6 You will prolong the king’s life, His years as many generations. 7 He shall abide before God forever. Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him! (Psalm 61:6–7, NKJV)
King David was sure that God would hear his prayers and protect him from his enemies (Psalm 61:1-3). For his part, David would abide with God and keep trusting in God’s sheltering wings, sure of God’s favor and reward of a heritage and abundant life (Psalm 61:4-6). God prepared two things that would preserve the king, mercy and truth. By these the king would be guarded by God to lead the people in wisdom and righteousness. Like the king, each of us will be shielded by God and assured of His blessings when we are merciful and guided by truth. “God shall send forth His mercy and His truth” to save the righteous and reproach is enemies (Psalm 57:3). “Mercy and truth preserve the king,” and they also bless us when we walk in them (Proverbs 20:28). With David, we praise God for the extent of His mercy and truth, “I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds” (Psalm 57:9-10). Let us commit ourselves to being merciful and living by God’s truth. By doing so you will have His favor and reap eternal life.
23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24, NKJV)
Jesus did not pronounce this stinging condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees because they were careful to tithe herbs (this was commanded in God’s law to Israel, Leviticus 27:30). He pronounced woe upon them for abandoning the principles and motives that characterize acceptable obedience to God. They strained out a gnat and swallowed a camel with their minute correctness while failing to obey God out of justice, mercy and faith. They “passed by justice and the love of God” in their zeal to keep the law (Luke 11:42). Unfortunately, this passage is frequently used as an “either, or” proposition to justify disobedience in the name of justice, mercy, faith and the love of God. Jesus did not say that. He taught that careful obedience is useless unless it genuinely expresses faith, mercy and justice. Obeying God does not contradict justice, mercy, and faith. While being faithful to obey God, be just and merciful to others. Do not “pass by the love of God” lest you fall into condemnation (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9–10, NKJV)
If the incentives for proclaiming the praises God of verse 9 are not enough, Peter now expands upon our spiritual condition before we answered God’s call to salvation. By doing so he gives crucial insight into our priestly service unto God. In the darkness of sin we were without faith and hope. Aliens and strangers to God, we were not God’s people. As we lived under the dark forces of Satan our allegiance was only to the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:13). But now, people of faith are the people of God who have been given heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:20). Likewise, we were without mercy under the rule of Satan as we were held in the merciless bondage of sin (John 8:34). But now we have received mercy from God in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). Because we are the recipients of God’s compassionate forgiveness we are compelled to proclaim His matchless grace to others. Once aliens, we are now citizens. Once oppressed, we are now forgiven. The grace of God we have in Christ demands we proclaim His excellence and serve Him faithfully (Titus 2:11-12). May we keep our charge with diligent faith.
And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Luke 11:4, NKJV)
Would you be forgiven of your sins if God forgave you the way you forgive others? Do you ask God to forgive you because you forgive everyone who sins against you? That is how Jesus said to pray to our heavenly Father about our forgiveness (see Matthew 6:12). God considers whether or not we forgive others when we ask Him to forgive us. Therefore, we need to examine our forgiveness of others. Forgiving those who sin against us is an action of faith which is necessary to be forgiven by the Father (Matthew 6:14; Luke 17:4-5). It is futile to expect God to forgive us when we will not forgive others. Jesus said, “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). The devil tempts us not to forgive others. He entices us to withhold from others the very things we need from God – mercy, compassion and forgiveness. We will lose our souls if we give in to his temptation. We are delivered from the temptation to withhold forgiveness by our own need for God’s forgiveness. Remember, it is the merciful who obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7).
38 But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath; 39 For He remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again. (Psalm 78:38–39, NKJV)
God shows repeated kindness and mercy to us. With reoccurring compassion, God did not fully destroy His people when Israel sinned against Him over and over. Psalm 78 rehearses the sad history of Israel’s rebellion against God. He gave Israel great and marvelous blessings by delivering His people from Egyptian slavery and sustaining them through the wilderness on the way to the promised land. Yet, Israel continually rebelled against God and provoked His wrath. He punished them, but He also had compassion on them by not pouring out His full wrath upon them. God shows “mercy to thousands, to those who love (Him) and keep (His) commandments” (Exodus 20:6). While He is “slow to anger and great in power,” He “will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3). God’s forgiveness is abundant. He is ready and able to forgive. But we must not tempt God by refusing His will, thinking His mercy gives us freedom to sin. Like Israel, we must turn away from our sins, love Him and keep His commands (Luke 13:3, 5; 1 John 1:9). God knows our failures and sins. He is full of compassion and forgiveness. Turn to Him for mercy to escape His wrath.
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).