To begin today, I want to remind you of what we did last week. If you recall we looked into the jealousy/wrath of God, and found that they are two sides of the same coin, in that it is the zeal or jealousy God has for His own name and glory that stirs up His wrath. In this same manner, when we turn to the mercy/grace of God we’ll find that though very similar they are not the same. They also are two sides of the same coin.
God’s mercy can be defined as God not giving us what do deserve, and God’s grace can be defined as God giving us what we don’t deserve.
Or to put it another way – God’s mercy withholds what is due to us, while grace extends what isn’t due to us. Let’s look into these things.
I have defined the mercy of God as ‘God not giving us what we deserve’ because throughout Scripture we see God granting mercy to those who are in trouble or distress. As we’ll see with grace, because we are fallen and cursed sinners any mercy shown to us by God is surprising. To Israel, after God had redeemed them He says of Himself in Exodus 34:6, ‘The LORD the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.’ Likewise David says of God in Psalm 103:8, ‘The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.’ David again, when he was in distress calls out in 2 Sam. 24:14 saying, ‘I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the Lord for His mercy is great.’ Two men in the gospels cry out to Jesus saying, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David.’ in Matthew 9:27. The Publican cries in out ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner’ in Luke 18:13. Paul knows this and picks up on this theme in the introduction of 2 Corinthians 1 when he says God is the ‘Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.’ So from God’s mercy we are not given what we do deserve and from that we find comfort.
The incarnation is what made Jesus merciful and faithful, as Hebrews 2:17 says, ‘Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God.’ So then it is only natural that because Jesus became a merciful and faithful High Priest in His incarnation that we find mercy being described as what we receive when we approach the throne of God as believers. Hebrews 4:16, ‘Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive (what?) mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’
We must also speak of God’s mercy as being sovereign, or given out at His pleasure. Exodus 33:19, which is also quoted in Romans 9:15, says, ‘I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will show mercy on whom I show mercy.’ Though many people fight against this doctrine, probably more so than any other, we must see that God is God, He is in the heavens and does all that He pleases (Psalm 115:3). He is under no obligation to dole out mercy to anyone, yet He does, freely and generously, or liberally, praise God!
The great mercy of God has inspired Christians throughout the history of the Church in the preaching of God’s Word, in the praying of God’s Word (that He hears us in prayer is itself a mercy), and in the singing of God’s Word. In this manner we have the historic hymn called Kyrie Eleison (or sometime just called ‘The Kyrie’), which is Latin for ‘Lord, have mercy.’ The lyrics to Kyrie Eleison simply repeat the same phrases ‘Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord, have mercy.’ Or ‘Kyrie eleison, Christie eleison, kyrie eleison.’ Some of you know this ancient hymn by it’s 1985 equivalent by Mr. Mister where the chorus says, ‘Kyrie eleison down the road that I must travel, Kyrei eleison through the darkness of the night, Kyrie eleison where I’m going will you follow, Kyrie eleison on a highway in the night.’
His mercy is great indeed!