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Our Merciful God

Written by David Lenehan

Some movies just get real life characters right. For me the Somalian pirates in the 2013 film, Captain Phillips were played by actors who got their characters spot on.  As they continued to ramp up the pressure and fear on Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks), my hatred for them grew. Near the end of the movie, when it looks like the pirates are about to kill the frightened and blindfolded Phillips, the Navy SEAL Team leader speaks the one word that was already on my mind, “Execute!”  Each pirate is taken out with a single sniper shot.

When the movie ended, I was actually surprised at myself for how much I hated the pirates.  I had no mercy, no forgiveness, no trying to “understand their side of the story.” I was happy they were gone. I applauded the SEAL Team’s actions.

Thankfully, gratefully, our God IS merciful. In fact, mercy is part of His character.  Mercy is not just something God hands out to us, though He often does that generously. It is who He is.  In 2 Samuel 12, we read that the prophet Nathan confronted King David for his sin of having an affair with Bathsheba. David had been found out and immediately he knew he had sinned both against God and man.  Here’s what David pleads to God in Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Ps. 51:1-2, 10-12, NIV)

God could have completely rejected David as King of Israel. He could have killed David right on the spot. But he didn’t. Through His mercy, He spared David’s life and throne, although God’s justice and punishment were still carried out in David’s family.  God didn’t ignore David’s sin, but also heard his cry for mercy and responded.

God will listen to our pleas for mercy. He will never relent in showing mercy to us, even though we often don’t deserve it, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23:6, ESV). But, God’s mercy doesn’t just come by chance. We must confess, we must own up to our sin before God.

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Prov. 28:13, ESV).

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:19, ESV).

And since we are followers of God, we are to show mercy to those around us in increasing measure as well.  Take time today to thank God for His mercy, to thank Him for hearing our pleas when we genuinely confess to Him.  What a gift we have in serving a merciful, loving, and forgiving God!

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