1 Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth. 2 Why should the Gentiles say, “So where is their God?” 3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. (Psalm 115:1–3, NKJV)
The sovereignty of Yahweh (the “eternally-existing One,” Exo. 3:14-15) evokes, demands, and prompts us to praise and magnify His grandeur and power. In contrast to giving honor to God, the sin of idolatry is rooted in glorifying men instead (Psa. 115:4-8; Exo. 20:1-6). Idolatry is a lie that corrupts the nature of God and the lives of those exchange the truth of God for the lie (Rom. 1:21-25). We honor and praise the true and living God because of His mercy and truth. These are hallmarks of God’s sovereign dealings with humanity. Paul succinctly noted that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Thus, the sovereignty of God is not arbitrary (saving and condemning on a divine whim). Neither does it rob humanity of freewill, for we must “come” to the knowledge of the truth (Matt. 11:28-30). We are responsible before God to seek His mercy according to His truth. In His mercy, God has given His Son to be our Savior. In His truth, He calls sinners to believe the gospel of His Son, repent, and be baptized to be saved (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38). God’s mercy and truth brings the sinners to salvation, saved by grace through faith. To Your name we give glory, O Lord, God of mercy and of truth.
In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil. (Proverbs 16:6, NKJV)
One would be hard-pressed to find a more concise description of God’s part and man’s part in salvation “by grace…through faith” (unless it is this quote from Ephesians 2:8-9). God provides atonement for our sins out of the abundance of His mercy, revealing it by His word of truth. As the apostle Paul noted, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:4-5). God’s kind love and generous gift of mercy saves us. Yet, without the faith that comes from “the fear of the Lord,” one will not depart from evil to be saved. As Peter said, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35). Without God’s mercy we could not be saved. Without God’s truth we would not know we were lost in sin, and we could not have faith to fear Him and work that righteousness that He accepts. Truly, in God’s salvation “Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed” (Psa. 85:10). God’s mercy is offered to you. His truth commands you to believe and do His will. If you will fear the Lord and obey His gospel in faith, you will receive atonement for your sins (read Acts 2:36-41).
24 Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.’ (Luke 16:24–25, NKJV)
Death does not end our existence. That is clearly implied here. Furthermore, we learn here that salvation is not universal. The rich man’s plea for mercy is understandable. Even momentary relief from the torturous flame would be better than nothing. But, not even a drop of water would come. How many billions of souls believe eternal bliss awaits all who pass from this life?! Yet, Jesus told of something very different. After death, each man received according to how he had lived on earth. We must take to heart this important, timeless truth, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Gal. 6:7-8). For Lazarus, the pain was past. For the rich man, it had only just begun. How terrible it is to be lost! How comforting it is to be saved! The gospel will save you from your sins and show you how to live to be ready to die (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:17-18; Gal. 2:20; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). The rich man loved his money, and lost everything. Choose to love and follow Jesus. Live by His truth, and death will bring you blessed comfort.
1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, 2 who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. (Hebrews 3:1–2, NKJV)
We are exhorted to give careful and complete consideration to the High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus. The high priest under the law of Moses was “taken from among men” and “appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins” (Heb. 5:1). Aaron was called by God to fill this role (Heb. 5:4). By God’s oath, Christ was called by God as High Priest (Heb. 5:4-6, 10). Aaron entered a tabernacle made with human hands, there to offer animal blood for his sins and the sins of the people. But, our High Priest has entered heaven itself (the “true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man”), seated at God’s right hand (Heb. 8:1-2). He offered His own blood to God to atone for sins (Heb. 9:11-14, 23-26). By his freshly killed flesh, Jesus opened the way for sinners to have access to God’s mercy (Heb. 10:19-21). We draw near to God only because our High Priest offered His blood to God as a sacrifice for sins (Heb. 10:22). Now at God’s right hand, Jesus “always lives to make intercession” for “those who come to God through Him” (Heb. 7:25-28). Thus, Christians “come boldly to the throne of grace” and obtain mercy in our time of need (Heb. 4:16; 2:17-18). What an amazing High Priest is Christ Jesus (Heb. 7:26)!
28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:28–29, NKJV)
Moses’ law was clear concerning apostasy. The death penalty was applied under the Sinai law on the basis of two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 13:6-10; 19:15). The author presents his case from the lesser to the greater. Transgressing Moses’ law brought sure punishment upon those who rejected it. The Christian (though previously “sanctified,” v. 29) is much worthier of death for rejecting the redemption he received through the blood of the covenant. God’s mercy has been provided through Christ’s sacrifice (Hebrews 10:26) – there is no other source of mercy. The Christian who sins willfully tramples on the Son of God. The blood of Christ, that dedicated the new covenant, is profaned by it. The Spirit of God, who revealed God’s grace to the world, is insulted by it. All this is written to Christians as a deterrent against willfully sinning against God. If you have done so, you can change you’re the will of your heart by repenting and renewing your life of faith (1 John 1:9; Acts 8:20-24). God’s mercy is still available to you in Christ. Rejecting God’s mercy will bring you eternal death. Choosing to live in sin is not worthy that!
14 And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15 Then Hezekiah prayed to the Lord, saying: 16 “O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.” (Isaiah 37:14–16, NKJV)
Jerusalem was besieged and it appeared the city would soon be captured by Assyria. God’s prophet assured king Hezekiah that God would overthrow the Assyrian king (Isaiah 37:1-7). Now, messengers from Assyria’s king delivered a letter of intimidation and reproach to the king of Judah (Isaiah 37:8-13). Hezekiah’s faith remained in the Lord, and he brought the threat before Him. In verse 16, Hezekiah honored three attributes of God that we do well to remember when we come to God in time of trouble. He honored 1) God’s holiness and mercy (“the One who dwells between the cherubim” referred to the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place of the Jerusalem temple), 2) God’s sovereignty as the One true God (“You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth,” and 3) God as Creator of all things (“You have made heaven and earth”). When the enemies of truth and righteousness press down upon Christians, we assure our hearts and our faith with these eternal truths. Let us follow Hezekiah’s good example of faith. God does not forsake the faithful (Hebrews 13:5-6).
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:11–13, NKJV)
Did Jesus condone sin by eating with sinners? No. A careful reading of today’s text shows Jesus knew these people were sinners, because He alluded to their need for a physician. Was He “judging” them? No. They were sinners – “sick” in sin. Far from condoning sin or “judging” people unjustly, Jesus showed mercy by calling sinners “to repentance” while eating with them (Luke 15:1-2). Those who complained against Jesus for doing so had no mercy in their hearts for sinners. Why? Because they did not see their own sin and their own need for mercy. All have sinned, but not all sinners see their sin and how much they need mercy. These self-righteous complainers had no compassion toward sinners because they refused to deal honestly with their own sin (Luke 18:9-14). We learn to be merciful toward others by learning we need mercy, too. Mercy does not ignore sin, it calls on sinners to face their sin and to repent. That is what Jesus did. The Pharisee offers his sacrifices to God, yet forgets to be merciful (Matthew 23:23-24). And, he complains against those who shows God’s mercy to sinners. What a dreadful place to be!