March, 20, 2014
“Hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is mercy and loving – kindness and with Him is plenteous redemption.”
Psalm 130: 7
“The Sin Problem #3”
“Mercy is compassion in action.”
Have I ever experienced an act of mercy in my life?
How did it make me feel?
“Mercy” – Kind, compassionate and forgiving treament.
“Among the attributes of God, although they are all equal, mercy shines with even more brilliance than justice.”
Migual de Cervantes
(1547 – 1616)
In Luke 18 a story is recorded of two men – one a Pharisee, the other a publican or as the Bible calls him, a tax collector.
Now, as we may all understand, tax collectors were not the favorite individuals in society. At the time of Jesus, these fellows, called publicans, made their personal fortune off the money they collected from others. They were the collection agencies getting a percentage off of the money, which at times, they connived to get from others. Throughout the New Testament, absolutely no other occupation was looked upon with such disdain.
By the same token, the Pharisees, rulers in Jewish society, were individuals whose business and community leadership had elevated them into a ruling position, thus giving them distinction and the praise of men.
Jesus was well aware of the regard given to the Pharisees and the contempt heaped upon the publicans. So it is a point we must not skip over lightly when we read that Jesus speaks about these two opposites when He relates an experience which took place at the local Temple. I want to add one thing here. The Jewish temple in Christ’s day was truly at the hub of Jewish education and worship. When Jesus was just a little baby, He was brought to the Temple to be blessed. We find Him again as a child in an instructional discussion in the Temple with the learned teachers. And later in life, in Luke 4: 16, Amplified Bible we are told that, “Jesus entered the synagogue, as was His custom on the Sabbath day. And He stood up to read.” It is quite possible Jesus may have witnessed firsthand the details of this story He shares.
Luke 18: 10-14 Amplified Bible. tells the story. “Two men went up into the Temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee took his stand ostentatiously and began to pray thus before and with himself; ‘God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men – extortionists, swindlers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I gain.’” Boy, wasn’t this guy heaven’s darling. And if you don’t believe it – just ask him. He was Mr. Perfect! He even had the audacity, right while he was praying, to point a finger of disgust at the low-life publican who dared enter the holy Temple space and pray at the same time he was. I’m certain his demeaning words could be heard by the publican who probably wished he could hide behind the Temple curtains.
Feeling like a little worm, the publican, most likely felt it useless to ask God for anything save one simple request. “But the tax collector standing at a distance, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept striking his breast, saying, ‘O God, be gracious, be merciful to me, the especially wicked sinner that I am.’” (Luke 18:13, Amplified Bible).
This publican could think only of one thing he needed. No new house. No position. No fancy clothes. He wanted mercy. That was all. He didn’t ask God to take vengeance on the Pharisee for putting him down. He just wanted God to take pity on him because his need was so great.
As Jesus ended the story, He said: “I tell you, this publican went down to his home justified, forgiven, made upright and in right standing with God, rather than the other man.” And I love the way The Message paraphrases the last part of Luke 18: 14: “If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself!” Why? Because you will be all that God wants you to be and His plans for us, remember, are above all that we could ask or think. (Ephesians 3: 20).
It is no wonder that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5). As John Chrysostom so aptly penned, “Do you wish to receive mercy? Show mercy on your neighbor.”
Our Heavenly Father promises that when we turn our thoughts to Him, when we return to Him, He will have mercy on us. (Isaiah 55:7). That is the promise that touched the sorrow-filled heart of a despised publican and led him to the feet of Jesus where he cried out, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.” And he was not turned away. His request was answered.
“Like the publican I call out,
‘Forgive me, Savior…
Accept my lamentation,
As once thou hast
Accepted the entreaties
Of the woman of Canaan.
Have mercy on me, O God.
Have mercy on me.”
Andrew of Crete
“When once the day comes when I have to appear before
My Lord, then I will not come with my deeds, with the
Volumes of my “Dogmatics” (all my writings) on my back.
All the angels in Heaven would have to laugh. But then I
Shall also say, ‘I have always meant well; I had good faith.’
No, then I will only say one thing, ‘Lord, be merciful
To me, a poor sinner!’”
In Your Mercy”
“Lord, hear; Lord forgive; Lord do,
Hear what I speak not,
Forgive what I speak amiss,
Do what I leave undone;
That, not according to my
Word or my deed,
But according to Thy mercy and truth,
All may issue to Thy glory
And the good of Thy Kingdom.”
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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