving and merciful because HE is loving and merciful. The whole point of creation, salvation, revelation, and life itself is that we are created in his image and all he wants from us is to live with that in mind. What could be simpler? Ah, but the way he placed that before us, and what seems to cause us to botch that up is that we have to choose to be loving and merciful. Instead, we usually choose the opposite – indifferent and cruel. Think about it. All of us have multiple opportunities to be compassionate and generous every day. Most of those opportunities go unanswered; yet God is still patient and supplies us with thousands more opportunities in our lives to be like him – a chip off the old block so to speak. God will never, ever require us to sin; we must – and do – choose to sin by ignoring his law and replacing it with our own “laws,” the rules we make up to justify intentionally rebelling against him.

Everyone is “imprisoned in disobedience” for “all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.” We all live in sin. We can be – and are – all forgiven when we do as God intends: “Return to me with all your heart.” What is so hard about that? Surely we can see that being with and in God is far better than being with and in Satan – yet we make that latter choice so often one begins to wonder if humankind has any sense at all. There is so much evil that we wonder where there can be found any good. Do you remember that in 2014, Canadian aborted fetuses were being shipped to a power plant in Oregon and used as fuel to provide electricity? Such depravity should not – indeed could not – occur in a culture that knows it must act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. God wants US to be with him, here in this life and eternally thereafter. He GAVE us Salvation through his Only Begotten Son. It is a Gift beyond value in this life on Earth. Jesus told the crowds, in Luke 12:32-24 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That is what justice, love, mercy, and humility look like when put into practice in our lives. We choose to sin. We can also choose not to sin.

You may remember this from December 6, 2013 (See the whole series here.)

Proverbs 10:16The wages of the righteous is life, but the earnings of the wicked are sin and death.

Romans 6:23 Sin pays its servants: the wage is death. But God gives to those who serve him: his free gift is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Isaiah 3:10-1110 Tell the innocent how fortunate they are, for they shall eat the fruit of their labors. 11 Woe to the guilty! How unfortunate they are, for what their hands have done shall be done to them.

God’s patience with our sin is the hallmark of his Mercy. Whether we remember his Mercy as part of a religious celebration or as a moment of clarity in our lives (hopefully both!), God is Kind and Merciful, his mercy endures forever. He wants us to have The Kingdom, but how do we get it? Like all of God’s gifts, we receive it by accepting it in Love. Love him as much as you can. That will always be enough, and you will be AMAZED at what he does with it! That is how Mercy is made manifest in your life. God’s Mercy is an additive gift; it’s part of the Kingdom.

How long will it be before God says of us, “Their iniquity is filled up; they shall be no more.”? Perhaps – maybe even probably – it will be beyond our lifetimes as a nation. But what about today in my life, in your life, in our lives in or outside of the Kingdom of Heaven, a gift from our El Shaddai Olam  עוֹלָם שַׁדָּי אֵל – Almighty Everliving God? When that Day of Reward comes, could it be that God will pull shut the doors of Heaven? If so will we be closed in or closed out? If we choose to accept his Mercy and all that comes with it, we will be closed in – with him and all the saints who have gone before us. Refuse that Mercy, and be locked out at the Day of Resurrection.

There is no merciful refuge from that day as there was for Noah. Noah was spared because he “was upright.” Much is spoken nowadays about “Sanctuary Cities and States.” Some foolishly compare them to Cities of Refuge in the Bible. In the United States and Canada, a “sanctuary city” is a city that minimally cooperates with the government at the National level for the purpose of helping people who are illegal- or undocumented-immigrants so they can potentially avoid deportation. This in no way whatsoever parallels the Biblical concept of Cities of Refuge. Here is the record of those cities: Deuteronomy 4:41-43 41 Then Moses set apart on the east side of the Jordan three cities 42 to which a homicide could flee, someone who unintentionally kills another person, the two not having been at enmity before; the homicide could flee to one of these cities and live: 43 Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland belonging to the Reubenites, Ramoth in Gilead belonging to the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan belonging to the Manassites. This clearly has nothing to do with immigration of any sort. Rather than so-called mercy, it is a way to harbor  persons who have intentionally broken the law until such time as the law is fulfilled.

What is mercy then? In the Old Testament a frequent equivalent is “steadfast Love.” See (Psalm 118:1-4 for example.) It is kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted, toward those who – through their own doing, have distanced themselves from God – joined with his desire to help them. It is deeply-rooted compassion that overrides and obviates evil that is deliberately and knowingly committed, then recognized and repented. It is God’s loving-kindness for those who turn to him instead of themselves or to God’s enemies. And how do we know God’s enemies? I strongly recommend reading – OUTLOUD – the Letter of Jude. It’s only 24 verses long, but it will help you choose how to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

What will you choose today? Will you choose God’s mercy, or will you help him shut the door against you? I close with this reminder from John 5:28-2928 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV) KJV reproduced by permission of Cambridge University Press, the Crown’s patentee in the UK. Used by permission.

Which do you choose?

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd!

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at http://biblehub.com

 

 

 

 

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About Chick Todd

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

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