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Sunday, December 18, 2011

There but for the grace of God...


The insolent ridicule me without mercy, but I don't budge from your revelation. 
   I watch for your ancient landmark words, and know I'm on the right track.  But when I see the wicked ignore your directions, I'm beside myself with anger. 
(Psalm 119:51-53 The Message)

I imagine all of us have stood at one time or another just wondering how some people could ignore that God is right there in their circumstances - but they are just too stubborn or blind to see it.  They know they should heed the warnings they have received, but they plunge full-force into whatever seems to be what will give them the "immediate" thrill of the moment.  Then they complain when things don't work out!  David said this made him angry - they had the revelation of God (they knew what to do) BUT they ignored it.  

When I thought about what David is saying here, my thoughts turned to the New Testament.  Jesus is teaching a large crowd one day, when in walk the religious leaders, intent on stoning a woman to death.  She had been "caught" in the act of adultery - that means they probably walked in on her and the guy she was with in the very act!  They were setting a trap for Jesus that day - not really looking for "wisdom" in how to handle this woman's sin!  They had an "ulterior" motive for what they were doing.  

They cite the Law of Moses - it said they should stone her - so, "What say you, Jesus?"  Yet, in almost a "fatherly" manner, Jesus delays answering.  He bends down, writes something in the dirt with his finger, and remains silent.  They cannot abide his silence - so they badger him for an answer.  I doubt they really wanted the answer they received - as they were already intent on what they wanted to do!  This is how we are sometimes - we have our own "agendas" with God.

This is actually what an ulterior motive is - it is having a secret agenda!  There is something hidden in our actions - we might say one thing, but we are thinking and acting on another. He rises to his full height, looks them squarely in the eyes, and states openly, "The sinless among you go first.  Throw the stone."   He was pointing out the need for mercy - they were focused on the need for judgment and the desire to corner him into disagreeing with the Law.

Don't get me wrong here - David makes a valid point.  When the wicked ignore clearly defined directions, it can make us angry.  We just don't "get it".  How can something so plain as the need for "mercy" in the face of all we have been forgiven be such a hard thing for us to grasp?  Yet, it is!  We grapple with this idea of "judging" others when we would be absolutely beside ourselves if another judged us for the same thing!

The Old Testaments is riddled with stories of mercy.  It starts with Adam and Eve and continues to present day.  Sure, the Law set out some standards for living upright lives - but God never left out the fact that mercy was needed for our many sins!  In fact, when Moses received the instructions for the Tabernacle, one of the many furnishings was the "Mercy Seat" of God.  

The Mercy Seat was just above the Ark of the Covenant (the place of God's Word).  The promises attached to the Mercy Seat were simply:  "I will meet with you there!  I will talk with you there!"  The Mercy Seat was a place of communion with God.  At the feet of Jesus that day, the woman met with God!  She "communed" with him.  She experienced his mercy.  

We might not always remember the grace of God in our own lives - yet in those moments when we are angered by the "sin" of another, we might do well to ponder the fact, "There for the GRACE of God, I would be walking!"  Sometimes we "ignore" the revealed will of God, too.  When we find ourselves in the place of "ignoring" what is right before us, we want "mercy" - not judgment, not anger, and certainly not rejection.  

It is a natural response to judge - it is a Christ-like response to extend mercy. The choice is ours.