If you had to sum up what God is like as found in the Bible, I think the most fitting term would be mercy.
First Chronicles 16:34 says, “O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good; for His mercy endureth for ever.” The Hebrew word for mercy is often translated as lovingkindness, goodness, and faithfulness. Psalm 13:5 says, “I trust in your lovingkindness. My heart rejoices in your salvation” and Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life, And I shall dwell in the Lord’s house forever.”
In Psalm 25:6-7, David writes, “Lord, remember your tender mercies and your lovingkindness. For they are from old times. Don’t remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions. Remember me according to your lovingkindness, For your goodness’ sake, Lord.”
But what about judgment?
If God is so merciful, why is there so much judgment and destruction and awful things in the Old Testament, especially?
Psalms 25:10 sheds light on this. It says, “All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.” In other words, when you follow God, you are in the path of mercy, but outside that path is trouble.
When other nations and kingdoms would come against God’s people, they would open themselves up for trouble because they were attacking those who were walking in God’s way. And even God’s people couldn’t necessarily receive mercy if they didn’t walk in God’s ways.
Now, thanks to God’s gift of Jesus, this has changed. Titus 3:4-7 says, “[W]hen the kindness of God our Savoir and His love toward mankind appeared, not by works of righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to His mercy, He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, which He poured out on us richly, through Jesus the Messiah our Savoiur; that, being justified by His grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
This is open even to those who were once from other nations besides Israel. First Peter 2:10 says, “In time past [you] were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” First Peter 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has become our father again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that doesn’t fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who by the power of God are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Grace Tempered with Justice
Thus, God is not just happy-go-lucky mercy, ready to applaud anything anyone does, but He is also not harsh judgment, stern and oppressive and hard to please. Jeremiah 17:10 says, “I, the Lord, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.” In Matthew 12:33, Jesus says, “Either make the tree good, and its fruit good, or make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by its fruit.” James 2:12-13 says, “So speak, and so do, as men who are to be judged by a law of freedom. For judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
Isaiah 11 describes Jesus, saying “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest on Him the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord; and He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither decide after the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and decide with equity for the humble of the earth; and He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; and with the breath of His lips shall He kill the wicked.”
It’s this sort of balance we find when we look at scriptures about God’s judgment. On one hand, He will punish the wicked. On the other, He will show forth mercy and grace, because God isn’t the sort of love that lets us do whatever we feel like, even if it is bad for us. He knows what is good and has directed us to do that, and everything outside of that will bring us trouble.
Still, even when we wander far from God’s path, we can rest assured that God still knows our heart. He will not judge in a detached way but as the one who loves us deeply…more than anyone else.
“Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before his presence with singing. Know that the Lord, he is God. It is he who has made us, and we are his. We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, Into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good. His lovingkindess endures forever, His faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 100:2-5
Copyright 2017 Andrea Lundgren