Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Mercy of God - A Christmas Reflection

Here's a brief reflection shared at the Christmas Eve service at Lakeside Community Church.

Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”


The theme of Mary's song is the mercy of God.

This mercy is portrayed in almost every line as an act of God in behalf of the needy. It is God opposing the proud and giving grace to the humble.

The word “mercy” is sometimes used as a verb in the Bible. God “mercies” the poor, He “mercies” the needy, He “mercies” the humble, the helpless, the undeserving, the desperate, the broken . . . the repentant sinner and the despised, guilty soul. God in His mercy is on the side of the worthless outcasts and the destitute wanderers.

Mercy is God providing what is needed for those who cannot provide it for themselves. Mercy is God's work in behalf of the helpless. Mercy is God's kind, gracious action for the benefit of those who do not deserve His kindness. Mercy is God's strength defending the weak.

Mary views the miracle of the incarnation - the news that she, a virgin, is with child - as evidence of God's great mercy toward His people. For if God is doing such a miraculous work, it means that He has not abandoned His people. He has not forgotten His covenant with them. He has not canceled His promise, but will surely fulfill all that He has said.

God reveals His love to us in the form of a covenant of mercy because He knows we have nothing to contribute. He knows we will fail. He knows we do not have what it takes to meet Him half way. We wouldn't even get started on the journey without his help, so He comes all the way to us, gives us the will, and leads us step by step, holding our hand all along the way.

He promises, “I will be with you.”
He promises, “I forgive you.”
He promises, “I will restore you.”
He promises, “I will give you strength.”
He promises, “You are mine; I have you; I am your God.”

All of this is mercy.

We find ourselves undeserving of Him! And we need an unbreakable promise to reassure us that our sin and weakness and guilt - and the frailty of our faith - have not succeeded in separating us from His love. Will not succeed. Cannot succeed.

God's mercy is given freely to those who come to Him empty handed.

Mary knew she would receive little mercy from her neighbors, who probably viewed her as an immoral young woman. She knew she would receive little mercy from the synagogue rulers, who would surely expel her from fellowship. She knew she would receive little mercy from Joseph, who was preparing to leave her to her fate. She knew she would receive little mercy from the government that would force her to march all the way to Bethlehem in the advanced stages of her pregnancy. But with God she was guaranteed mercy! And so she could sing in the midst of great uncertainty.

Mercy is the healing medicine that holds battered families together. It restores troubled marriages. It reignites loyalty and devotion in friendships that have become strained. It opens a door of healing and hope in the barren, bombed out wreckage of what used to be a relationship.

I want to ask you whom you have “mercied.” I want to ask you if you have showered undeserved grace and favor upon those around you. I want to ask you if you have done mercy to others.

Instead I have to ask the more important and foundational questions: Have you come to Jesus spiritually poor, having nothing worthy to offer Him? Have you confessed your immense ingratitude and the myriad ways you have rebelled against His supreme authority? Have you brought your mountains of sin to Him? have you come to holy Jesus empty handed and wretched, deserving nothing but His wrath? Was your head lowered down in shame? Were you afraid to open your eyes and peer up at His eternal majesty? Have you seen the look on His face? Did you see the fire blazing in His pure, sinless eyes? Was it anger you saw there, or the fulfillment of a promise? “I will mercy,” says the Lord God Almighty! “I will justify the ungodly. I will seek and save the lost. I will heal the backslider. I will restore the broken. I will pardon the rebel. My kindness will lead sinners to repentance. Where their sin abounds, my grace will abound all the more, and My mercy will triumph over judgment!” Have you trusted His promise to show mercy, and received the forgiveness He is freely extending?

Jesus Christ is the mercy of God! No wonder Mary sung of mercy in response to His conception in her womb.

If you have known the stunningly scandalous mercy of Jesus Christ, if you have seen His overflowing kindness, if you have been set free from the duty to pay back your multiplied debts and your infinite obligations to the holiness which you have so heinously violated, if you have been completely delivered from the guilt of sin – then I do not need to ask you if you are showing mercy to others. You surely are.

God did not send His Son to lay another damning obligation upon our shoulders - this time an obligation to practice mercy. In Jesus Christ He provided an unshakable and infallible motivation by which we would most assuredly "do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly" with our God!

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