Part 6: Mercy
If God had a Weakness It would be….
I’ve heard some people say that if God had a weakness, it would be for worship. I disagree. Granted, God loves worship; not just the music or the lifting up of hands, but a lifestyle that acknowledges His supremacy as the Creator, His holiness and sovereignty as God, and His love as our eternal Father. Those who conduct their lives this way are known as the righteous and God promises in His word to care, provide, and fight for them with the ferociousness of a lioness watching over her cubs.
However, I find the premise on which this statement is made to be erroneous. Firstly, it paints a picture of an insecure, self-centered, and egotistical god with an inferiority complex that requires constant ego-massaging to feel good about himself – and that is definitely not our God. Secondly, it insinuates that God can be manipulated by and through worship, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Worship is worthless that aims to manipulate. True worship emanates from a place of gratitude and brokenness; it’s the recognition that we are nothing – absolutely nothing – and that only by God’s grace and mercy are we alive and do we enjoy every privilege we have in this life.
So, no; I don’t agree that if God had a weakness it would be for worship. I think that if God had a weakness, it would be mercy. And that’s what I’d like us to talk about today.
But First a Recap….
Throughout this series, I’ve been trying to portray the image of the biblical husband that God created. Not that the man was created for the woman, but that when he was created, he was found to be lacking in companionship and was given a wife to lead and care for – the very definition of a husband. We glimpse an image of this perfect man and husband in Adam, in Genesis 1 and 2, and then later interact with and study him in the man Jesus Christ.
The perfect man and husband knows who he is: he knows that he is because of God. He knows he’s here because he was created by God. He knows that he was created to serve God. And he knows that he belongs to God, both as a slave and as a son. Everything Adam did in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 1 and 2 was done in communication, partnership, and agreement with God. As soon as he broke partnership and agreement with God, he messed up and everything crumbled.
First to crumble, was his sense of wholeness and fulfilment. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3, the bible records that “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” It’s interesting that they had been naked all along, but it was never an issue until they stepped out of agreement with God. Now, all of a sudden, they feel like they’re missing something – they feel like something is wrong with them and they’re ashamed.
Back to the Garden of Eden
Right away, they begin to seek for earthly solutions to their spiritual problem. You see, the problem wasn’t that they were naked; they had been naked all along! The problem was their perception of themselves and their nakedness. Because they had severed partnership with God, they’d lost their sense of fulfilment and contentment. They saw themselves as incomplete, wanting, missing something – of course, what was missing wasn’t their clothes but that connection and union with God. But because they were separated from God at this point, they no longer had His omniscient perspective. All of a sudden – even though nothing had changed physically – they felt ugly, like an unpleasant sight to behold, and they went looking for a way to cover up their nakedness.
Adam and Eve misdiagnosed their condition and went seeking for ways to restore themselves to fulness in the wrong place. Their condition was spiritual death and they needed a spiritual solution to bring them back to wholeness. Unfortunately, in their fallen state, out of communication, partnership, and agreement with God, they lacked the wisdom to discern their true infirmity; hence they couldn’t fix it.
The same is true for today’s man. We are unfulfilled because we inherited sin and its concurrent spiritual death (i.e. separation from God) from our parents. However, instead of turning back to God and reestablishing that communication, partnership, and agreement that will give us that sense of wholeness and fulfilment we so earnestly yearn for, we often go looking for money, power, fame, romantic relationships with men and women, etc., thinking that these things will fulfil us. Yet all these things are but fig leaves sewn together to cover a beautiful piece of art, a masterpiece. The real problem is that the artwork has been placed in a dark, murky, cold dungeon instead of being displayed in the grand ballroom of the castle.
What crumbled next was Adam’s identity. When God comes to spend some time with him that evening, the bible records, “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” (Genesis 3:8-10)
Is this the same Adam that sat with God just a chapter before and named all the animals? Is he the same Adam that named the woman in the presence of the Lord? The very same couple whose wedding was officiated by God Himself? What happened?
When Did Fear and Guilt Enter In?
In trying to abandon his position as a slave and equate himself with God, Adam forfeited his position as a son. Whereas God was a loving Father before, gently providing instruction and guidance, He is now perceived as a Judge to be feared. I wonder, who taught Adam to be afraid? No one. Rather, the second he stepped out of agreement with God, he set himself up on the opposite side of God. God now seemed like an enemy: one to be feared and kept at bay. Adam’s own fears and insecurities drove the wedge deeper between him and God. His own guilt condemned him.
Again, many of us today, condemn ourselves by our own guilt. Because at one point or another we experienced rejection from our imperfect parents, teachers, siblings, classmates, workmates, a member of the opposite sex, etc., we struggle with the notion of a holy and perfect God loving and accepting us wholly in our imperfections. Our very own imperfections imbue us with guilt that causes us to feel “less than”; we feel unworthy of love and acceptance – but because we were not created to live with such feelings, we go looking for that worth, love, acceptance and value in all the wrong places.
For example, a man might think that by being harsh he commands the respect of his wife and children. The truth is, he isn’t respected; he is feared. But because God didn’t create a man to be feared, fear will never satisfy or fulfill a man’s innermost need for acceptance. On the contrary, because the inner man recognizes the fear in the wife’s and children’s eyes, he rationalizes – rightfully so – that it is accompanied by some level of hatred, rejection, and – ultimately – rebellion. Therefore, to preserve himself, such a man continually and increasingly seeks to assert himself over the family he is leading to prevent any possibility of a revolt. So, he keeps being harsh and his family keeps being afraid, creating an endless loop that leads deeper into chaos. Fear provides an illusion of acceptance, but actually fosters rejection.
SIN: How Far is the Distance between Man and God
With every subsequent generation since Adam, the chasm between man and God grew wider. By the time of Noah, only nine generations later (about a thousand years), man had grown so sinful that God regretted having created him in the first place. He shortened our lifespan to 120 years and then sent a storm to wipe out all of humanity except the one righteous man that was left on the earth. Interestingly, shortly after, even this righteous man drinks himself to oblivion and, when one of his sons gazes upon and laughs at his nakedness, pronounces a curse over an entire race!
We often underestimate just how far sin distances us from God. Isaiah 59:2 teaches us, “But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.” (Berean Study Bible) The more we sin, the further away we move from God; so much so that we are no longer able to reason and to perceive things as He does. We’ve forgotten where we came from and why we’re here. We’ve forgotten our duty to our Master and to fellow humans. We’re lost in self-absorbed pursuits of grandeur, making meaningless rules as we go, deceived into thinking that our success lies in clothing of fig leaves.
However, as we attempt to restore the broken lines of communication with God through prayer and the meditative study of His word, and as we realign our plans, purposes and desires to walk in partnership and agreement with the Lord, He begins to bridge the gap and draw us closer to Himself. We become more aware of His love for us. Through this journey, our identity in Him is revealed and cemented. By the gift of the Holy Spirit, He gives us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16): we are able to see, perceive, understand, and reason as He does. Wisdom is restored to us (Proverbs 9:10).
Gods Love and The Power of Restoration
One area of our lives that benefits immensely from this divine restoration is our relationships, particularly, marriage. Marriage is a divine creation. The title of this series says it all: only by returning to the divine precepts outlined by the Lord in His word can we address the roots of the problems we see in marriages today. We all have one ancestor, Adam, who was – in the beginning – a perfect man: a son of God. Therefore, these precepts apply to all of mankind, not just those in the church. And I began the conversation with the men because they are the leaders in the marriage institution and lasting reformation always begins with the leader.
Now, you may ask, “If knowing and obeying God is the key to a successful marriage, why is the divorce rate in the church just as high as that outside the church? Why are there so many happy and successful marriages between unbelievers? And why are so many Christian marriages falling apart?”
The complex answer to these questions is that there is a difference between going to church and professing Christianity versus actually knowing and obeying God. The two are not always mutually inclusive. But that’s a detailed discussion, which I shall not delve into today. The simpler answer is that God is merciful, not just to the believer and to the righteous, but to all men.
Gods Love for ALL Men
Although we sinned, turned God into an enemy, and fell away from Him and His perfect ways for us, God never stopped loving us. Satan, that ancient serpent, deceived us into denouncing our Father through sin, but, out of His great love, the Father sent His Son to ransom us back to Himself through His death on the cross.
Because of our corrupt understanding of love, we struggle to grasp how a perfectly holy God could love an unholy, broken person. In our humanity, we love those who love us: those who are kind, helpful, and beneficial to us. In our selfish and self-centered ways, we are indifferent to strangers and those with whom we have no regular interaction or relation. So, we errantly extrapolate this model to God, imagining that if we don’t love Him, then He doesn’t love us; or that if we’re indifferent to Him, He’s indifferent to us.
But watch what the scripture says:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
“But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 – Berean Study Bible
“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” Ephesians 2:1-5 New Living Translation
Our Position in God
In Week 2 of this series, we discussed in depth our position as sons of God: every human being on the planet was created by God and is kept alive by His breath. As a result, God has a vested interest in each person’s life. In Jeremiah 1:5, God says to the young prophet, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Before a person is conceived, God already knows them. Not only that, but He also has a specific purpose for each one of us even before our parents meet each other.
David goes on to explain in Psalm 139:13 and 16, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Even before our bones, joints, skin, and internal organs came together to form a foetus in our mothers’ wombs, God saw and knew us. He had planned out every single day of our lives, and His plans were wonderful (vs 14).
God loves EVERYONE. He is Merciful to EVERYONE.
He reveals Himself to whomever He chooses. He shares His knowledge and gives revelation as He wills. He does not show any favoritism or partiality (Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34), because, in reality, we are all His children: He birthed us by His Spirit. We were deceived into leaving His beautiful home and dragged away to live under the cruel master we chose over our Lord in heaven, but our loving Father never stopped loving us. When He sees us hungry, He gives us bread; when we’re naked, He clothes us; when we’re sick, He heals us; and when we’re hurting, He comforts us… even while we’re in His enemy’s service.
And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Exodus 33:19 (also in Romans 9:15)
Gods Mercy Do We Even Understand It?
Mercy is the act of showing kindness or granting forgiveness to someone that you have the power or right to harm or punish. Because He is the Creator and Law-giver, and because He made the law and the consequence of flouting it crystal clear to Adam in Genesis 2:17, God has the power and the right to punish man for sin. Ergo, every act of kindness mankind has received from God since the fall of Adam and Eve, is proof of God’s mercy.
The question then becomes, what kindness have we received from God? To understand this, we must first understand what we deserve as just punishment for our sin. God was clear from the beginning, “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:17 – New King James Version (NKJV)
To emphasize on this, He says in Ezekiel 18:4, “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father, As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.” Again in Romans 6:23, He says, “The wages of sin is death…” (NKJV).
Mercy and Death
Death is a separation of something from that which gives it life. For example, physical death is the separation of the flesh body from the soul. Spiritual death, on the other hand, is the separation of man’s soul from God’s Spirit. When Adam and Eve sinned, they were immediately separated from God – that’s why their perception and feelings (which are premises of the soul) changed instantly. Their spiritual death was instantaneous.
What does it mean to be separated from God? It means we cannot access His knowledge, power, or wisdom. It means we cannot talk to Him or even come near His dwelling. It means we’re no longer entitled to His provision and protection. It means we’re on our own… Actually, because we’re not autonomous beings but servants in nature, it means we are at Satan’s disposal.
With this understanding, God’s mercy is instantly manifest. That He would choose to still speak to Adam and Eve is a kindness in itself. That He would cast them out of the Garden of Eden to keep them from eating of the tree of life, being doomed for eternity in their fallen state, is also a kindness. Continuing to provide for them, albeit outside the Garden and through painful toil, is a great kindness. If He had left them to starve to death out there, or to be mauled by the wild animals, God would have been justified because by law, they had forfeited His care. As David proclaims in Psalms 51:4, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.”
Gods Judgement and Mercy
God’s judgement is not unjust. He can choose to do anything with us and He will be right. Yet, instead of forsaking us and leaving us to wallow in the misery of death, He sacrifices His Son through a painful and shameful death on the cross, just so that we might be reconciled and reunited with Him. What manner of love is this!
“This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” Colossians 1:21, 22 – New Living Translation
We often misunderstand and misinterpret God’s nature and character because our expectation of “good” is often incomplete, and in some cases, outright inaccurate. Most of us consider something to be good if it’s grand, rare, lucrative, or visible to and admirable by the masses. However, God’s goodness is evident much more frequently in the small, often overlooked, but essential features of our everyday lives; for example, the air we breathe freely, the sun that warms our home and planet, the rain that waters our crop to give us food, a peaceful night’s rest and rejuvenation for our bodies, the many talents and gifts that we enjoy and that often feed us in one way or another, the smiles and laughter that brightens and lightens our hearts, et cetera.
Gods Mercy in Daily Life
There is great mercy in the forgiveness of sins, but way beyond that, God shows us all mercy every single day. As Matthew 5:45 says, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” And then in James 1:17, the bible reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from our Father in heaven. All good things – scientific discoveries, psychological theories and connections, artistic masterpieces, all the knowledge in all the great books that have been written – are God’s gifts to mankind, even when they come through an unbeliever. This includes the skills and grace required to have a successful marriage.
Why would God give such great knowledge to an unbeliever? Because, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” It’s His Sovereign will. He’s a good, good God. He is love.
So this is the sixth item on my wish list:
In my humanity, I often feel like God is merciful to a fault. In His love and mercy, He continues to pardon and show unimaginable, immeasurable kindness to men who doubt Him, don’t really know Him, don’t care to know Him, disobey Him, even outrightly despise Him. And because of this kindness, unrighteous men think that God is either weak, non-existent, or approves of their unrighteous acts. In marriage, this has left many women enduring untold suffering in the hands of callous or simply ignorant and indifferent men who are only interested in the gratification of their own selfish wants and desires or who look to cultural beliefs and traditions – that aggrandize men and abase women – as the blueprint for a successful marriage.
It’s easy to think, “Lord, strike them with lightning! Teach them a lesson! Let your judgement be instantaneous that they may learn to fear you!” But He is always near and quick to remind me that I am a beneficiary of His mercy just as much as – if not more than – these men are. His mercy is not a weakness but a requirement for the survival of mankind.
Conclusion and Prayer
As we study the perfect man, therefore, my desire is that our men will aspire to become him. How I pray that the perfect Adam would be our goal, dream, and standard in marriage; that we would constantly look to the Word of God for instruction (both where we do not know and where we think we know), grace to obey the instruction, mercy when we fail, and courage to rise up and try again with never-failing hope in the ability of our Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to transform us into the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect man. As Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”