The Mercy of God

The Mercy of God

The Mercy of God is a sermon teaching us that there are aspects of God’s love in our daily life that can influence our worldview.

Key Verses:

Joel 2:12-14

What is God Like?

Joel 2:12: “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:”

Joel 2:13: “And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.”

Joel 2:14: “Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?”

Have you ever tried to imagine who God is or what God is like? I think most people wonder about that and think about it at some point in their life. Here is another question: Have you ever given much thought to how you look at life and the world in general? You do look at life and the world in general and you pretty much have a point of view on everything. For example, are you an optimist? Are you a glass half full person? Are you a pessimist, that glass-half-empty kind of person? Do you subscribe to Murphy’s law, that anything that can go wrong will go wrong? Is that your point of view? What is your point of view?

Three Key Terms

To answer each of these questions, you need to consider three very important terms. If you are wondering what it has to do with the verses we just read, it has a lot to do with it. The first term to consider is “philosophy.” According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, philosophy is “the rational abstract and methodical consideration of reality as a whole or a basic dimension of human experience.” To put it simply, your philosophy governs how you look at life and the world in general. That is your outlook, that is where you are coming from, to put it in modern terms.

The second term, similar to the first one, is “worldview.” According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the term worldview is “a comprehensive conception of the world that is from a specific standpoint.” It is not exactly the same as philosophy, but it is not drastically different either. It would be fair to say that your philosophy governs your worldview. But what then, determines your philosophy? We are talking about how you look at the world, how you look at life, how you view things on an everyday basis.

That takes us to the third term which is “theology,” the study of God. In theology, we learn who God is, what God is. It is the study of how we come to know God, but more importantly, how can we come to know God Himself. There are some basic tenets to Christianity. Number one, there is a God. There is God who is the Creator of all things and the power that enables all things to continue. Number two, God has revealed Himself to His creation through His creation. Number three, God has revealed Himself by His written Word. Number four, God revealed Himself through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Number five, the creation of God has rebelled against God and is lost or separated from God by their rebellion.

God loves mankind and decided to redeem mankind and bring mankind back to Himself. Not only is it possible to know about God, but it is possible to know God and He has made the path clear that we can come and know Him. Then, Jesus Christ is the revelation of God to mankind. His coming to this world was prophesied for more than 2,000 years. He was born of a virgin, so as to be born sinless and not inherit the sin nature passed down to all generations by the human father, and He is deity. That is to say, He is God, he is Emmanuel, God with Us. He has come in the flesh; he is the Creator who comes to Earth in human form.

Then, the love of God is demonstrated in the world in that Jesus Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice, for the sin of all mankind, upon the cross. He was buried and that is one of the many pieces of evidence that He died on the cross. There are people who say that Jesus did not actually die on the cross. Many people deny that. If He did not die, why did they bury Him? And then, Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead. This fact alone confirms the truth of the message of the Bible in general and the Gospel in particular.

Two Important Points

Hebrews 11:6: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Two things: Number one, you must believe that He is, that God exists, and number two, that He is a rewarder of them who diligently seek Him. That means, if you seek to know God, you can. Jesus Christ is the only way to find and to know God.

John 14:6: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

That is pretty simple when you think about it. One way to come to God, and that way is through Jesus Christ. And then Jesus, who died for our sins, was buried, resurrected, guaranteeing eternal life, promised to come again. The same passage Jesus said earlier, four simple words, “I will come again”:

John 14:3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Aspects of God’s Love

The love of God is the most amazing thing you will ever experience and study in your entire life. God’s love is demonstrated to the fullest extent at the cross but there are aspects of God’s love that are given to us daily. Grace is one of those aspects. Grace is defined for us in Titus:

Titus 3:4: “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,”

The English word “grace” appears 170 times in your Bible. The Hebrew word translated to grace is “hhen” and means favor or acceptance. The Greek word translated as grace is “charis.” W.E. Vine, an English Biblical scholar, gives us this definition for charis, “The merciful kindness by which God, exerting His influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, and kindles them to the exercise of Christian virtues.” That sounds pretty good.

But another aspect of God’s love is mercy. Isn’t that the same thing? No, just like worldview and philosophy are not the same, they are close but not identical, mercy and grace are not identical, they are very similar. If they were identical, you would not need to talk about mercy and grace. But mercy is another aspect of God’s love. As the word “grace” appears 170 times in your English Bible, the word “mercy” appears 276 times. That is 106 times more than the word “grace.”

The Hebrew word for mercy translated in the Old Testament is “hhesed.” It is close to grace in its meaning, but it tends to represent more pity than love if that makes sense to you. The Greek word for mercy translated in the New Testament means tender feelings towards another. Does God have tender feelings toward us? Yes. Does He pity us? Yes. Does He love us? Yes.

Recently, I had a strong spiritual impression, meaning, when God is spiritually impressing something upon you. No visions or voices, I just want to be clear on that. I had a strong spiritual impression that God wanted me to spend some time in the book of Joel. I did not know why. I was just reminded several days in a row that I needed to read Joel. So, I sat down and read it through. It does not take long, only three chapters, and is not one of the long books of the Bible. As I read, I prayed about it and asked the Lord what He would want me to have in this book of Joel. And I think it is these three verses: 12, 13, and 14 of chapter two. I think the Lord wanted me to get the message about mercy and I think He wants me to share that with you.

How God is Viewed

So, what we said earlier, the way you view God is going to determine your philosophy which, in turn, will govern your worldview. So, let us talk about how you view God. Some people see God as angry and vengeful, and always wanting to take the joy out of life. If there is anything fun, God does not want you to do it. And that is just not true.

Some people see God as out to get them. “I better watch out. I better be careful. I better walk the straight and narrow way. If I do not, God is going to get me.” That is not accurate either. It is as if people cannot wait for God to punish them, and He delights in punishing them, and He wants to do it every day. “Why do I have so much trouble in my life. God must hate me.” Now, that is not the picture of God we find in the Bible. It is not. If you believe in pagan gods, that might be a picture of Zeus. But that is not the God of the Bible. Is God of the Bible holy? Yes. Is He majestic? Yes. Is He powerful? Yes. Is He the ultimate authority in the universe? Yes. But He is neither cruel nor sadistic. God does not find joy in hurting people.

Ezekiel 33:11: “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”

God’s Plea to Mankind

God says that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. God is telling us that He is merciful. In Joel chapter two verses 12 to 14, we find another plea from the Lord to the hearts of mankind. Scofield tells us that Joel wrote his prophecy about 800 years before Jesus came. He says Joel probably knew the prophets Elijah and Elisha if that puts it in a timeframe for you. Maybe he was one of the sons of the prophets mentioned in the story of Elijah and Elisha, I do not know that, but it is reasonable.

Let’s take a look at these three verses and another:

Joel 2:12: “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:”

“Therefore” — God has talked about a judgment that would come upon the people of Israel, a judgment of locust, palmerworm, and destroying the food of the land. But why is that? Because they had turned away from Him. Many, many people today have and are turning away from God. There are more people professing to be atheists in our country today than ever. Now, I say professing to be atheists because I do not think most people who say they are atheists really are.

A true atheist is someone who does not believe in the existence of God. There is no such being as God, everything is natural, everything is random, everything is chance, and that is how the universe and this world operate, just by random chance. Most people don’t feel that way. You are fighting against something you do not think exists. How fruitless would that be?

My point is, most people who say they are atheists, it is not really that they do not believe God exists, they know in their heart God exists, they are just angry with God. They do not like God. They think either God did something He should not have done, or God did not do something they think He should have done. So, they are angry with God, or, maybe God is telling them not to do something they want to do, maybe it is all of those things. They are angry with God, so they fight against God. You don’t fight against something that does not exist.

So, God speaks through Joel. He says, “Therefore,” because He judges sin, He deals with it. What does He say to the people? “Well, I am happy to burn all you people up.” He never says that. He says, “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn.” The word “turn” in Hebrew is the same idea or concept as the word “repent.”

Here is what repent means, it is really simple. Repent means to turn around, do an about-face. You are going one way, turn around, and go the other way. Make a U-turn. That is what God wants us to do, an about-face. That is what “turn” means and “repent” means. But turn to what? “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me” and the next phrase is key: “with all your heart.” That’s it. God is saying, “turn to me with all your heart.”

There was never a time in my life that I was an atheist. There was never a time in my life that I didn’t believe there was a God. I did not know God; I did not know how to know God. I grew up believing there was a God, but I did not know God. One evening, a man sat down and opened a Bible and showed Romans 10:9-10.

Romans 10:9: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Romans 10:10: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

That hit home with me. I needed to trust Jesus Christ in my heart. In my heart, I needed to believe that He paid for my sins at the cross, that He was buried, and had risen again, and that He will forgive me if I just trust Him. And I did. That evening I trusted the Lord to forgive me, and He changed everything in my life, everything.

A couple of days later I was driving to work, and a thought hit me, “If you meant business the other night when you talked with that pastor when you prayed and asked the Lord to save you, you need to change the way you live.” You know what? I made that decision too and started living differently. Start living a new life. And that is what God wants us to do, “turn ye even to me with all your heart.”

And then Joel writes, “and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:” Fasting: so that we can focus on spiritual things. Weeping: tears of grief and repentance of sin. Mourning: mourning from your separation from God.

Isaiah 59:1: “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear:”

Isaiah 59:2: “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”

Do you ever feel like you are praying, and the heavens are as brass, and your prayers are not getting through? Did you ever think that maybe the problem is on your end? He goes on to say:

Isaiah 59:3: “For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.”

Isaiah 59:4: “None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.”

But what does He say? He says in Joel 2:12, “turn ye even to me with all your heart.” Now, that is the idea of mourning.

From the Inside, Not Outside

Now let’s go to verse 13:

Joel 2:13: “And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.”

“Rend your heart, and not your garments.” Now, what does that mean? You will see this in the Old Testament and the New Testament. When somebody received horrible news and they were grieved, they would rend their garments, or tear their clothes. Something else they would do is either put earth or ashes on their head — that showed they were in mourning.

God says here to “rend your heart, and not your garments.” Why does He say that? Is He saying not to tear your clothes, that it is nonsense? That is not what He is saying. What He is saying is, it is not what you do on the outside that counts. It is what you do on the inside. You can appear to other people to be in repentance and mourning, or you can appear to be godly and righteous. You can appear to do any of that but if it is not true on the inside, then it is just not true. All you are doing is putting on a show. Anybody can put on a show. It says here, “rend your heart, and not your garments.”

There was a time in my life when I was young and played the guitar with a group of Christians. I was there with the Christians and doing what Christians did. I was trying to answer questions I thought how they would answer them, but I wasn’t a Christian. I was not saved, I was not one of those people, and I needed to be saved. I was putting on a show. I did not know. So, that is what God means when He says, “rend your heart, and not your garments.” It has got to be on the inside.

The next phrase is “and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.” What does that mean to “repenteth him of the evil”? It means the Lord will turn back from things He said He would do. He is gracious and slow to anger and will turn away his judgment upon us if we repent and trust Him to forgive us.

Who Knows?

Joel 2:14: “Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?”

“Who knoweth” means what we commonly say today, “Who knows?” In II Samuel 12, David made a grievous sin. He had not committed murder, but he had arranged for a man to be killed, Uriah, the Hittite. He set it up. He did not do the act himself, but he caused it to happen. So today, in 21st century America, he could be charged with conspiracy to commit murder and accessory to murder.

After that, Nathan the prophet comes to David and tells him the story about a very rich man who had great flocks and herds and had company come for dinner. He had a neighbor who only had one little lamb that he loved and slept within his house and treated more like family than an animal. The rich man took that lamb and killed it and served it to his guests instead of taking one from his flock. David got angry and said that whoever that man is, is going to die, and Nathan looks at David, probably pointing his finger at him, and said, “thou art the man.” — you are the one, you did that.

The reason David wanted Uriah dead was that he wanted Uriah’s wife. So David and Uriah’s wife had a son. The little boy got sick, very sick, and it didn’t look like he was going to recover.

II Samuel 12:16: “David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.”

II Samuel 12:17: “And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them.”

David just laid there, he cried and wept and prayed.

II Samuel 12:19: “But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead.

II Samuel 12:20: “Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.”

II Samuel 12:21: “Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread.”

Listen carefully to David’s answer, because the servants did not understand him that his child was sick and he would not get off the ground, he lay there to cry, weep, pray, and would not do anything. When David heard his child is dead, he gets up, takes a bath, puts on clean clothes, comes home, and now wants to eat. They didn’t understand him. Listen to David’s answer:

II Samuel 12:22: “And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?”

Who can tell? Maybe God will be gracious to me and the child would live. That is what it is saying in the Joel 2:14, if he would return and repent, maybe God will be good to him. You come and you trust the Lord. David was not finished, he said:

II Samuel 12:23: “But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

David says the child is dead, why should he fast anymore and why should he pray anymore? David says he cannot bring his child back here, but he can go where his child is. That is faith. When David was praying, he said that maybe the Lord would be gracious and heal his child. That did not happen. He accepted it and knew what would happen. He could not bring him back, but he could go to him.

The Lord is teaching us through David and through Joel to give our heart and trust Him. Even when we don’t know what the outcome is going to be, we still trust Him. He is teaching us to turn from our sins. Joel says:

Joel 2:14: “Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?”

In both cases, David and Joel are saying that the Lord has been persuaded to change the course of things at times. Some may say that God is going to do what He wants to do. But God will do what is right. He will. But God does answer prayers. The Bible is filled with if-and-then situations. Lots of them. God says if we do this, then He will do this. Here is an example of that:

Deuteronomy 11:26: “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;”

Deuteronomy 11:27: “A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day:”

Deuteronomy 11:28: “And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known.”

God says “if.” If we obey Him, He will bless us. If we turn away from God, we will lose that blessing.

Turn to the Lord

The society in which we live has turned away from God, and it is continually turning away from God. I encourage everybody to vote. But if we vote and elect all the right people, is that going to save us? No, it is not.

What do we need to do? “turn ye even to me with all your heart,” “rend your heart, and not your garments,” “turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.”

God’s judgment is certain and eternal, but so is God’s mercy. Over and over again, we find in the Bible that “His mercy endureth forever.” And the message from Joel is to turn to Him. The words Joel speaks here are echoed again and again throughout the Bible. Paul says them, Peter says them on the day of Pentecost, Paul writes it in the book of Romans.

Joel 2:32: “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.”

The way that Peter and Paul render this is the same concept, the same idea, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved.” That is it. We need to turn to the Lord.

Get in-depth knowledge by viewing or listening to the sermon: The Mercy of God

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Dr. Michael L. McClure, our lead pastor, is known for his in-depth knowledge and effective teaching style of biblical truths applicable to every day living.

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