God’s Mercy


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

Psalms 6-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is merciful because of His unfailing love

I loved to visit the neighborhood park playground when I was little.  I would run to the swing set and swing what seemed like hours, back and forth, getting as high as I could.  This fun always came to an end when a train came flying past in front of me and I would get sick – the double motion got me every time.  Then I’d find a friend and run to the teeter totter, the up and down seesaw, and I’d feel like I was flying myself.  The seesaw, however, was the most fickle of all the equipment on the playground because when I sat dangling high in the air, my safety was at the mercy of my friend.  On more than one occasion through the years, a distracted playmate left her seat and sent me crashing to the ground.  Somehow I lived through this.  David’s struggle in our reading today reminded me of the seesaw, where mercy or judgment takes the other seat. 

@ Psalm 6
We don’t know David’s sin on this occasion, but we recognize a cry for mercy when we see one, “O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage. Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak.  Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. I am sick at heart.  How long, O Lord, until you restore me? Return, O Lord, and rescue me.  Save me because of your unfailing love.” (6:1-4) David sat dangling, staring judgment in the face; but he asked for mercy to take the other seat.  My heart’s cry every day is for mercy, don’t give me what I deserve – give me mercy. 

@ Psalm 7
Now the tables are turned as David’s accusing enemies have risen up and are dangling high because they have touched God’s anointed.  Because revenge always seems to be so sweet at the time of our pain, David may have desired to slip right off the seat and send his enemies crashing, but instead, David called on God to bring justice.  “Arise, O Lord, in anger!  Stand up against the fury of my enemies! Wake up, my God, and bring justice!  Declare me righteous, O Lord, for I am innocent, O Most High! End the evil of those who are wicked, and defend the righteous.” (6,8-9) When we ask God to avenge us rather than to take matters into our own hands, we  place Him at the center, the fulcrum of the seesaw and ask him to determine the outcome.

“Wake up, my God?”  Did David actually think that God was dozing?  Probably not, but we often think God has taken too long to bring about justice to those who have caused us pain.  His hesitancy to bring judgment to all of us, for which I am thankful, comes because of what David himself said, “You look deep within the mind and heart, O righteous God.” (9)  He isn’t asleep; He sees man’s heart and He is merciful. 

“If a person does not repent, God will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow.  He will prepare his deadly weapons and shoot his flaming arrows.” (12)  Our merciful God waits for repentance, longs for the contrite heart of David to fill the hearts of our enemies so that He can seat mercy rather than judgment.  But without repentance, the evil deeds of our enemies fall on their own heads. (16)

In the natural, because of our nature, we would never extend this mercy, but when we allow God to sit at the fulcrum of our hearts, our enemies just may repent.  Regardless, when it’s all said and done, God will rule with justice, “I will thank the Lord because He is just; I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.”(17)  Sometimes it’s rough out there on the playground of life, and it may feel safer to withdraw and stay inside.  But we need to remember that we have Someone watching over us, observing all that is happening, Someone who is just and plays fair.  Come on, I’ll race you to the slide! 

Moving Forward:  I’ve determined that in the situations I face today, I will allow God’s justice to rule. 

Tomorrow @ Job 5-6

Joshua 1-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is willing to save anyone who calls Him Lord

Whenever I’m visiting a city for the first time anywhere in the world, I make it a point to find a travel book on the city or visit the local Visitor’s Center for maps and local information.  But when I get down to the nitty-gritty about where to eat, shop and hang out, I talk to the locals.  Yes, the hotel concierge is helpful to a point, but when I want to find the best seafood or barbeque ribs in town, I have a little chat with some of the locals, especially those who look like they’ve eaten a rib or two.  Joshua’s two covert spies that entered Jericho must have had this same strategy; but, unlike them, I must admit I’ve never chatted with a harlot…to my knowledge. 

@ Joshua 2
“Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.’ So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night.” (1)  Help!  What were two nice Jewish boys doing in a place like that!  Well, I imagine it might be a good place to gather information from the locals.  We are uncertain of their reason for stopping at Rahab’s place and they may have been unsure themselves, but we do know that God was in it.  After all, if God can use a talking donkey, an ungodly Persian king and a stubborn Pharaoh to accomplish His will, He certainly can use a prostitute.

Rahab gave just the information the spies needed to know, “We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror. For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below.” (9-11)   Most agents of espionage only hope to have intelligence like this handed to them!

Rahab’s actions that night not only spared the lives of the two spies when the king’s men came searching for them, but also provided them with valuable information to report to Joshua. “Then the two spies came down from the hill country… and reported to Joshua all that had happened to them. ‘The Lord has given us the whole land,’ they said, ‘for all the people in the land are terrified of us.’” (23-24)  Victory was at hand!

Through her encounter with the spies, Rahab and her entire family were saved.  As a relative of Boaz, she is mentioned in Matthew in the lineage of Jesus, imagine that.  And because of her faith, Rahab is included with the Heroes of Faith in Hebrews 11.  When God chooses individuals to use for His purposes, we would be wise not to question the validity of their credentials.  God saw a hungry heart in Rahab who recognized Him as “the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below,” and, sadly, many of the Israelites never made that leap of faith.  Rahab the prostitute was a hero.

There are individuals connected with us at work, in the neighborhood or even in our families who we feel are the least likely to ever find the Lord as their Savior, but because they are in our lives, we are probably wrong.  God sees their hearts and, like the spies, we are expected by God to follow His leading to their heart’s door with the message of Jesus.  Who knows how God will use them to bring victory in our own lives.

Moving Forward:  Because He knows each heart that is open to Him today, I’ll follow Him wherever He leads me, regardless. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 1-2

Esther 6-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is keeping perfect records of our good deeds and acts of kindness

While Tom and I served as youth pastors many years ago, I was also the church bookkeeper.  Being somewhat dyslexic with numbers, this was a challenge for me.  The dictionary says that dyslexia is not caused by low intelligence or brain damage, which is a great relief to me.  I also admit that I was always just a little over the top on balancing the books each month to the penny – no mercy – to the penny!  Over the years, I spent several all-nighters searching for that penny or two so that I could close the books for the month.  I’m not sure what this disorder is called, but any free analysis is appreciated.

I’m happy to report, however, there is Someone who is keeping the books on each one of us, keeping track of all that we do and say, and He has no disorders or phobias.  His books are balanced to the very second, they never fall short and are disclosed at the perfect moment in time.  This truth is vividly portrayed in the life of Esther’s uncle, Mordecai.

@ Esther 6
“That night the king had trouble sleeping, so he ordered an attendant to bring the book of the history of his reign so it could be read to him.  In those records he discovered an account of how Mordecai had exposed the plot of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the eunuchs who guarded the door to the king’s private quarters. They had plotted to assassinate King Xerxes.” (1-2)  The Jews in Persia were on the verge of being annihilated by the king’s evil assistant, Haman; and out of the blue, the king discovered this valiant act by Jewish Mordecai that was buried in the Persian history books.  Imagine that.

My mom was the Sunday School teacher for sixth grade girls at her church for 20 years.  During that time, every girl that attended her class heard an anointed teaching every Sunday, material she had studied, prayed and even wept over at times.  Every girl in her class heard the message of Jesus and was given an opportunity to accept Him and receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit as well.  Times had changed and younger voices were desired so mom retired from her position.  She cared nothing about this, but I observed that little appreciation was expressed to her at the time.

As she stepped into eternity a few years ago, however, I know the One who keeps the books met her with the only words of appreciation she ever wanted to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)  In recent years, I’ve reconnected with some of the girls who sat in her class Sunday after Sunday, and they have expressed their appreciation to me for the testimony and example my mom was to them.  I probably needed hearing their words more at that time than my mom ever needed hearing them.  God has a way of disclosing the books at the perfect moment.

The recognition of good deeds and right living often has a way of falling through the cracks with little notice or so it seems; but when those deeds are done with the right motive, we really don’t care whether or not they are noticed or appreciated.  There is a satisfaction that comes just from doing the right thing.  However, God is keeping the books on all our deeds; and whether they are disclosed during this lifetime or in eternity, the reward will come at just the right moment.

“Mordecai the Jew became the prime minister, with authority next to that of King Xerxes himself. He was very great among the Jews, who held him in high esteem, because he continued to work for the good of his people and to speak up for the welfare of all their descendants.” (10:3)  Now today as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we honor as well the good deeds of Mordecai and the selflessness of Esther, an Old Testament type or example of Jesus. Their faithful deeds are ministering to us today at just the right moment. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful that I’m no longer a bookkeeper but most thankful for the One who is keeping the books on my life.  His books are balanced right to the very second, they never fall short and are revealed at the perfect moment in time. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 149-150

Psalms 143-145 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His grace and goodness are immeasurable, His love unfailing

“Would anyone like to share a testimony tonight of what God has done in your life this past week?”  Those of us who remember hearing this invitation from our pastor during a Wednesday or Sunday night service are probably over 50 years old.  At that invitation, church members would stand and give a testimony.  As a little girl, I enjoyed hearing testimonies of miracles, healing and provision straight from the mouths of people I knew.

Yes, sometimes Sister So and So would go on and on for quite a while and share much more than was needed, and as churches grew in size, it was difficult to hear what was being said. But the testimony service seemed to build a foundation of faith in me – God is faithful, He will not fail me and He loves to bless His children.  Today I love when my pastor calls someone up front to share about the goodness of the Lord, and I love the testimony of David in our reading today. 

@ Psalm 145
“Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness… Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness. Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness.” (3,6-7)  Well, it’s testimony time!  Regardless of the difficult challenges we may be facing at the moment, there is always something that will stir us to give praise and glory to our God.  Just in case we need a reminder, David supplied us today in verses 8-20 with some thoughts that should encourage our testimony of praise:

  • The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
  • Slow to get angry
  • And filled with unfailing love.
  • The Lord is good to everyone.
  • He showers compassion on all his creation.
  • All of your works will thank you, Lord,
  • And your faithful followers will praise you.
  • They will speak of the glory of your kingdom;
  • They will give examples of your power.
  • They will tell about your mighty deeds
  • And about the majesty and glory of your reign.
  • For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
  • You rule throughout all generations.
  • The Lord always keeps his promises;
  • He is gracious in all he does.
  • The Lord helps the fallen
  • And lifts those bent beneath their loads.
  • The eyes of all look to you in hope;
  • You give them their food as they need it.
  • When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing.
  • The Lord is righteous in everything he does;
  • He is filled with kindness.
  • The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.
  • He grants the desires of those who fear him;
  • Hears their cries for help and rescues them.
  • The Lord protects all those who love him, but he destroys the wicked.

Our testimony service has gone on and on, but my faith is renewed!  I am reminded that God is faithful, He will not fail me and He loves to bless His children. Our testimonies are powerful tools, building faith in us and touching the hearts of others as well, giving power to overcome the enemy.  Revelation 12:11 gives insight to the cause of our future victory, “And they overcame [the enemy] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (KJV)  I’m wondering, does anyone have a testimony today of what God has done in your life?  I’m certain you do. 

Moving Forward:  “My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD: and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.” (KJV 21) 

Tomorrow @ Song of Solomon 3-4

2 Chronicles 33-36 (NLT)

Discover His heart:  His blessing follows our choice to serve Him

I was about twelve when my dad asked me to go with him one Saturday to a Minnesota Twins baseball game.  They were playing the New York Yankees, so this was an offer I couldn’t refuse.  It was a great game with the Twins ahead for an inning or two, then the Yankees ahead, back and forth until the eighth inning when the Yankees scored bringing them ahead by one point, and the Twins came back with nothing.  Top of the ninth, Yankees did not score.

Finally, it was the bottom of the ninth, Twins at bat, one man on and the batter hit a Home Run.  Twins win it by one!  The crowd went wild!  I think it was Yogi Berra who said regarding baseball, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”  Of course, he also said, “Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.” So… 

@ 2 Chronicles 36
“So the Lord brought the king of Babylon against them…They had no pity on the people, killing both young men and young women, the old and the infirm. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar…Then his army burned the Temple of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, burned all the palaces, and completely destroyed everything of value…The few who survived were taken as exiles to Babylon.” (17-20)  Over the past several months we’ve read about the warnings and prophecies of the prophets, God’s final attempt to change the hearts of His people but to no avail.  The Israelites continued in their sinful lifestyle, disregarding God’s laws. They proudly thought that they would have the final say over their own lives.  But they didn’t.

“So the message of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said.” (21)  One of the laws the Israelites refused to observe was the command to allow the land to rest from planting one year out of every seven.  This law was for their own good so that the soil would be replenished and provide the nutrients they needed in their food, yet they willfully disregarded the law.  Now the land would have 70 years of rest in a row to compensate for the years that were missed.  God is always the last one up to bat.

Sometimes we think we can live the way we choose without any ramifications.  As we read in yesterday’s scripture, “Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse! You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today.  But you will be cursed if you reject the commands of the Lord your God.” (2 Chronicles 36:26-27)

Yes, we walk in the grace of the New Testament, but we still have to choose the one we faithfully will follow, no fence sitting or gray areas.  A baseball game never ends in a tie; the innings are played out until the last batter determines the game.  In life, our loving God shows mercy to us inning after inning as He draws us to Him, we make our choices and He always closes out the game. I’m good with that. 

Moving Forward:  When we walk away from our willful ways and surrender to the One who determines the final score, we can’t lose. We’re making that run to our eternal Home! 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 128-130

Habakkuk (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He uses whatever means He chooses to change the hearts of men

I’ve had several friends throughout the years that are just plain bold.  They’re not intimidated by anyone and seem to have the intestinal fortitude to ask the hard questions of others without batting an eye.  Some of them have come from difficult situations that have made them strong and fearless, and I think a few of them just don’t know any better.  Regardless, they are the ones I like on my team, whatever the task, because they get the answers we need.  After reading Habakkuk, I get the impression that he was one of them.  I mean, with a name like Habakkuk, it’s either going to make you or break you, and in the way he addressed the Lord, I think we can assume he made it just fine.

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen!  Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.  Must I forever see these evil deeds?  Why must I watch all this misery?” (1:2-3)  See what I mean?  Habakkuk was bold, he asked the hard questions of the Lord and he certainly lived up to the reputation of a prophet.  God answered Habakkuk’s questions because He understood his heart.  Over the years, the prophet pleaded with the Israelites to repent and sought God’s help, but sin and disobedience increased.  In these verses, He was calling on God to act.  Many of us find ourselves in similar situations, calling for our nation, our family or our friends to repent and praying for God to act, but as Habakkuk learned, we must be prepared to accept how He chooses to respond.

“Look around at the nations; look and be amazed!  For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it. I am raising up the Babylonians, a cruel and violent people.  They will march across the world and conquer other lands.” (1:5-6)  God would one day allow the Babylonians to humble Israel, but this wasn’t what Habakkuk had in mind when he prayed.  Not willing to hold back, he responded to the Lord, “O Lord my God, my Holy One, you who are eternal—surely you do not plan to wipe us out? O Lord, our Rock, you have sent these Babylonians to correct us, to punish us for our many sins…Will you wink at their treachery?” (12-13)

God will use whatever means He desires to bring about change in the hearts of men, and He went on to inform Habakkuk that Babylon would one day receive its punishment for its willingness to destroy Israel.  Whatever change we are praying about in the lives of individuals or nations, we must surrender to God’s omnipotent plan for the answer he chooses and not attempt to confine Him to our limited understanding.

When I surrender to His divine plan for the one I am praying about, I often say a similar prayer as this offered by Habakkuk, “I have heard all about you, Lord.  I am filled with awe by your amazing works.  In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by.  And in your anger, remember your mercy.” (3:2) Remember your mercy.  We surrender to your plan, but our hearts cry for mercy. Don’t give us what we deserve, but be merciful in how you perfect and change us.  And we know He hears our prayer because we, just like Habakkuk, have heard all about Him. (3:2) 

Moving Forward: I may not be a bold prophet like Habakkuk, but I know how to pray a bold prayer for my nation and for those I love.  I will trust His plan to bring about change, but with it, I pray for His mercy. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 9-10

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