Attributes of God part 5
God is merciful.
A point Tozer makes in this chapter is that, contrary to popular belief, God is just as merciful in the Old Testament as He is in the New. In fact, God’s mercy or Him being called such are stated four times more in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. After my brain sputtered back to a start after reading that, I took the time to really think about it. Letting go of all my preconceived notions, which is part of why I am doing this study, I thought through the Old Testament. What are the creation, the flood, the exodus, the sacrifices and law, the exiles, the prophets, if not mercy? Yes, they are judgment, but they are also mercy. (Creation was mercy- God wanted friends and a good place for His friends to live. He didn’t put us all on Pluto, but gave us a warm, beautiful home. The flood was mercy, so that humanity would not destroy the earth even sooner than it will. The exodus was mercy – undeserved freedom, being given the gift of being the chosen people of God. Sacrifices and law were mercy- a way to partially atone for the falleness of ourselves instead of just lawlessness and disorder. The exiling of the people was mercy- it forced them to turn and look at God and to return to the One Who had always provided for and loved them. The prophets spoke tons of judgment, but it was all centered on mercy- How many times does it speak of God leaving a remnant, of not destroying them totally, of giving them chances to repent, of bringing them back to Him? ) The entire Bible is full of God’s mercies. I’ve been taught much of my life that the New Testament God is so much more merciful, but God doesn’t change. Jesus’ death did not change God’s attitude toward us- it changed our attitude toward God.
Which is a lot of typing for my introduction……
Tozer also speaks of the compassion of God, which is part of His mercy. We think often times of compassion as a feeling- as something we feel when we see the missing child on the news, or (maybe not, but we should) the man begging by the road, and a few seconds or minutes later it’s on to the next news bit or intersection. But God’s compassion, and therefore His mercy, are verbs. He doesn’t just watch us hurt, He ‘compassionates’- which is Tozer’s (and I’m now adopting it) made up verb for what compassion should be. An action. He watches that missing child and comforts them; He directs someone to that man who can give him a job or some food or a home. You may not believe it, but I do wholeheartedly.
Because God is always there, and His mercy never fails.
Because He has compassion, He suffers with us. Tozer states this as something that he cannot understand- he sees suffering as implying a lack or a need, and he sees that as being an impossibility with God. I have to partially disagree with him on this point, with all respect. I see it as God suffers with us because He cares about us and wants the best for us. So, when things are not as good for us as He would wish, or we are not seeking Him as we should, He feels sadness, because He has tied Himself to us. He is responsible for us- He created us and therefore bears the responsibility of taking care of us. So, while He is in no way limited by us or that tie, it makes perfect sense to me that God can suffer alongside us without any sense of lack or need- He just has compassion on us.
Which, while I was reading, made me think about something. I have been told, and it is Biblical, that we are created in the image of God. Many people think that this means that we somehow look like God a little, or it’s the fact that we have a soul- an eternal part. Perhaps those are true- not disagreeing with them at all. But what if it is also the fact that we have these emotions and feelings that God also has, only we have them in a much smaller way? The ideas of justice, mercy, grace, goodness, holiness, perfection are not things that an animal has- only we do, and God also shares that. (More on some of those attributes in later blogs) And, humanly, most of those make no sense for us to have. From a pure survival standpoint, it makes no sense for me to have mercy on someone who has hurt me, or to desire to be good. Wouldn’t it be better to just always be the best, on top, all that? Like a pack of wolves?
But we are not wolves- we are human beings created in the image of a merciful, wonderful God.
Just a thought.