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077 The heart and mercy of God

Everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted’  Luke 18:14

Key Verse:

“God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble’   (1 Peter 5:5)

(Luke 18,15)

Throughout our studies in the Holy Scriptures, we have seen that God is holy and righteous and that He cannot tolerate sin. Yet we have also seen that He is also

merciful and compassionate.

That is wonderful news for us, because we desperately need His mercy, since

we have all greatly offended God.

Our trespasses and our sins are evil before God, and they will condemn us forever unless He has mercy on us! We plan to read

two parables

which the Lord Jesus spoke to the crowds. Through these two interesting stories we will learn about the great mercy that fills God’s heart, and how sinners can receive that mercy.

In the first parable, we will see two men: one who did not receive God’s mercy and one who received it. One belonged to the group of the Pharisees and was very zealous in prayer, in fasting, and in giving alms.

He was exceedingly religious in the eyes of man.

The other man was a tax collector, and thus a great sinner in the eyes of man, because most tax collectors were dishonest.

Listen to the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Scripture says: (Luke 18:9-14) “And he spoke this parable unto certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

Two men went up into the temple to pray;

the one a Pharisee, and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess. And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying,

God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted”.

What did Jesus want to teach through this short parable? In brief, Jesus taught that

God shows mercy

to those who acknowledge their unrighteousness before Him and that He condemns those who imagine themselves to be righteous before Him. That is what the Scripture declares when it says: “God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5) What man esteems,

God despises.

Can God accept those who praise themselves, thinking, “I am a righteous person! I say my prayers! I fast! give alms! I go to church! I do this and that!”? Are all these “I”s pleasing to God? Not at all! The heart of God cannot be happy with works that originate from pride.

God hates the proud heart.

Do you remember Cain, Adam’s firstborn son, who tried to approach God by his own efforts? Did God accept his sacrifice? No, God did not accept it. Friends,

God has not changed.

To this day, the heart of God cannot be happy with the self-efforts of man, because our efforts are not perfect before Him. What God wants is for us to recognize our sinful condition, like the tax collector, who beat his breast, saying,

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

It is such a broken heart that causes God to rejoice. But He abhors those who compare themselves with their fellowman, like the Pharisee, who said to himself, “I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.”

What the Pharisee failed to realise was that on the Day of Judgement,

God will not compare us with our sinful fellowman.

Instead, God will compare us with His own holy and perfect law which declares: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10) The God who said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” also said, “Thou shalt not lie.” If you have not committed adultery, but you have told a lie, then you have broken God’s law. You cannot enter Paradise,

the presence of God,

because the Scripture says: “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful.” (Rev. 21:27) That is why the children of Adam need

the mercy of God.

Dear friend, have you, like the tax collector in the parable, received God’s mercy? Or are you, like the Pharisee, still trying to become righteous by your own efforts?

Now let us read the second parable which shows that the heart of God is full of love and mercy, like a father who loves his children. In the Gospel of Luke, we read: (Luke 15) “Then drew near unto him all the tax collectors and sinners to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying,

This man receiveth sinners,

and eateth with them.

And he spoke this parable unto them, saying, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost,

until he find it?

And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more that over ninety and nine righteous persons, who need no repentance.

Either what woman, having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a lamp, and sweep the house, and seek diligently

till she find it?

And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God

over one sinner that repenteth.

And he said, A certain man had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after that, the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. When he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and

he began to be in want.

And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat; and no man gave unto him. And

when he came to himself,

he said, How many of my father’s servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants. And

he arose, and came to his father.

But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and against thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat,

and be merry.

For this, my son, was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because

he hath received him safe and sound.

And he was angry, and would not go in; therefore came his father out, and entreated him. And he, answering, said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this, thy son, was come, who hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and

all that I have is thine.

It was fitting that we should make merry, and be glad; for this, thy brother, was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found”.

What does God want to teach us through this fascinating parable? In it, we saw three men: the father, the younger son and the older son.

  • The father in the story represents God.
  • The younger son illustrates sinners who repent of their sins and turn to God for mercy.
  • The elder son illustrates religious people who deceive themselves by thinking they are righteous before God.

First, let us think a little about the younger son who followed his sinful nature in wild living in a faraway land.

What became of him?

We saw how he eventually recognized that he had offended God and man. He was grieved because of his sins and repented, saying, “I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father,

I have sinned

against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.” Thus, we saw how the younger son turned his back on the pig pen and headed for his father’s house.

What about the father–what did he do? Was he angry with his son who had wasted his wealth? Did he merely take him back as a slave? No! Jesus said, “But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him,

and had compassion,

and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and against thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry. For this, my son, was dead, and is alive again; he was lost,

and is found.”

What are we to learn from this? We can learn that God is exactly like that father who was full of mercy!

God loves sinners,

and wants to show them mercy, but He waits for each sinner to repent of his sins and follow the way of righteousness that He has established.

Concerning the elder son, we saw an amazing thing. The elder son did not have the heart of compassion of his father. Instead,

he became angry

and refused to enter the house, saying to his father, “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.”

Did you hear what the elder son said?

He said, “Look! All these years I’ve been working for you, like a slave!” However, what the elder son did not understand was that the father did not want a son who worked for him like a slave. What he wanted was a son who would love him from the heart and

take pleasure in doing his will.

To this day, many children of Adam are like that elder son that we see in this parable. They consider themselves to be nothing more than “slaves of God.” But God does not want us to be like mere slaves. He wants us to be like sons and daughters to Him. That is what the Holy Scripture declares concerning those who receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior, saying: “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15)

Dear friend,

do you view yourself as a slave of God or a son of God?

How do you see yourself in the parable we just read? Are you like the younger son who recognized his sin and received his father’s mercy? Or are you like the elder son who worked for his father like a slave? God doesn’t want you to be like a slave who fears his master. What God wants is for you to be like a son who loves his father, happy to do his will. God loves you and longs to show you mercy, but

He is waiting for you to repent and turn to Him.

That is what the prophet Isaiah wrote, saying: “And therefore the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you; for the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all they that wait for him” (Isaiah 30:18)

God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, waits for you to come to Him, just as the father in the parable waited for his younger son to come back home. God wants you to repent with a broken and humble heart. If you come like this to God and seek Him with your whole heart, then you can be certain that you will meet the God who has a father’s heart,

full of compassion and mercy.

But the one who is proud and scorns God’s great mercy can hope for nothing except God’s judgment which will be without mercy!

In our next lesson, God willing, we will continue in the Gospel to see how Jesus restored to life a dead man who had been in the tomb for four days!

May God give you insight into what we have studied today. And remember: 

“God resisteth the proud but giveth grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

We would invite you to answer the questions attached and send them together with any questions that you might have