In our key verses, David concluded, “For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is God’s mercy towards those that fear Him.” The holy season is upon us as we make our way to the cross and, no, there are no holiday songs nor the types of holiday movies we see around Christmas time. Yet, all the same, during this holy season, God’s love is once again defined for us. During this time, we should be celebrating and appreciating that God is full of mercy.
The Lord Defines Himself
Sadly, few seem to understand what David meant when he called on others, saying, “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever (Ps. 136:1).” During this time of the year, I don’t want us to be unappreciative of God’s wonderful grace and mercy. So, I feel we need to take a deep look at God’s mercy so that we can properly appreciate it and celebrate it.
He is a good God
To start off, I want to show you God’s mercy in action by taking a look at the book of Numbers. When I teach or preach about God’s mercy, I love to turn to this book because God’s patience, love, and mercy is clearly defined to mankind.
In Numbers 11, we see that while they were journeying to the Promised Land, the children of Israel complained about only eating manna instead of eating “really good” (Num. 11:1-6). Manna, you should remember, was the bread that came from heaven, given by God, everyday to sustain the children of Israel (Ex. 16:15-16). Though they complained about God’s blessing, God gave them the food they cried about and wanted for a period of time (Num. 11:19-20).
At the burning bush, the Lord said to Moses that He desired to deliver the children of Israel to a land that was good, large, and flowed with milk and honey (Ex. 3:8). In Numbers 13, God’s faithfulness to what He promises is clearly defined for us. The children of Israel had reached the point on their journey to where God had brought them to the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
To confirm the land was good, God had Moses send twelve spies into the land. After forty days of spying in the land, the twelve spies reported that the land was indeed good, large, and flowed with milk and honey (Num. 13:26-27). This confirmation should have proved to the people that God was no liar and that He is faithful to what He promises.
Mankind’s tragic response
This moment, after all the children of Israel had been, should have been a moment of great rejoicing. Yet, we will see one of the most sad moments in scripture with ten of the spies turning around and then speaking ill of the land; this meant they spoke ill of God’s promise — His blessing (Num. 13:28, 32-33).
In Numbers 14, we see how the bad report of the ten spies stirred the people up to also speak against God. The people questioned, “Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword (Num. 14:3).” The people then began to demand new leadership so that they could go back to Egypt (Num. 14:3-4)! Do you understand how serious and grave these actions were?
Firstly, the people in rejecting God’s blessing were being ungrateful for His providence, His protection, and His deliverance. Secondly, the people were questioning the goodness, the benevolence, of God by accusing the Lord leading them to their death when the Lord desired to give them a future and hope. Thirdly, this was truly a lack of faith and trust in God as the people were rejecting Him after He had been faithful to them.
Sadly, this tragic response is still being repeated today. I consider how the Lord guides us, shields and protects us, while supplying our every need and yet, we treat God like the dirt we walk on; we cannot be bothered to think about Him nonetheless put the Lord first in our lives. Does the Lord deserve to be treated this way?
I feel I have to ask: Has God not been with us on our journey? Has the Lord forsaken us? Has God not supplied our every need? Has the Lord not shielded and protected us from all hurt, harm, and danger? Has God not been good to us?
Personally, I believe the Lord has been more than good to me, but not only to me, but also all of those around me as well. I know this because the world is still spinning; the sun still rises and sets. Not only that, but we also haven’t managed to destroy ourselves no matter how hard we try. Even the one that does not believe would have to realize that something must be holding all of this together and I tell you that it is not man holding the world together; it is by God’s grace and mercy that we are still here today.
Yet, just like the children of Israel, many believe God is not good; many refuse and reject Him. How do you suppose this makes the Lord feel? How do you suppose God reacts when the world continues to reject Him? Has the Lord grown tired of us?
God is Full of Mercy
On this thought, we will see that God asked Moses, “How long will these people reject Me? How long will they not believe Me with all the signs which I have performed among them (Num. 14:11)?” This is one of the few moments in scripture where I can feel the exasperation of the Lord. The Lord had been so patient with the children of Israel up to this point, but refusing and moving against His promise had crossed the line — the unpardonable line (Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10).
He is faithful and just, slow to anger
I believe the Lord was hurt by what the people were thinking, saying, and moving to do. Scripture tells us that God was ready to strike down the children of Israel with pestilence and disinherit them because of their disobedience (Num. 14:12)!
Could you imagine what it would take to push the Lord to this point? I ask this because the one thing that scripture makes very clear to us is that the Lord neither faints nor is weary (Is. 40:28). Scripture also tells us that the Lord is slow to anger and reserves wrath for His enemies (Nah. 1:2-3). However, when you move against (blaspheme) His work, there is no coming back from that sin.
Moses had this understanding and he cried out to the Lord on behalf of those that did not participate in the complaining and the actions against Him (Num. 14:13-19); Moses essentially cried out, Lord have mercy! He recalled the Lord’s proclamation on Mount Sinai when God proclaimed that He is merciful and gracious and abounds in goodness, truth, and keeps mercy for thousands while forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. God, Moses recalled, proclaimed that by no means would He clear those that are guilty (Ex. 34:6-7; Num. 14:8).
God relented; He didn’t need Moses’ reminder but you better believe it was a good show of faith that pleased Him. God was full of mercy to those that did not reject them as they eventually inherited the land of promise. However, God made the children of Israel wander in the wilderness for forty years until the generation that rejected Him passed away (Num. 14:26-35).
Some may think this was harsh for God to do, but as the Lord proclaimed, and as John wrote in his first epistle, God is faithful and just (1 John 1:9). The Lord shows grace to those who strive to obey Him and will punish those who are guilty of striving against Him. For this, I am very thankful because I don’t want to be caught up with sinners.
Praise of God’s grace
In our key verse, David praises the Lord for His mercy and grace; he points out that God will not always contend with us nor will He always be angry with us. (The ‘us’ refers to all of God’s children).
David understood this thought because of his own personal fellowship with the Lord. Now, we all know of David’s sin and that because of his great sin, God was displeased with him and raised up adversity against him (2 Sam. 12:1-15). David went through some things: lost a baby with Bathsheba and turmoil sprouted up within his children. Yet, in all of that, this psalm and several other psalms are filled with David’s praises of the Lord.
Though he went through some things because of his sin, David knew that God loved him. To this point, I feel like we often mistake God’s anger (or frustration) with this idea that He doesn’t love us, but we should not think this way. As the proverb says, “whom the Lord loves, He chastens (corrects), just as a father the son in whom he delights (Prov. 3:12).” God loves us; His love for us is confirmed through the giving of His only begotten Son when the world was approaching that unpardonable line.
When I preached about God’s rebuke (correction) a few weeks ago, I likened His love to that of loving parents. I spoke about my dad and my mom being loving parents in that they didn’t let me and my brother get away with anything! When me and my brother messed up, we knew we were going to hear it from mom first and then, when dad would get home, we knew it was over with!
Was their correction fun? Absolutely not! Yet, we both can look back on how we were raised and clearly see that we were loved. I say to you that we must not confuse chastisement (correction) with damnation (punishment) when God is correcting us because of our transgressions. Understand this: God will chastise you so that you can improve — grow and flourish. God does not immediately jump to condemnation because God is full of mercy and wants us to do better!
The tender mercies of God
As David said, the Lord has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities (Ps. 103:10). Had the Lord truly dealt with us in our transgressions, He would not have forgiven or saved us from our sins. Yet, God is love and in His love God is full of mercy.
The Lord delights in and He desires for us to come to Him, especially in the day of our error. As David said, the Lord does not always strive (contend) with us nor does He Keep His anger forever (Ps. 103:9). The Lord finds a good balance in correcting us to the point that we will approach him and acknowledge when we have transgressed, and acknowledge that we need to do better.
Again, as John said, the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9); He looks for our repentance. When the Lord approached David through the prophet Nathan, he finally acknowledged his transgression and repented. God was not going to destroy the one He loved, He desired to put him (David) back together again. I don’t believe we realize the damage we do to our soul when we transgress against the Lord.
David realized the damage he had done to his soul and he prayed for the Lord to restore the joy of His salvation. David prayed for God to have mercy upon him according to the Lord’s lovingkindness and the multitude of God’s tender mercies (Ps. 51:1). Many of us may think that God deals harshly with us but He is tender (gentle and soft) in how He deals with His children. Scripture states, “For He (God) bruises, but He binds us; He wounds, but His hands make whole (Job 5:18)” – He does not destroy us.
In the multitude of God’s tender mercies there is forgiveness, love, and grace. By his tender mercies, David said that there is redemption from destruction (Ps. 103:4). After praying and acknowledging his error and committing himself back to the way of the Lord, the fellowship David once enjoyed was renewed. I would tell you that in the multitude of God’s tender mercies, there is fellowship with God!
Because God is full of mercy, David then said that we are crowned with the Lord’s tender mercies which satisfies our mouth with good things so our youth is renewed like the eagles (Ps. 103:4-5; Is. 40:31). Let us understand that in the multitude of God’s tender mercies, there is the strength to endure and to keep moving forward. Because God is full of mercy and we dwell in fellowship with Him, let us remember that we dwell in His care and in His care God comforts us, guides us, and supplies our every need.
In Lamentations 3:22-23, the prophet Jeremiah wrote that because God is full of mercy we are not consumed; because God is full of mercy, His compassions fail not. Jeremiah then said that because God is full of mercy, His mercies are new every morning. We should be building our lives off of the mercies of God rather than living in rejection of His grace and mercy. The Lord brings to us opportunity after opportunity every single day to make up from our errors and grow to be better!
Praise of God’s Mercy
Scripture proclaims, “Happy is the man whom God corrects; Therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty (Job 5:17).”
I don’t know about any of you but I am happy today because I could have been lost in sin a long time ago. Not only could I have been given over to the guilt of sin a long time ago but all of us could have been. Yet, because of God’s mercy and grace, He has taken away the burden and guilt of our transgressions. We are happy today because God did not give up on us where others would have!
You and I should be praising God today because, as John said, God is love (1 John 4:8). Let us remember what Paul said about God’s love, it suffers long. To suffer is to put up with; to allow; to endure pain or distress. I don’t believe we understand just how much it pains the Lord that His creation rejects Him, His love, His blessings, and the way to His greater promise.
Try to picture how you would feel if you had to watch those you love repeatedly fail, by choosing to ignore the proper and correct way you have shown them. However, as Peter wrote, “[God] is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).”
I praise and give thanks to the Lord today for His tender mercies and because He did not give up on me. Because God is full of mercy, there is assurance and in this assurance there is peace and happiness. We are in the season of celebrating God’s mercy and I greatly rejoice in His mercy. My hope is that all of us will come together during this season with much appreciation for God’s love, mercy, and salvation.