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How Does God’s Mercy Fit With His Judgment? | God Is Merciful #2

Many wonder how God’s mercy can be compatible with His strong penalties for sin. In the Old Testament and the New, God is never changing in His character—always merciful and longsuffering. Pastor Lutzer explores the hope of God’s mercy from Leviticus to Lamentations. Where is God’s mercy in the middle of judgment, despair, or grief? This episode was originally published March 11, 2019 as “The Attributes of God | Week 10: Merciful.” 

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
- Psalm 86:15

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Transcript: Hi, welcome to Five Minutes With Pastor Lutzer. I’m so glad that you have joined us, because we are discussing the attributes of God. And perhaps, as you have heard me say before, that whenever we are in God’s presence, it should humble us; it should instruct us; but also, it should lead us to worship. Today’s topic: the mercy of God. And I’m in the Old Testament. This is actually Psalm 86, and I’m picking it up at verse 15: “But you, Oh Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” 

Now perhaps I read that too quickly, but do you notice that there are three concepts: God is gracious; He is filled with mercy, and patience. Steadfastness. Patience. That’s the God whom we serve. Now today, what I want us to think about is that this text comes from the Old Testament. Sometimes you hear it said, “Oh,” you know, “the God of the Old Testament was not gracious; the God of the Old Testament was mean. I mean, you got stoned for adultery. You got stoned because you were a false prophet.” There are all kinds of very strong penalties, and liberal theologians have said that the God of the Old Testament is a different God than the God of the New Testament; because Jesus came and shared love.

I want you to know that there was love also in the Old Testament. There was mercy in the Old Testament. And God does not change. Now, the way in which He administers His world has changed. We don’t stone false prophets today, but in the New Testament, what you have is judgment deferred. And in the final day of judgment, we’ll discover that God was just as strict in the New Testament as He was in the Old. And for those who want to emphasize grace in a way that is unbiblical, let me say to you today that it is not safe to sin in the New Testament, even though there are some people who think that’s the case because we do not have immediate penalties. God is the same. He has not changed. But in the Old Testament and the New, we see mercy.

You know, when you read the book of Leviticus, and of course, the book of Exodus; and you see the tabernacle. And you think of all of the sacrifices that are offered, and we tend to get lost in all that. What was going on there in the Old Testament? God said, “What I am doing is, I am setting up a system by which I can show grace and mercy and love and connection to people, without being contaminated.” And so you have all that ritual, which prefigures the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Old Testament God is a God of judgment; New Testament God is a God of judgment. Just read the book of Revelation. Old Testament God is a God of mercy; New Testament God is a God of mercy. Mercy in the midst, even, of judgment.

You know, when I read the book of Lamentations—and by the way, you ought to read that book once in a while, because it’s a difficult book to read. I mean, we’re talking about the desolation of Jerusalem. In Lamentations, Jeremiah describes the fact that children are actually starving to death. You know the Babylonian armies took Jewish babies and threw them against the wall. Terrible, terrible, just nothing but desolation; but in the midst of this, suddenly you have this. I’m in chapter three: “But this I call to mind”—after all of these descriptions of evil and judgment—”and therefore I have hope; the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” And in the middle of this book of desolation, suddenly you have the hope of mercy. 

Today you may be in a situation that looks something like the city of Jerusalem after it was destroyed—desolation. May I remind you that the mercies of the Lord never cease? They can be new every morning. Today, come to God and receive mercy—and as we shall learn in another segment—and grace to help in time of need. Today, go with God; and I’ll see you right here next time.

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