Journey 1 Knowing God

Day 5: God the Merciful

For the past four days, we’ve been exploring some of the core characteristics that define God. So far, we’ve painted a picture of a God who exists of His own volition, who has no limitations, who cares deeply about us, who defines the boundaries we need to get the most out of life, and who doesn’t want to see us chasing after things that will only hurt us.

But there’s a problem.

You’re going to mess up. It’s not a possibility; it’s an inescapable fact. You are going to do something wrong. You’re going to step outside one of those boundaries; you’re going to break a rule; you’re going to chase after a false god.

It might be an honest mistake, it might be a lapse in judgment, it might be your human nature getting the better of you—but it doesn’t change the fact that at some point in the future, you are going to fail to do what God expects of you.

What happens then?

There are consequences, first of all. There’s no getting around that. God set rules in place “for your good” (Deuteronomy 10:13), so it stands to reason that breaking those rules would have the opposite effect. The more we break those rules, the more they negatively impact our lives and the lives of those around us.

It gets worse, though. The Bible tells us that “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), which means that to break God’s law—that is, to sin—is to forfeit our lives. We’re going to talk more extensively about sin in our next Journey, “The Problem of Evil,” but for now, the most pressing question for us to answer is: What can we do to make it right?

And the answer is: nothing.

There is nothing you and I can do to undo a sin. We can’t cancel it out with extra righteousness, and we can’t cover it up and pretend it never happened. Sin is not a problem we’re capable of fixing.

Thankfully, our merciful God is more than capable.

In ancient mythology, a merciful god was an odd concept. Ancient religions may have believed in a compassionate god or two, sure—but offend them or wrong them and they were liable to bring heaven and earth crashing down in a vengeful display of wrath. They were gods, after all—supreme, ineffable deities with unimaginable power. How else could they possibly respond to the trespasses of the lowly human race?

And yet when the Bible describes God—the true God, the Master of the universe—we get an entirely different picture: “You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness” (Nehemiah 9:17).

Micah asks, “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy” (Micah 7:18). Joel speaks of God as “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm” (Joel 2:13). And Peter affirms that God is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Incredible. Beyond incredible. Not only does God forgive sin, but He is ready to pardon. He is eager to forgive us, not wanting anyone to perish. He will not endure sin forever, but He is patient—more patient than we understand, and more merciful than we deserve, especially when we consider the cost of that mercy.

Paul explains, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). Again, we’ll discuss it more in the next Journey, but wiping our sins away came at a steep price—the life of the Son of God, who came and died in our stead.

We don’t deserve that kind of mercy. We couldn’t possibly deserve it—and yet God extends it to us all the same. He is God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in kindness.

But why? In the words of King David, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:4). As great and as powerful as God is, what is the human race even doing on His radar? Why did He bother creating us at all?

The answer to that question is foundational to your very reason for existing and is quite possibly the most important piece of information you will ever possess.

It’s time to meet God, the family.

Further Reading

Go to day 6

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