Is there a connection between my actions and God's extension of mercy to me? This question will be the focal point of today's message.
In order to find an answer to this question, it will be necessary to turn to the Bible. To rely upon mere human testimonies (uninspired witnesses) is to enter a world of contradictory claims which can yield no conclusive answer. Therefore, our response will be in terms of what the Bible says and not the claims of present day men.
The first hint that there might be a connection between the actions of men and the mercy that God extends toward them is found in the second of the ten commandments. We quote: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20.4-6). While this verse does not preclude Divine mercy toward those who fail to love God, it definitely shows a connection between one's love for God and the quality or quantity of mercy that person can expect to receive.
Solomon referred to this fact when he said, “You have shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with You; You have continued this great kindness for him, and You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day.” (1 Kings 3.6). In another place Solomon is quoted as saying, “LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts.”(2 Chronicles 6.14). Again, a connection between God's mercy and a godly character is indicated.
In a passage attributed to David, the following quotation is relevant to our question. “Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His sight. With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; With the pure You will show Yourself pure; And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.” (Psalm 18.24-26). This same principle was echoed by Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount when He said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5.7).
This principle of God's special mercies being shown to those who are merciful was borne out in Jesus' description of the judgement scene in Matthew 25. In this text, Jesus depicts the gathering of all nations before the Son of Man who is sitting upon the throne of His glory. His actions were likened to a shepherd dividing between the sheep and the goats. The sheep were invited into God's presence while the goats were told to depart forevermore from His presence. In the words of the King, the difference between the goats and the sheep was simple. Those who received His mercy were the same ones who showed mercy to others in the form of ordinary human kindness (food, clothing, visitation, etc.). Surely this demonstrates that there is a connection between our actions and God's special mercies.
But, doesn't this imply that we can deserve the mercies of God? Think about it! That is the question we will take up tomorrow. (continued)
1. Was God in any way merciful to Israel due to her allegiance toward Him? To ask a related question, did God's mercy wane when Israel wandered away from Him?
2. If we do not show mercy toward others, what mercy can we expect to receive from God?
3. Do you see any irony between the religious arguments of men about the rightness of their denominations and the apparent distinctions at the judgement scene in Matthew 25? Was it mercy or sacrifice that caused the King to classify the goats as goats and the sheep as sheep?
4. Do all men receive God's mercy? Why or why not? Does God have special mercies that He reserves for those who love Him? Why or why not?
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