Summary: God is a God of mercy

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I once saw a sign outside a convent that read ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.’ Underneath it was signed Sisters of Mercy. There seemed to be an anomaly there to me. Prosecution to the full extent of the law and mercy?

Did you ever get caught doing something you shouldn’t? What were you hoping for when you got caught? Did you ever hurt someone by accident? What were you hoping for when you begged forgiveness? Mercy, that is what we were hoping for each time.

This morning we are going to look at the fact that God is Merciful.

Turn with me to Exodus 34 and verses 6-7. We read here of God revealing himself to Moses. Read with me verses 6-7. We find here that God reveals his character to Moses and part of his character is that he is ‘merciful.’ When God says he is merciful he is saying to us that his gaze upon us is one of tender compassion. In Isaiah 42.3 we read of this tender compassion, this relentless tenderness, this mercy towards us. The children of the day would have used the reeds of the riverside to make flutes. A reed that was bent or bruised would have been of no use to them – they broke it and discarded it. But God says such reeds, those broken and bruised by sin, are not only of value but of use to Him. In fact he will show them mercy and will not break them but restore them. He supports that imagery with one of a smouldering wick which he will not snuff out. This is the mercy of God being displayed to those who due to sin are almost extinct spiritually.

Yet look closely at verse 7. God’s mercy does not mean that he will set aside justice. God will not clear the guilty – that is he will not and he does not turn a blind eye to sin. He will not clear nor cleanse those who refuse to repent of their sin. He will not clear the guilty without satisfaction to his justice. That moves us then to the next step in God’s mercy.


On one occasion a mother came before Napoleon to plead for mercy for her son. The conversation went along the following lines:

Mother – I plead for mercy for my son.

Napoleon – this is his second offence and justice demands death.

Mother – I know what justice demands but I am asking for mercy.

Napoleon - he does not deserve mercy.

Mother – if he deserved mercy it would not be mercy.

Napoleon capitulated and gave the mother her son back. To what was that mother appealing? Mercy. What is mercy? When we look up the definition in the dictionary it states the following:

Refraining from inflicting suffering, punishment by one who has the right, power to inflict it.

Mercy is not in the hands of the one who pleads for it but rests in the hands of the one to whom the plea is made. Mercy is also related to justice. Justice treats us as we deserve to be treated because of our words and or actions. Mercy treats us differently than we deserve. Let me give you a few Biblical examples of mercy.

Genesis 3 – the Fall of Mankind. You all I am sure know the story well. Adam and Eve deliberately disobey God and bring sin and death into creation. When they realise what they have done they run and hide. God comes and searches them out. God had warned them in his word to them that if they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they would die. Justice demanded death. Adam and Eve deserved death. What happens? God displays his mercy to them. He does not turn a blind eye to their disobedience and their sin. He does not choose to ignore it. What he does is to pardon their sin. How? Look at the text closely – mercy comes at the expense of a life. In this case the blood of an animal was shed to atone for the sin of Adam and Eve. How do we know that? Well we read that God clothed them in animal skins to hide their nakedness. Mercy came at the expense of a life, at the cost of the shedding of blood.

Turn with me to Exodus 25.17-22. We have here described the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. I want you to note that the Mercy Seat covered the Ark. It was over the Law, it covered justice and judgment. But I want you also to note it only came into effect when blood was sprinkled on it. When the blood from the sacrificial lamb on the Day of Atonement was sprinkled on the Mercy Seat then the throne of God’s judgment and justice became the means of his mercy to a sinful and wayward people. Mercy was offered at the price of a life.

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