59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59–60, NKJV)
The heart of Stephen is revealed as his life is taken by cruel men and horrible means. Accused by false witnesses, he spoke the truth to people who were “stiff-necked uncircumcised in heart and ears,” who resisted the Holy Spirit by refusing the word He gave them through the prophets (Acts 7:51-52). As they rushed upon him in hatred and hurled stones at him in anger, Stephen sought God’s mercy for them. When someone sins against you, how do you react? With anger? With hatred? Do you try to harm them in some way? The way of the righteous is different. When wronged, the righteous trust in God, as Stephen did. He had the heart of compassion that each Christian must develop (Colossians 3:12). Even in the face of great injustice, rise above the fray. Keep your trust in the Lord Jesus. Keep your heart pure. Keep your conduct righteous. And, thank God for men like Stephen, who set such a worthy example to follow.
8 Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll, that it may be for time to come, forever and ever: 9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; 10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.” (Isaiah 30:8–10, NKJV)
God wanted there to be no doubt as to why Israel would come under the penalty of His judgment and be fragmented as a nation (Isaiah 30:12-14; Jeremiah 30:11). The prophet’s inscription of God’s word has left an indelible explanation that instructs us today. Like the rebellion of lying children who refuse to obey their parents, Israel rebelliously rejected and opposed God’s servants the prophets (Jeremiah 7:23-27). They rebelled at His word and called for smooth teachings instead of the right things of God. They were willing to be deceived by sin and error. Their rebellion was their downfall. Do not argue against the word of God. Do not call for smooth teachings that feel good but deny the truth (God’s word). One who refuses the truth of God is in rebellion against God. That is a most unenviable, most repulsive, place to be. If that is where you are, leave your rebellion and go back to your heavenly Father. He is merciful, and ready to forgive (Luke 15:11-24).
41 Let Your mercies come also to me, O Lord— Your salvation according to Your word. 42 So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Your word. (Psalm 119:41–42)
The psalmist understood what is easily forgotten; God’s mercy is inseparably attached to God’s word. The mercy and grace of God that saves sinners is available to us all (Hebrews 2:9). Yet, God’s gracious mercy is only received by sinners according to the word of God. Sinners are saved “by grace, through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Grace is God’s part; faith is our part. Salvation by God’s grace is given to the person who dies to sin, not to the person who continues to sin in violation of God’s word (Romans 6:1-2). Like the psalmist, we trust in God’s word to answer those who reproach us for relying on the mercies of God. We trust in God’s word to establish and secure our faith. It leads us to God’s mercies and assures our trust in Him to save us by His grace as we walk by faith, doing His word. Thank God for His merciful salvation and the word of His grace in which we put our truth (Acts 20:32).
16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul. 17 I cried to Him with my mouth, and He was extolled with my tongue. 18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear. 19 But certainly God has heard me; He has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer, nor His mercy from me! (Psalm 66:16–20, NKJV)
The psalmist was eager to tell God-fearers what God did for his soul. God heard his prayers and blessed him with mercy. Like him, we also need divine mercy. He has assured us mercy in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). God will hear and answer the prayers of His people, who 1) Fear Him (verse 16), 2) Praise Him (verse 17), and 3) Refuse to give their attention to sin (verse 18). God did not only hear this man’s prayer, He attended to his prayer. The prayers of God’s people bring Him to action! God’s mercy is turned toward those who fear Him, trust Him, and praise Him. His mercy is given to those who refuse to approve of sin. “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29). May we ever tell what great things God has done for our souls through His Son, Jesus Christ!
1 The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. 2 He shall enter into peace; They shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness. (Isaiah 57:1–2, NKJV)
Because Israel’s watchmen were blind and silent, the righteous among them perished. There was no mercy in the land; sin and suffering had taken control of the land. The death of the righteous was a blessing in disguise. By death, the righteous were extracted from the impending calamity of judgment brought on by the nation’s sins. We can get so wrapped up in thinking about life here and now, that we forget the blessing death will bring. For sure, death brings sorrow of loss and separation. But Christians see it as much more. For the righteous, death gives passage away from merciless evil, to a place of rest and comfort (Luke 16:19-25). Let us view death as an exit and an entrance. Death is our exit from a sin-filled world, and our entrance into joyful peace. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). May we walk in uprightness, and see the blessedness of death’s deliverance from pain, into an abiding rest for the soul.
3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. 4 The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, than the mighty waves of the sea. (Psalm 93:3–4, NKJV)
Jehovah God, clothed in majesty and girded with strength, reigns in eternity, high above the world He created (Psalm 93:1-2). Powerful flood waters rise as hurricanes and cyclones ravage coastal plains. Disaster strikes. Lives lost. Property destroyed. But, our God reigns on high, and is mightier than the strongest tidal surge. He appointed the boundaries of the seas; they will not prevail beyond measure (Psalm 104:5-9). The havoc of storms, floods, and other natural catastrophes bring into focus the sovereign power and majesty of God. Our confidence is in Him who never slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4). Most importantly, God’s mercy and truth endure through the dark night of sin’s terror, brightening the way to eternity (Colossians 1:13; Ephesians 5:8). Fellow Jesus, and have the light of life (John 8:12). He will see you through the storm, and land you safely on eternity’s shore.
16 Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity? 17 Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul would soon have settled in silence. 18 If I say, “My foot slips,” Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. 19 In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul. (Psalm 94:16–19, NKJV)
The Lord has not promised to remove Christians from the hour of trial and trouble. Indeed, He did not remove His own Son from trouble. Jesus said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27). God’s purposes are served, even when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. God did not abandon His Son, and He will not abandon you. He is our refuge and strength when evildoers press upon us. He delivers us from the depths of despair. His presence, power and mercy delights the soul, especially in the face of unsettling troubles. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” … Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:35, 37).