Wednesday, 10 July 2019
For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13
The Greek reads with more force than is presented here. It more rightly says, “For the judgment will be merciless to the one who has shown no mercy.” It is a precept which permeates Scripture in various ways. Solomon says this in Proverbs –
James’ words also remind the reader of the parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. Jesus shows there that mercy in us is something that is evaluated by God in our own judgment. David’s words in 2 Samuel acknowledge this precept as well. There he says, “With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful.”
The reason for this is that mercy is an attribute of the Lord. It is a part of His very nature. In Exodus 34, when revealing His glory before Moses, the Lord proclaimed –
“The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6
Later in Numbers, when the people of Israel sinned against the Lord, Moses appealed to Him for them. In his appeal, he said, “And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken.” After that, he repeated the very words of the Lord from Exodus 34 as the prime example of how the Lord would most effectively reveal His great power –
“‘The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’ 19 Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” Numbers 14:18, 19
Astonishingly, Moses saw the power of the Lord most fully demonstrated in His mercy and forgiveness. This is what the Lord had declared concerning Himself, and Moses grasped onto it, knowing that the Lord is unchangeable in His Being. As this is so, he appealed to that truth.
Moses is considered Israel’s great lawgiver. A law demands justice leading to punishment for transgression. But Moses saw the strength of the Lord in withholding that, and in its place granting mercy. Does that not sound like God working in Christ? The greatest demonstration of all of God’s power is found in the giving of His Son for sinful man. It is the very heart of the gospel, and the gospel is the very heart and purpose of all Scripture in regards to salvation. Paul says as much in Romans 1:16 –
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
The law and its penalties could not compare to the mercies of the Lord. And the Dispensation of Law was but a dark moment in redemptive history as it led to the gloriously revealed light of the Dispensation of Grace. Moses, understanding this precept above all else, then spoke out his petition to the Lord, and the Lord pardoned according to his plea.
This is why the judgment will be merciless to the one who has shown no mercy. It is because in not showing mercy, we cast off one of the principle attributes of God, in whose image we are created. But in being merciful, we too will find mercy. As James says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” God who is merciful will look upon us in mercy when we reflect His nature and demonstrate mercy.
Life application: James indicates that mercy is a powerful tool for good in our lives and for our eternal destiny. A good way to remember the meaning of mercy is to remember it along with the meaning of grace. Mercy is not getting what you do deserve; grace is getting what you do not deserve.
As Jesus speaks of this so poignantly in Matthew 18, take time today to read the entire parable and see how this confirms what James says. However, remember to take the entire subject of forgiveness in context. When we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, all our sins are forgiven. Therefore, in the context of the Christian’s life, being unmerciful will result in loss of rewards, not condemnation. Either way, being merciful will keep us from a greater judgment because we are acting as our Heavenly Father does when we stray.
Lord Jesus, it is not always easy to be merciful, but it reflects Your divine character when we are. Because of this, please grant us the ability to be more merciful to others so that we might be pleasing to You. May Your words sink into our lives and become our very nature – to Your glory! Amen.