God’s Mercy


Job 41-42 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: With wisdom and mercy He directs our lives.  He can be trusted. 

The Job Finale!  The final two chapters of the season will have you glued to your…Bible.  Stay tuned as the drama unfolds. 

Previously in Job. In his accusation to God, Satan charged Job with believing in God only because of God’s goodness to him.  He wanted to test Job.  God responded, “All right, you may test him.” (1:12)  Job lost all his wealth, his children and his health.  As Job battles for his life, he is left with four accusers, a wife who wants him to die, his belief in God and the gnawing question of why this has happened to him.  On trial for crimes against his humanity Job defended himself against his accusers, refused to die despite his wife’s wishes and presented the case of his innocence.  Believing he was falsely accused, Job demanded to speak to the Judge, but the Judge had not entered the courtroom.  Job believed the Judge had ruled incorrectly in this case because he was innocent.  The Judge must answer questions as to why he has ruled in this way.  Where is the Judge? 

The following takes place today in Job.  The Judge entered the courtroom…
Forgive the dramatic pretense, but the story does read somewhat like a courtroom drama.  In some mysteries, the viewer is discovering who the culprit is right along with the detectives; in others, the viewer is privy to the crime and watches as the detectives discover the culprit.  In Job, we already know the scenario from Chapter 1, but other than God and Satan, none of the other characters are aware of the set up – ever.

Hitchcockesque in nature, the ending of the story never revealed to Job why all this trouble happened to him, but then that really isn’t the point of the Book of Job.

Job revolves around two major principles:  Our belief in God cannot be based on His goodness to us, but must be founded on Who He is.  This was the premise of Satan’s test, and Job passed the test and did not curse God when troubles came.  After losing everything, Job declared, “But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives.” (19:25)

The second principles is that our trust or confidence in Him cannot be based on our goodness to Him.  This is where Job faltered.  In long soliloquies throughout the story, Job defended his innocence – he was very, very good and his goodness did not deserve this response from God.  He demanded answers, “Look, I will sign my name to my defense.  Let the Almighty answer me.” (31:35)  I get chill bumps every time I read this. Job revealed that he had lost confidence in God when he questioned God’s wisdom, God must have made a mistake.  Not good.

Finally, the Judge entered the courtroom.  God did not answer any of Job’s questions nor did He commend Job’s goodness.  Through a series of questions to Job, He revealed Who He is, and Job was humbled.  “I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes.  I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” (42:5-6)  Job had nothing more to say.  Mission accomplished, case closed, the series ends! 

Epilogue. God rebuked the bumbling detectives/friends who tried to discover the reason for Job’s trial, and Job forgave them.  Then, God restored Job’s fortunes and “blessed him in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning.” (42:12)  Everyone loves a happy ending.

The lessons of Job are invaluable.  We learn that God is Sovereign.  He loves and cares for us regardless of how good we are.  His ways are higher and more perfect than we could ever imagine, and in humility, we bow to His wisdom.  In Chapter 1, we learn that our enemy, Satan, is not all that!  He is not sovereign and must ask permission to do anything.  He is not omnipresent and must patrol the earth to find out what is going on.  He cannot read our minds nor foretell the future or he would have already known the outcome.  Someday, when we see him cast into his eternity, we will wonder how this sniveling nothing was able to make us think he was anything more than that.

As Job learned, life is not so much about what happens to us or why as much as it is about Who, Who our God is, and the relationship we have with Him along the way to eternity. 

Moving Forward: Whether or not this day finds the answers I seek, you are the living God!  I bow to your wisdom today, Lord. You know what is best. 

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 42-46

2 Samuel 15-19 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  His mercy and forgiveness – the paradigm to follow

Charisma does not always a good politician make.  This is a lesson we’ve learned in recent years, and it certainly was true about the captivating Absalom.  One of the great sorrows of David’s life was the rebellion against him by his son, Absalom.  As if that wasn’t painful enough, others came along to kick him when he was down. 

@ 2 Samuel 16
Sadly, there are those who take advantage of us when we are fatigued, discouraged and weakened by our situation, and this is where David was in 2 Samuel.  Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, reported to David that Mephibosheth was attempting to steal back his grandfather Saul’s throne. This news from Ziba made David all the more susceptible to discouragement as Saul’s relative, Shimei, assaulted him with accusations, calling David the murderer of Saul’s family. Though Shimei’s words were untrue, David did not fight back because he believed that God would vindicate him if he was in the right.

Trouble upon trouble!  How could things go so wrong for David? Absalom was seeking to kill him, those he had helped in the past had betrayed him, others called him a murderer and his own son slept with his concubines, in plain sight on the roof no less, as prophesied by Nathan after David’s sin in Chapter 11.  One time a teenager asked me why the story of David and Bathsheba was in the Bible.  To her, the moral of the story was:  Do what you want, ask forgiveness and then everything will be alright.  As we read together more of David’s story, she saw things in a different light.  David had lost much. 

@ 2 Samuel 19
While the news of Absalom’s death threw the nation into a victory celebration, David was filled with remorse and grief, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom!  If only I had died instead of you!  O Absalom, my son, my son.” (18:33)  No doubt David was filled with regret and shared the blame for Absalom’s rebellion because of the prophet Nathan’s words after his own sin with Bathsheba, “Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you.” (2 Samuel 12:11)

Although this was a dark time in the life of David and one filled with consequences, he went on to enjoy many victories because he had a heart of repentance.  He returned to Jerusalem to reign once again as king.  God did vindicate him in the very words of the one who had cursed him when Shimei cried out, “My lord the king, please forgive me.  Forget the terrible thing your servant did when you left Jerusalem.” (19)  And David did forgive him, for the moment.  He showed kindness to Mephibosheth and rewarded those who had served him well.

David had received mercy from God in the past, and he was eager to show this same mercy to those who had hurt him – Absalom, Ziba, Mephibosheth and Shimei. Jesus spoke of forgiveness and mercy like this in Matthew 18:23-35 with the parable of the servant whose master forgave him a debt yet he was unwilling to forgive a fellow servant of a debt.  The outcome was not good. When we’re going through a difficult time, it seems there are always those who will come along to pour salt on ours wound like David had experienced.  Just like David, we would do well to remember the many great mercies God has extended to us and to also forgive those who hurt us in this way. 

Moving Forward:  Remembering your mercy to me, I will forgive those who hurt me or hurt those I love.   I pray that I will never be the one who pours salt on someone’s wounds!

Tomorrow @ Psalm 57-59

Jeremiah 22-26 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Through the ruins, He will search for a people who will love Him

My mother use to say to me “Be careful what you ask for from God because He might just give it to you.”  Perhaps she was thinking of Israel’s insistent request to God for a king.  “All the elders of Israel met at Ramah…with Samuel.  ‘Look,’ they told him, ‘you are now old, and your sons are not like you.  Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.’” (I Samuel 8:4)  And so God gave them their kings.  Now in Jeremiah, after almost 500 years of mostly bad kings, the kingdom is coming to an end at the hand of Babylon.  The Israelites received from God what they had asked from Him. 

@Jeremiah 22-23
Bad kings, bad shepherds, bad prophets – bad times for Israel. Jeremiah had preached repentance to the nation for 23 years, but no one cared to listen.  The kings ruled unfairly, the selfish religious leaders deserted the sheep and the prophets spoke lies and words to tickle the ears of their listeners.  Some of this sounds….current.

“If they had stood before me and listened to me, they would have spoken my words.” (23:22)  Instead they made up dreams and stole messages from each other.  And in their audacity, they thought that God wouldn’t notice. “Can anyone hide from me in a secret place?  Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” (23:24) Can no one see us when we close our eyes? Just as ridiculous.

I remember when I was young – or was it yesterday – I thought I was free and clear if no one saw when I did something wrong, as if God did not get the memo that day.  According to Psalm 139, He knew everything about my life before I was born, so chances are I haven’t fooled Him about a thing – the bad and the good.  He sees all that we do and He still loves us.  He just can’t help Himself. 

@Jeremiah 24
Bad figs. “Then the Lord said to me, ‘What do you see, Jeremiah?’  I replied, ‘Figs, some very good and some very bad, too rotten to eat.’” (3)  The bad figs represented the Israelites who stayed in Jerusalem after the Babylonian siege.  They had every opportunity to turn from their sin and repent, but they chose not to do so. 

Good figs. The good figs represented the hope of Israel – those exiles to Babylon who chose to follow God, like Daniel.  A remnant of hope would remain after this terrible period in Israel’s history. Tucked away in the middle of all this badness was something good.  Jeremiah 23:3-6, “But I will gather together the remnant of my flock from the countries where I have driven them.  I will bring them back to their own sheepfold…For the time is coming when I will raise up a righteous descendant…He will be a King who rules with wisdom…And this will be his name:  The Lord is our righteousness.

Jesus, the righteous descendant came, yet Israel is still struggling to accept Him.  Regardless, Israel exists today because it has known His mercy through the decades.  He has seen it all, and He still loves them.  He just can’t help Himself. 

Moving Forward: Today when I make my petitions, I pray for His will.  Lord, don’t give me what I ask just because I want it, but give me what you know to be good for me.  I am ever thankful for your grace to me – and to Israel.  In response to your great love, may our hearts be ever contrite before you. 

Tomorrow @ Mark 13-14

Jeremiah 12-16 (NLT)

Discovering His heart: He longs for repentance rather than judgment

Remember being 13 years old? Help! I remember it well, and I would never ask God for a do-over because once in a lifetime is more than enough. Life was an emotional roller coaster, where one day I thought I was ready to take on the world and the next day I wanted to play with dolls. Laughing and carefree one moment, and crying and depressed the next. I’m not certain why God created us with that year of upheaval in our lives, but one thing I am sure of, it’s only because of His mercy that we make it out alive! Jeremiah was just a few years older than this when he found himself prophesying in Judah, but he was still flooded with emotions just the same over the assignment God gave him.

Jeremiah’s emotions during this time period seemed to run the gamut. When prophets speak truth, listeners often get angry. After Jeremiah discovered the plot to kill him because of his truth-telling in Chapter 11, he was angered by these wicked men and called for justice. Why didn’t God just take them out? “Drag these people away like sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered!” (12:3) While swift justice seemed appropriate in this case, do we really want God to respond so quickly to wrong doing?

@ Jeremiah 14
Judgment was coming, but God gave Israel yet another opportunity to repent by sending a drought to the land. They responded by crying out for help to the God but did so without a heart of repentance for their rejection of Him. “Our wickedness has caught up with us, Lord, but help us for the sake of your own reputation.” (7) They took the first step by acknowledging their sin, but they did not follow through with repentance and with refusal to sin. God wasn’t interested in saving His reputation; He was interested in saving their lives!

So God rejected them. Jeremiah went on, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Do not pray for these people anymore. When they fast, I will pay no attention…Instead, I will devour them with war, famine, and disease.’” (11-12). It seems to be human nature to run to God for help with our problems, but then refuse His Lordship in our lives. This is where mercy is valued over swift justice when we think of those we love who are in this place of disobedience. Unfortunately, God’s patience and mercy for Israel had ended and judgment was finally at hand. It could have been stopped had they been willing to repent. Hopefully we understand the value of this lesson.

Jeremiah’s anger now turned to compassion as he appealed to God on the behalf of Judah and Jerusalem, God’s Holy City, but God’s mind was set. Jeremiah’s response was to become filled with remorse and self-pity. Was all the pain and rejection he had endured for nothing? Now these evil people would take him down with them. He felt like God had rejected him too.

God called Jeremiah to come up higher, “You must influence them; do not let them influence you!” (15:19) He also offered restoration to Jeremiah and promises of protection for him. Because of God’s mercy rather than swift judgment, Jeremiah was given the opportunity to change his attitude. He then prayed with confidence, “Lord, you are my strength, and fortress, my refuge in the day of trouble!” (16:19)

There are times when my emotions can run this same gamut over a situation – all in one day! But, I cry for mercy for myself and for others, not swift justice, repenting when needed and relinquishing my thoughts and cares to Him. I join with Jeremiah, “Lord you are my strength and fortress, my refuge in the day of trouble!”

Moving Forward: Regardless of the situations I face today, I’ll guard my emotions and trust the One who is my strength.

Tomorrow @ Mark 9-10

I Corinthians 5-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Out of love, He disciplines His children

The other day I saw a mother duck with four little ducklings preparing to cross the road.  I think the word adorable comes closest to describing the scene.  She gathered them in, and as if giving instructions, she nodded and quacked.  I am almost sure that she pointed to the road, but I’m not sure.  She lined them up behind her and off they waddled, stopping traffic until they were safely across the road. Simply adorable!

It’s the nature of most of God’s creation to protect and defend our young.  While my children did not always consider my actions to be adorable, nonetheless, I did my best to keep them from harm, and I disciplined them when necessary.  I made careful observation of their friends, and when I found those who were not a good influence, they were no longer a part of my children’s lives. That’s the role of a loving overseer whether it brings popularity or not.  Paul found himself in this role as he addressed the Corinthian church – lining up those ducks. 

@ I Corinthians 5
“I can hardly believe the report about the sexual immorality going on among you – something that even pagans don’t do. I am told that a man in your church is living in sin with his stepmother. You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship.” (1-2)  Help! This isn’t the happy, good news or comfort that I like to share, but then what kind of a mother duck would I be if I didn’t share it? Rhetorical question – no response required.

Paul went on to say that he wasn’t addressing unbelievers, where we make every attempt to lovingly teach and direct towards holy living.  He was referring to believers who knew how they should live, yet disregarded it in order to satisfy their own desires.  “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, ‘You must remove the evil person from among you.’” (12)

It’s easy to get a bee in our bonnet, so to speak, about what someone within the church says or does that isn’t to our liking.  Paul is not talking about this. Throughout his writings, he encourages us to be patient, loving and kind to one another (I Corinthians 13).  Nor is he talking about judging the motivation behind what other believers do for these things will be aptly judged by Jesus Himself. (I Corinthians 3:3) Paul is talking about sin in the life of a believer within the church, plain and simple.  Rather than being enablers of sin by ignoring it, our right response when done in a spirit of love just may save the eternal life of one who is living a sinful life. (James 4:19-20)

No one wants to talk about church discipline. It’s not friendly, warm or cuddly. Jesus, however, felt it important and started the discussion in Matthew 18, providing the first steps to keeping the body of Christ protected. (See February 18 @ Matthew 17-19). After the establishment of the church, Paul continued with these instructions in Chapter 5. Not wanting to leave the matter in a hopeless condition for this man who had sinned, Paul followed up in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8, “Now, however, it is time to forgive and comfort him. Otherwise he may be overcome by discouragement.  So I urge you now to reaffirm your love for him.”  This is always our goal because it is the heart of the Father – repentance and restoration.

Had the mother duck not loved and cared for her ducklings, she would have allowed them to wander off as they wished; and in the heavy traffic of life, they would have been lost forever.  “For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” (Hebrews 12:6)  So, don’t feel only disciplined by these words today by Paul, but know that we are loved by the Lord as His children. The thought of it is far beyond adorable. 

Moving Forward: My goal is to do nothing that requires His discipline, but I’m so thankful He loves me enough to do so if needed.  Doing my best today to keep those ducks in a row… 

Tomorrow @ Genesis 40-43

Matthew 20-22 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is mercy and grace

My first real job out of high school was working in the stenographer’s pool at a large bank while I attended college.  Different departments throughout the bank called the steno pool when they needed someone to take dictation, do filing, answer phones, etc.  The goal of everyone in the pool was to eventually find a permanent position somewhere in the bank.

One employee who had worked there for a long time was a source of irritation for most of us as we waited for our escape because of her poor work ethic.  On occasion I thought how great it would be to file my nails, make personal phone calls or in my case do homework while on company time.  It seemed unfair that she was paid for 40 hours each week like the rest of us, but for some reason a measure of grace and mercy was given to her. This was bothersome to us because in the natural, we don’t want grace for others as much as we want justice!  Thankfully, we’re not God. 

@Matthew 20
In Matthew 20, Jesus shared a parable about grace and mercy, “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early one morning to hire workers for his vineyard.  He agreed to pay the normal daily wage and sent them out to work.” (1-2)  Normal pay for a normal day sounds reasonable.  Throughout the day the landowner added workers, even up to the final hour of the workday, and a conflict arose when their pay was divvied out.

“When those hired first came to get their pay, they assumed they would receive more. But they, too, were paid a day’s wage. When they received their pay, they protested to the owner, ‘Those people worked only one hour, and yet you’ve paid them just as much as you paid us who worked all day in the scorching heat.’” (10-12)  I feel their pain. I’ve heard these simple definitions of mercy and grace:  Mercy is not receiving what we do deserve; grace is receiving what we don’t deserve.  Matthew 20:1-16 is all over this.

In the same way, it may seem unfair that someone with a death-bed conversion to Christ who lived a pleasure-filled godless life will spend eternity in Heaven with God and with all those who lived submitted and obedient lives to Him. But it is really unfair?  Would any of us be so bold as to say we deserve eternity in Heaven because of our righteousness?  That any of us will spend eternity with the Lord is only because a righteous God spared us from what we deserved and gave us what we didn’t deserve through our acceptance of Jesus Christ – plain and simple.

As far as my co-worker from so long ago, one day I realized that she had missed the point.  She was still in the steno pool long after the rest of us had moved on to a better position in the bank.  Mercy kept her employed and grace kept her paycheck coming, but she missed out on all that she could have achieved and enjoyed along the way.

Those who come late in life to the Lord miss out on the abundant life He offers here on earth, and even more so, they miss out on the pleasure that comes from a lifetime of pursuing His purpose for them.  God is merciful, but waiting to come to Him does not secure the abundant life on earth He has offered us.

I am ever mindful that God has given each of us assignments to accomplish while we tread this sod, but our purpose, both on earth and in Heaven, is something much different.  He has given us life, our very next breath, for the purpose of fellowship and intimacy with Him. Obedience and self-denial may be our path to Him, but anything we surrender is insignificant compared to the pure pleasure of His company! 

Moving Forward:  I approach this day with a greater understanding and thankfulness for His mercy and grace on my life.  Before I accomplish the myriad of things I must do today, I first will pursue the pleasure of His company.

Tomorrow @ I Corinthians 1-2

Judges 12-16 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He is the God of mercy, patient beyond measure

Unlike all my friends, I wasn’t waiting with breathless anticipation for the day I would be licensed to drive a car.  I must admit I didn’t mind at all having my mom or friends drive me where I needed to go, and I guess this doesn’t speak well of my character.  But I think my greatest hindrance to being licensed was the driving test.  I knew I would be all over the written test with ease, but the driving test with its parallel parking portion was worrisome to me – where was the Mini Cooper when I needed it?  The thought of crunching one of those orange cones filled me with anxiety until someone explained to me that if I failed, I could take the test again!  Mercy!  I just love mercy! And I love the mercy that God extends to each one of us as He did to Samson in our reading today.

The story of Samson, a judge in Israel, is heart-wrenching. Samson was born and dedicated to God’s service as a Nazirite with a calling to deliver Israel from the Philistines, but he resisted his purpose.  Although Samson wore all the outward signs of one set apart, with his long hair and brute strength, he so often did not bear the heart of one.

Samson certainly showed faith in God’s Spirit in him when he took on the lion and 30 Philistine men, but he revealed himself to be self-centered and willful when he married from the very group he was sent to destroyThe word audacity comes to mind when I read Samson’s story, yet all of us are attracted at one time or another to the very thing that will do us the most harm.  Just a side note, the fact that Samson called his wife a heifer, well, that pretty much nailed his coffin for me.

@ Judges 16
Each willful decision brought Samson closer to destruction.  The playful cat and mouse game with Delilah ended badly for him, “Delilah lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap, and then she called in a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair. In this way she began to bring him down, and his strength left him. Then she cried out, ‘Samson! The Philistines have come to capture you!’ When he woke up, he thought, ‘I will do as before and shake myself free.’ But he didn’t realize the Lord had left him.” (19-20) Samson lost his hair, his strength, his eyes, but more importantly, He lost the Lord’s presence in his life.

To wake up one day without the nearness of His presence is a thought that drives me to my knees.  I cry with David, “Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.” (Psalm 51:11-12)

Fortunately, Samson’s story doesn’t end here because hair grows back and God forgives when we repent of our sins.  Samson’s hair came back and so did his strength, but it was his prayer that got God’s attention.  “Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me just one more time. With one blow let me pay back the Philistines for the loss of my two eyes.” (28) And Samson “killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime.” (30)

Samson’s life was filled with disobedience and selfishness, but somehow he garnered the privilege of rubbing shoulders with the Biblical greats in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith through his renewed faith in God’s mercy. Though the road to his purpose had its share of potholes and detours, Samson was given one more opportunity to accomplish what he had been born to do when his death began the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines.  A life of folly was transformed to a life of faith when he prayed, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again… 

Moving Forward: I will run from the attractive things that seek to do me harm and rob me of my spiritual strength.  If I fail, with its consequences, I will run to the God of mercy and cry with a heart of repentance, “Sovereign Lord, remember me again.” 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 21-23

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