Monday, April 22, 2013

The Mercy of God

"Because of the LORD's great mercy we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." - Lamentations 3:22

Someone has said that GRACE is getting what you do not deserve, but MERCY is NOT getting what you do deserve.

The Hebrew word for "mercy" is "hesed" which contains the idea of the protection in the womb. God's hides us in his mercy like a mother protects her child in the womb. We all need mercy. Without it, as Jeremiah said, "except for the Lord's great mercy we would be consumed." The NIV has almost always removed the English word "Mercy" and translated it "Love." I understand the translator's effort to make it better understood, but "mercy" cannot be adequately translated by "love" though the idea of God's love is contained in the word. Mercy is redeeming love that reaches down to the unlovely, undeserving, enemy of God and rescues him in his sin, despite his sin. It is God's extreme love for the unloving and undeserving.

I find David's prayer for mercy in Psalm 51 especially helpful and comforting to my own sinful heart. David includes 21 requests for mercy expressing his cry in a variety of ways. Listen in to his plea for mercy. May it be our appeal to God when we fail.

1. Have mercy of me v1
2. Blot out my transgressions v1
3. Wash away all my iniquity v2
4. Cleanse me from my sin v2
5. Teach me wisdom deep inside v6
6. Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean v7
7. Wash me and I will be whiter than snow v7
8. Let me hear joy and gladness again v8
9. Let my broken bones rejoice v8
10. Hide your face from my sins v9
11. Blot out all my iniquity v9
12. Create in me a clean heart v10
13. Renew a right spirit within me v10
14. Cast me not away from your presence v11
15. Do not take your Holy Spirit from me v11
16. Restore to me the joy of your salvation v12
17. Grant me a willing spirit v12
18. Save me from my blood guilt v14
19. Open my lips to declare your praise v15
20. Give me the sacrifice of a broken spirit v17
21. Give me a broken and contrite heart v17

Note, none of this has anything to do with David's worthiness. It is an appeal to God's unilateral mercy. It is an appeal to God to work in him what is necessary, that David was incapable of doing for himself. It is an appeal to God's character. It is an appeal to God's name as "All Merciful" which in Hebrew is "El Molei Rachamim." Except for the Lord's mercy we all would be consumed. Let us learn that well. His mercy is His character. In Exodus 34:6-7 God reveals his glory, himself, to His servant Moses.

6 And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation."

May we ever see Him as All Merciful God whose glory it is to forgive the undeserving. Remember also that when we come to God in prayer it is before His MERCYSEAT.

I can never read this passage as a man and wonder about Bathsheba's repentance. Did she repent with the same humility and appeal to God's mercy? We are not told in Scripture, except we see the evidence of God's eternal mercy, compassion, and forgiveness when she is placed by mercy and great grace in the line of Jesus ancestry. In Matthew 1:6, we read that "Jesus Christ was the son of David… and David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife." In fact, Matthew includes two forgiven women in the genealogy of Jesus. The other is Rahab the harlot! Oh, the mercy of God! "The mercy of God is an ocean of love a boundless and fathomless flood."

May we all ever remember that we are saved by His mercy long before we are saved by His grace. "His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness."

In my devotions on this theme I have included the words to the Gateway song, "Save Me, Lord Save Me" because it reflects so well the cry of David's heart for God's mercy.

In desperate need of mercy
At the end of my own strength
I fall upon the kindness of Your grace
Lord I know that You are good
You came to rescue me
So please, hear my humble plea
Save me, Lord save me
I have nowhere else to go
Lord I trust in You alone
To save me, My Savior
I call on Your name
Jesus, save me
Lord I believe, You died to set me free
Lord I believe in You
And I believe, Your blood was shed for me
Lord I believe in You
Save me, Lord save me
I have nowhere else to go
Lord I trust in You alone
To save me, My Savior
I call on Your name
Jesus, save me

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thinking About Easter – Part 5 – The Shofar

The Shofar is translated "trumpet" in the Scriptures. It played a significant role in bringing men and women into the presence of God.  There are four sounds made with the shofar:

Tekiah - One long blast with a clear tone  - A long unbroken tone, symbolizes hope and the strength of God.
Shevarim - Three shorter blasts - Three shorter, more broken sounds, indicates wailing and sorrow for sin.
Teruah -  staccato notes played very quickly (nine or more) -  represents the broken heart of those who come to God.
Tekiah Gedolah - a single unbroken blast, held as long as possible (40 seconds) - an invitation to come into God's presence.

It was used on occasions stipulated by God in the Old Testament. I will list just seven here.

1. It announces the entrance into the Holy of Holies
2. It ushered in the slaying of the Passover Lamb
3. It is blown as a call to prayer
4. It called God's people into the presence of God on Rosh HaShana
5. It is a call to repentance
6. It is a call to the army to battle.
7. It is blown at the end of battle and when the King is Coming

The Shofar Blown - The Lamb is Slain
The day Jesus was crucified was the day of the Passover celebration and the day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed.  At 3 pm the priest would go to the "Pinnacle of the Temple" (the highest point). For the previous 1,200 years, the priest would blow the shofar (ram's horn) at 3:00 p.m. - the moment the lamb was sacrificed, and all the people would pause to contemplate the sacrifice for sins on behalf of the people of Israel. At 3:00 pm when Jesus was being crucified, He said, "It is finished"- at the moment that the Passover lamb was sacrificed and the shofar was blown from the Temple.

The Veil of the Temple
At the same time, the veil of the Temple (a three-four-inch thick, several story high cloth that demarked the Holy of Holies) tore from top to bottom - representing a removal of the separation between God and man. During the lifetime of Jesus, the holy temple in Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious life. The temple was the place where animal sacrifices were carried out and worship according to the Law of Moses was followed faithfully. Hebrews 9:1-9 tells us that in the temple a veil separated the Holy of Holies-the earthly dwelling place of God's presence-from the rest of the temple where men dwelt. This signified that man was separated from God by sin (Isaiah 59:1-2). Only the high priest was permitted to pass beyond this veil once each year (Exodus 30:10; Hebrews 9:7) to enter into God's presence for all of Israel and make atonement for their sins (Leviticus 16).

Solomon's temple was 30 cubits high (1 Kings 6:2), but Herod had increased the height to 40 cubits, according to the writings of Josephus, a first century Jewish historian. There is uncertainty as to the exact measurement of a cubit, but it is safe to assume that this veil was somewhere near 60 feet high. Josephus also tells us that the veil was four inches thick and that horses tied to each side could not pull the veil apart. he book of Exodus teaches that this thick veil was fashioned from blue, purple
and scarlet material and fine twisted linen.

The size and thickness of the veil makes the events occurring at the moment of Jesus' death on the cross so much more momentous. "And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:50-51a).

Hebrews 4:16
Let us therefore approach God's throne of grace, with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need. 

Isn't is amazing what God has done to put an exclamation point to the importance of the death of His Son! He wanted us to know with the death of the Lamb of God and the ripping of the Veil of the Temple, that now we can all appear before God even as Moses did, face to face. We are being invited by God himself to come "boldly" that is, without fear, to speak with Him face to face.

Isn't is ashame however, that the people of God rarely avail themselves of this high and holy privilege and calling. The Holy of Holies is open, but we are seldom there.

This Easter the Lord is reminding you and me that the way is opened into the Holy of Holies. Why not take advantage of the trumpet call and enter into the presence of God?