And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:11)
Lesson 8 – Mercy.
I have to be honest, I don’t know where to begin with our final lesson. God’s mercy is so wide, so vast – it is beyond my capability to even attempt to comprehend God’s mercy, much less describe it. In many of his Psalms, David recalled the past mercies of the Lord; he used the history of God’s chosen people to remind himself and them, of God’s faithfulness. So it seems to me that might be a good way for us to learn about God’s mercy, by revisiting the trials of Jonah and observing God’s mercy at work.
What is mercy? Strong’s defines it as compassion, tender love, pity. I’ve heard it described as “not getting what we deserve”, that’s a pretty good way to summarize it.
Remember when Jonah rebelled? The storm was raging on the seas and the men on the ship knew they were about to die. To save themselves, they threw Jonah overboard. Jonah had defied God, his sin deserved death.
But God was merciful. He sent that big fish to rescue Jonah. For three days Jonah was in the belly of the fish, in such despair that he wanted to die. But God had mercy on Jonah and delivered him from the death he deserved.
There was the time Jonah was angry at God because God wanted him to preach to the Ninevites. Jonah hated the Ninevites, he didn’t want God to save them. In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus equated hate with murder and we know that murder deserves death. Instead of the death Jonah deserved, God appointed a shade tree to give him comfort. That’s the mercy of God.
Jonah knew all about God’s mercy, that’s why he didn’t want to go to Nineveh in the first place. Over and over he experienced God’s mercy. But Jonah didn’t understand God’s mercy, as a matter of fact, his story seems to indicate that he didn’t really understand God. Because Jonah didn’t “get it”, he went through a lot of trials. Jonah was a man who had to learn his lessons the hard way.
What most impresses me about the story of Jonah, and about my own story, is how quickly we forget God’s mercy. We get ourselves into trouble then look to God to rescue us. For a moment we are thankful for His mercy, but only for a moment. Soon our focus returns to our troubles and we forget about what great things God has done for us, we forget His faithfulness – that His mercies are new every morning.
Jonah’s story ends abruptly. At God’s reprimand we would expect some response from Jonah; but scripture goes silent and we’re left to wonder what happened. I can only surmise that that was God’s intent. That He left us there to fill in our own ending, to write our own story. Jonah wasn’t so different from us. Jonah fought with God, ran from God, cried out to God. He experienced the “reward” of his disobedience, but in spite of all, God was merciful.
Thanks be to God for giving us lessons from Jonah. Words to teach us, to show us, through Jonah’s failings how we can avoid the pitfalls of our own sin nature. Take a moment and think back over the events of your life.
- Remember the times of trials, how in His mercy He was there with you.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)
It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)
- Remember how God has been merciful despite your rebellion.
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. (Psalms 51:1)
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. (Isaiah 30:18)
Remember God’s mercy is made manifest through the –
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–(Ephesians 2:4-5)
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (1 Peter 1:3)
Of Jesus Christ.
El-rachum – God is merciful. By its very definition, mercy is not something we can earn [remember, mercy is not getting what we deserve]. Mercy is God’s nature made manifest through His love for us. It is not to gain His mercy that we should be obedient, it is because He is merciful that we should want to be obedient, to serve and honor Him.
But, like Jonah we are mere man and we fall short. It is then that we can most appreciate God’s mercy.
I found the following song titled “Mercy Walked In”. It is a good way to finish our lesson.
I stood in the court room the judge turn my way It looks like you're guilty now what do you say I spoke up your honor I have no defense But that's when mercy walked in [Chorus] Mercy walked in and pleaded my case Called to the stand God's saving grace The blood was presented that covered my sin Forgiven when mercy walked in Praise the lord I stood there and wondered how could this be That someone so guilty had just been set free My chains were broken I felt born again The moment that mercy walked in Ooohhh [Chorus] The blood was presented that covered my sin forgiven when mercy walked in hmmm
Until next time,