The Mercy of God

This picture is cutesy of Blogthechurch.

Sodom and Gomorrah is a common allusion from the book of Genesis used in our culture. It is part of a wonderful theme found throughout the bible. However, the moral of this story can be hard to perceive; consequently, you’ll hear some declare that if God doesn’t judge this or that place He owes an apology to S&G.

Mankind never seems to get the point. This, and other biblical narratives in the same vein, are not just about the destruction righteousness brings to moral darkness, it is about the constancy of God’s mercy toward us no matter how we abuse Him.

In Genesis, God tells Abraham that he will judge the city of Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham intercedes. He asks God whether He would kill the righteous with the unrighteous. Would you destroy the city, he wants to know, if there were fifty righteous men found in it? For the sake of fifty the city would be spared. What if it was almost fifty, say, only forty five? Even then God would relent. Abraham pleads and every time he lowers the count God’s mercy is revealed to be deeper than man could ever expect.

In the same strain, Elijah the prophet is beset by a captain of fifty men. Addressed as a man of God, he is ordered by this captain to come down in the name of THE king. Elijah replies that if he is a man of God then fire should come down and consume this captain and his men. The king has to then send another captain with his fifty who fares no better than his predecessor. The third captain sent, however, humbles himself and implores Elijah, asking mercy for himself and his men. The angel of God then bids Elijah go with this man and be not afraid of him.

Death is the logical outworking of sin, a fact constant as the pull of gravity. And, as the saying goes, might as well be hung for a sheep as for a lamb, we find within ourselves a growing rebellion against God. This gallows’ humor, this struggle with the inevitable, is exactly illustrated in the crucifixion as, bleeding and dying, two other condemned men mock the Son of God.

But one repents. Picture it, this thief gives up the last thing he had. Humiliated and dying, he found one final connection with the world, he could deride this ridiculous zealot shown to be the fraud that he was.

What changes him? What does he see? Did this thief expect curses and threats?  Instead he witnesses the unimpeachable compassion and love only found in Christ.

Could you do it, after joining the crowd in their jeers, submit your last vestige of self-respect to declare what even Peter, this man’s disciples, would not? The mercy of God descends even here. A wicked man, in his own words justly punished on the cross, who had, according to Mathew, taken part in humiliating Jesus, turns and repents before dying, and Jesus forgives him.

A great song by Bryan Duncan:


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