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(Part 45)


September 11, 2016

Today’s readings:
Exodus 32:7-14
Psalm 51:3-19
1 Timothy 1:12-17
Luke 15:1-32

Jesus came into the world in order to save us from our sins and win for us our salvation. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Tm 1:15b). Because God so loved the world, He does not want anyone to be lost. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to look for the one lost sheep (Lk 15:4).

Now how is one lost? It is through serious unrepented sin. For this there ought to be punishment, as God is not just a God of love and mercy but also a God of justice. When the Israelites turned away from God and began worshiping a molten calf (Ex 32:8), it would have been right for God to punish them. “Let me alone, then, that my anger may burn against them to consume them.” (Ex 32:10a). But on the intercession of Moses, God relented and had mercy. “So the Lord changed his mind about the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.” (Ex 32:14).

God always shows mercy when we are repentant and when we turn back to Him. This is despite the greatest of our sins. David was an adulterer and a murderer. But he recognized his sin. “For I know my transgressions; my sin is always before me.” (Ps 51:5). He repented and asked for God’s mercy. “Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love; in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash away my guilt; and from my sin cleanse me.” (Ps 51:3-4).

Paul as Saul was a great sinner, raging against God’s people and dragging them to prison. “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man” (1 Tm 1:13a). But he was converted by Jesus and turned to him in repentance, experiencing his mercy. Thus he proclaimed, “I have been mercifully treated” (1 Tm 1:13b). God forgives the greatest sinners. “Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated” (1 Tm 1:15c-16a). This was God’s great manifestation of mercy, coming out of His love for all, desiring no one to be lost. As Paul says in pointing to himself, “so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life.” (1 Tm 1:16b).

Then there is the prodigal son. His sin was also great, rejecting his father, turning away from his home, wasting the family resources, engaging in wanton living. But he came to his senses, and “so he got up and went back to his father.” (Lk 15:20a). He recognized his sin and was repentant. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” (Lk 15:18b). Now just punishment for his great sin should have been severe, and he recognized this. “I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.” (Lk 15:19).

But God is a God of mercy. When a sinner repents and returns to Him, He will no longer punish. “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” (Lk 15:20b). God not only forgives, but He fully restores. “But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.’” (Lk 15:22).

The mercy of God abounds. Jesus came into the world so that we might experience such mercy and be saved. Such salvation is awesome, as “this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.” (Lk 15:24a). One can see why for sinners returning to the fold, there is great rejoicing in heaven. “I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Lk 15:7). “In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk 15:10).

“Then the celebration began.” (Lk 15:24b).

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