THE SERVANT GENERAL
OUR THEME FOR 2016
MERCY AND JUSTICE - 3
What is mercy? It is withholding the punishment due for
sin. “Turn from your burning wrath; change your mind
about punishing your people.” (Ex 32:12b). Before
mercy, there is serious sin and the punishment that should
be due. Thus mercy becomes even more amazing and extraordinary,
because punishment is due and is just, but is withheld.
if God is merciful, why should He be angry and intent on
punishing? God is a holy God and sin is an affront to the
holiness of God. Turning away from God, rejecting or rebelling
against Him, disobedience, looking to other gods as idols,
all in the face of God’s goodness and divine care,
are all serious sins that deserve severe punishment. God
said to Moses, “your people, whom you brought out
of the land of Egypt, have acted corruptly. They have quickly
turned aside from the way I commanded them, making for themselves
a molten calf and bowing down to it” (Ex 32:7-8a).
Don’t such things merit the wrath of God?
in the face of God’s mighty deeds among them, the
Israelites continued to be rebellious. “I have seen
this people, how stiff-necked they are” (Ex 32:9).
Since God is about raising a people of His own, their continued
rejection of His ways make them useless to His plans. And
since God continues to work in the world through human instruments,
He seeks a people that will obey Him and manifest His glory.
“Let me alone, then, that my anger may burn against
them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.”
there was justifiable reason for the wrath of God. But there
was also His mercy, which predominated. “So the Lord
changed his mind about the punishment he had threatened
to inflict on his people.” (Ex 32:14).
we Christians, the new Israel, are much the same as our
have our idols. “At Horeb they fashioned a calf,
worshiped a metal statue.” (Ps 106:19). These idols
may be money, sex, power, consumerism, hedonism and the
like. In our pursuit of these, we live contrary to God’s
We demean God in whose image we are created and the name
of Christ by which name we are known. “They exchanged
their glory for the image of a grass-eating bull.”
(Ps 106:20). We are supposed to be God’s light to
the world and witnesses to Jesus. However, we instead
wallow with everyone else in the darkness of sin and give
a bad name to Christ and our Church.
We are unmindful of all the good God does for us, including
our very salvation. “They forgot the God who had
saved them, who had done great deeds in Egypt” (Ps
106:21). Our lives are totally dependent upon God, but
we are ungrateful for all the good that He does for us--for
life, health, family, day-to-day provisions, livelihood,
service. Jesus has saved us, but we continue to embrace
the world of sin.
so we too are deserving of punishment, having turned against
God and no longer being instruments of His will for the
world. “He would have decreed their destruction”
(Ps 106:23a). But God is merciful. It does not mean we can
now abuse His mercy and continue to go about our sinful
ways. What mercy is is actually an invitation to repentance,
which is the way “to turn back his destroying anger.”
understood the mercy of God. That is why he “bargained”
with the Lord to spare a sinful people. We too need to understand
the inscrutable mercy of God. “For if you had believed
Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about
me.” (Jn 5:46). Jesus reveals a Father who is merciful.
Further, Jesus, in his life and works, reveals a merciful
God, reaching out to sinners. We see such mercy over and
over again in the Bible, especially the life of Jesus in
the New Testament. “You search the scriptures, ....
even they testify on my behalf.” (Jn 5:39).
rightly and justly deserve condemnation, but Jesus has saved
us, and God continues to be merciful to us. We must not
abuse such mercy, but with great gratitude look to God’s
mercy as our way to a deeper life in Him.