Publication:Pastoral Letter, July 2012
Dear Friend in Christ:
I am writing to you about a vital principle and paradox: mercy is revealed in judgment. I’ll begin with a story that illustrates that principle:
The Lord was angry with Israel because they had resorted back to idolatry while He was giving the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. As a result He declared that His Presence would not go with them on their journey. He would send an angel to guide them. But Moses decided that if the Presence did not go, he would not go. He then began to intercede, even to offer that his own name be blotted out in order to save them.
In response to Moses’ fervent plea, the Lord relented and showed His mercy. Then Moses pressed the Lord to show him His ways. The Lord revealed to Moses that the God of Israel is compassionate. Scripture says that the Lord revealed His glory. This is an abridged version of a much greater story. The idolaters were still judged, but Moses saw God’s glory and many found God’s mercy. There was a window of mercy in the context of judgment (see Exodus 32 and 33). Romans 11:22 tells us that God’s goodness and severity often occur at the same event.
THE PRINCIPLE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Hebrews 9:27 tells us that it is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment. That is the ultimate accountability. Unless there is the possibility of judgment, mercy has no meaning. The Bible and life teach us that actions have consequences. Bad decisions bring bad results; wrong roads lead to wrong destinations. Wrong formulas yield wrong results. Penalties and rewards are a fact of life-also an eternal principle. This is true even if others temporarily try to shield us from the consequence of actions.
The post-modern, secular, and socialistic cultures of the Western world are in denial of reality. “Doing as I please will be pleasing in the end.” Such thinking is contrary to all natural and spiritual laws, such as the law of sowing and reaping. We are seeing this play out on the world stage now. (Can you say Greece?)
THE PRINCIPLE OF MERCY
Mercy is God’s faithfulness and covenant love to those that He has chosen, even in the midst of judgment. There is a “window of grace” in the “house of judgment”. Allow me to give another example: Isaiah 9:6-7 gives us the wonderful prophecy, “For unto you a child is born and a Son is given…” We cite this often at Christmas. But these two great verses are offered amid chapters 8 and 9 where God is warning of judgment at the hands of the Assyrians-and that judgment came to pass.
Israel’s failure to repent and receive God’s mercy brought severe judgment. Mercy denied; judgment applied.
Approximately 700 years later, Isaiah’s profound prophecy came to pass; the Son was given. He was God’s offer of mercy to a people already under a measure of judgment. This time it was from Rome. “He came to His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, He gave the right to become the children of God; to those who believe in His name” (see John 1). They even beheld His glory, yet rejected Him. Again, mercy was offered amid judgment.
When Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy”, this was made as an offer of impending judgment. This is true of all His offerings of counsel. Consider another statement, “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go two.” Or, “Love your enemies.” Israel was under a serious threat; Jesus was offering mercy as an escape from the coming judgment at the hands of Rome.
Tragically, Israel spurned mercy and eventually suffered awful judgment in 70 AD. It was horrific!
THE NATURE OF DEFIANCE
Defiance against God is a denial of reality. It is blindness to the facts (see Romans 11:25). Along with spiritual blindness comes moral decline; pride in the face of justice. Back to Isaiah 9:10, it says, “The bricks have fallen down, we will rebuild with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.” This sounds good on the surface, but, in fact, it was a defiance of reality. They were warned, under judgment, and being attacked, but rather than repent, they trusted their own resilience and strength: “We will rebuild and replant.” Assyria destroyed the northern ten tribes because of defiance in the in the face of God’s warnings.
This very verse, Isaiah 9:10, was quoted by our national leaders after September 11, 2001. Those who did so failed to see the context of those chapters-the serious situation called for national repentance. The twin towers stood on the very ground where George Washington dedicated our nation to God! (I strongly suggest reading The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn).
Another irony is that Israel’s destruction from Rome was because the Jews resisted and defied Rome in utter blindness to reality. They resisted at the tower of Antonio, Masada, and elsewhere. Even today, Masada is a symbol of defiance, a fortress where Judean soldiers committed suicide rather than surrender. One may admire their courage, but the disaster was a tragedy that could have been avoided had they received the Lord of Mercy.
ARE WE THERE YET?
I will mention seven signs that we are in a critical window of mercy against a backdrop of judgment:
- A decline of morality, trust, and security.
- A polarization and fragmentation of leaders and citizens.
- Unrighteous decrees such as endorsing gay marriage (see Isaiah 10:1).
- A debtor nation indebted to enemies (Deuteronomy 28)
- A decline of currency value, a measure of culture.
- A dependence on secular dogma in government and education (the same dogma that has failed Russia and Europe).
- Christian apathy in the face of danger.
WHAT TO DO (WHAT ISRAEL FAILED TO DO)
Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in a time of need.” Is this a time of need? I think so! So, what to do?
- Take note of Moses and be an intercessor.
- Avoid pride and worship of celebrity in the current culture.
- Develop a servant’s mentality (see Matthew 25:31-40).
- Be vigilant, read, study, listen, and watch (see Matthew 25:1-13).
- Endure; do not quit (see Matthew 24:13-14).
- Avoid offenses or being offended (see Matthew 24:10)
- Maintain the awe of God. Don’t be spiritually casual with God (see Malachi 3:16-18).
We should give serious study to Matthew chapters 23-25 to see what it was about Israel’s behavior that invited the judgment of the Lord; we should study Matthew chapters 5-7, which reveal the means of His mercy. Those who found mercy became a remnant that carried the purpose of God to the nations (see Matthew 24:13-14). The others? Read Matthew 23:29-36. It was harsh…but just.
This message is neither pessimistic about the future nor pandering to popular thought. The mercy of God offers hope. Mercy is offered, not as a doctrine, but as an opportunity-a window in the House of Judgment.
Almost 50 years ago, I heard the great preacher Dr. R.G. Lee say, “If God does not judge America, he will have to apologize to Sodom.” That was long before our current decline. That was long before our President endorsed gay marriage. That was long before the attack on the twin towers. That was long before we owed more than 16 trillion dollars of our children’s money. That was long before we owed China more than one trillion dollars or before the secularists gained control over our institutions. That was long before we aborted millions of babies and so much of our future. Dr. Lee’s statement still rings in my ears.
Is there yet hope? Yes, there is, but not in ourselves, our military, our government, or the rest of the world. Our hope is in the Lord alone. Our Hope could be found in our history, if we knew it and heard its message-“In God We Trust.”
What if there is no danger of judgment? Then the counsel of this letter would still bring rewards. Humility, repentance, and seeking God are always right and appropriate.
But what if judgment is at hand and mercy is a vital need? Then all the more reason to seek the One to whom we must give an account.
If you believe this letter is at all relevant, may we ask you to consider your response to it? In addition to personal prayer, gather and encourage others to pray and to receive and extend God’s mercy in these days. Share this letter with someone you love. Visit our website at www.csmpublishing.org for regular updates and resources. And, our store online for information on how you can receive a live audio recording of this message, which contains much more than I can share in a brief letter.
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We must realize that we cannot change hearts, only God can. Therefore, we should turn to Him in humility, intercession, and throw ourselves on His mercy. The Lord is good, and His mercy is everlasting. That is our hope.
Scripture Reference: Exodus, Romans, Hebrews, Isaiah, Deuteronomy, Matthew