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Great Themes of the Bible
When it comes to our relationship with God, our greatest need is God’s mercy and grace.
Knowing the difference between mercy and grace, however, is a must because mercy and grace are two words that are often confused being used together in a number of verses and phrases.
But grace and mercy is not the same thing although they both come from God. Grace is what we receive but do not deserve, and mercy is what we do not get that we do deserve.
What we do deserve is the wrath of God because we are all sinners, but God in His mercy doesn’t give it to us, that is, God is showing compassion by not wiping us out, and He does so through His mercy.
According to the Bible, we have all sinned and deserve death and eternal judgment in the lake of fire. With that in mind, every day we live is an act of God’s mercy. If God gave us what we deserve, we would be condemned for eternity.
We deserve nothing from God. God doesn’t owe us anything. Anything good we experience is a result of God’s grace. Grace is simply defined as unmerited favor. God favors, or gives us good things we don’t deserve and could never earn. Rescued from judgment by God’s mercy, grace is anything and everything we receive beyond that mercy.
Mercy, like grace, is then at the heart of our faith in Jesus Christ.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” (Ephesians 2:4-5 NKJV)
How wonderful is God’s mercy, in that He isn’t just merciful, but He is rich in mercy.
In the Psalms, this theme of God’s mercy and of our need of it is seen 27 times. So when we consider the character of God, we need to see Him as a God of mercy. Let’s take a moment and look at one of these Psalms.
Read Psalm 86
What we see is David coming before a holy and righteous God, the One who is both Creator and King. But he isn’t coming as anything great, but rather as a servant in humility seeking God’s mercy, asking God who is merciful to be merciful to him. “Have mercy on me,” he says.
David is in some sort of physical danger, but exactly what we don’t know. But David’s appeal isn’t based upon the trouble as it is in God’s character as a merciful God ready to forgive, who is full of compassion, gracious, longsuffering, and who is abundant in both mercy and truth.
What we see is that David doesn’t spend time explaining his situation, and that’s because God already knows the who, what, where, and why. Instead he appeals to God’s character, and that’s because apart from God’s character, in particular His mercy, David is unable to approach God’s throne of grace.
David realizes that he needs God’s mercy more than anything else, which is why we see at the beginning David crying out, “Be merciful to me.”
Tonight I want to concentrate on verses five through seven as we look at God’s mercy.
“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive.” (Psalm 86:5a NKJV)
It’s what the Apostle Paul brings out in his letter to the Ephesians, God’s mercy is all about forgiveness. Our trespasses are forgiven based upon the richness of God’s mercy.
People tend to think that salvation is based upon merit, and that we approach God based upon our good works, but Paul shatters that illusion a couple of verses later in verses eight and nine.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)
Because of God’s mercy, we can partake of God’s grace.
The Apostle Paul is appealing to God’s mercy so he doesn’t receive what he deserves, death, knowing that all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory, or of God’s holy and righteous standards for life.
David knew his best wasn’t good enough and no one is righteous enough for God. David knew he needed God’s mercy, and that through God’s mercy He could receive God’s grace and be forgiven.
“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:8-10 NKJV)
What we deserve is God’s judgment because we’re all sinners, but God in His great mercy doesn’t treat us as we deserve, but rather He is merciful towards us, extending to us His grace and forgiving our sins.
In God’s justice we are guilty, but He is merciful towards us. To Israel God says to state their case, but because of Adam’s sin, they are all guilty. But God pulls out His get out of hell card, or what we could call His mercy card.
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25 NKJV)
So all of us are by nature sinners, therefore, we need God’s mercy to receive His forgiveness.
“And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” (Psalm 86:5b NKJV)
David is talking about God’s mercy being without limits. Because of our finite minds and that fact that we live in a finite world, it’s hard for us to imagine this concept of infinity.
But God’s mercy knows no limits. The word, “abundant,” is a word of magnitude. We see this in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. It says that God is rich in mercy so He can show us the “exceeding riches of His grace,” Ephesians 2:7.
So when David says that God’s mercy abounds towards us, He’s saying God’s desire is to lavish His mercy upon us, and that such mercy knows no limits, therefore, no one is beyond God’s saving power, because no one is beyond His mercy.
“For great is Your mercy toward me, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.” (Psalm 86:13 NKJV)
God’s mercy has no limits and therefore delivers us from hell itself.
“And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” (Psalm 86:5b NKJV)
God’s mercy is available to all who call out to Him. Now, there’s always going to be those doctrinal discussions about election and predestination, but what we need to focus on here is that God’s mercy is available to all, not just to some.
What’s sad is while God doesn’t limit His mercy towards us, we limit His mercy in our minds, lives, and even in the church. Sometimes we feel we’re beyond God’s mercy especially given the things we’ve done. But that’s not the nature or character of God, He’s rich and abounding in mercy to everyone.
But there is one qualification attached, and that is while God’s mercy is available to all, it must be asked for specifically, which is what David is doing.
“Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me.” (Psalm 86:6-7 NKJV)
Because of God’s loving-kindness, God’s mercy is available to everyone who calls out to God.
“For You will answer me.” (Psalm 86:7b NKJV)
How many of you have bought something with a manufacturer’s warranty? However, when you look at the terms and conditions it reads more like what isn’t covered than what is. The truth is that these warranties are not much of a guarantee, and if you have ever tried to collect, they’re definitely not a certainty.
But not so God’s mercy! David is certain that God will answer when he cries out for it. There’s no question in David’s mind. It’s the same certainty that’s found in the Apostle Paul.
“Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13 NKJV)
It’s a lack of this assurance that plagues the church today. It’s heard in the words, “I’m not sure God can,” especially when it comes to forgiveness. We’re not sure about God’s power to heal, God always being there when we need Him, or God knowing what we’re going through.
But David was sure that no matter what was going on in his life, whether he was being chased or threatened, God’s mercy was going to be there for him.
Because we can be assured of God’s mercy we can trust God in any and all situations, trust Him at His word, and that we’ll experience the fullness of His mercy towards us.
And so we need to see our great need, and that is for God’s great mercy.
David knew and saw his need for God’s mercy, and if David needed it, then it’s a good bet so do all of us.
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NKJV)
We need to ask for God’s mercy every morning, knowing that God hears our prayers and will extend to us His great mercy.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study