“GOD HAD MERCY”
Please turn to Philippians 2.25-30. Stand and read that portion of God’s Word with me, would you please?
25 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.
26 For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.
27 For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
28 I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.
29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation:
30 Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.
In addition to studying select passages over the years, I suppose that I’ve read the Word of God from cover to cover some 35-40 times. Each time I read God’s Word I learn something I’d never realized before, or see the deeper reality of something I had previously thought I had known. While preparing this message, while studying God’s precious Word, it happened again that I realized that there was something important that I just did not know very well. I did not know very much, from study, about the mercy of God.
We saw from reading the text that Paul spoke of mercy when he rejoiced that God had healed Epaphroditus. And throughout the Bible the mercy of God is spoken of, referred to, prayed for, exulted in, described, and highly esteemed. However, I had never made a study of God’s mercy before studying for this message. Well, my friends, now I have made a study of God’s mercy, and I’m here to tell you that it is wonderful. Noah Webster, one of the early fathers of American scholarship and education, as well as the first editor of an American dictionary, defined “mercy” in his first edition in this way: “That benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat the offender better than he deserves; the disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, and to forbear punishment, or inflict less than the law or justice will warrant. That which comes nearest to it is grace. It implies benevolence, tenderness, mildness, pity or compassion, and clemency, but exercised only towards offenders. Mercy is a distinguishing attribute of the Supreme Being.” The only thing I would add to Webster’s definition of the word “mercy” would be that, as the word applies to God, mercy seems to me to be perceived, to actually be experienced, and to be felt. You can be loved by God and not feel or experience God’s love, per se. You can be a recipient of God’s grace and not perceive or feel it sensually. However, it seems to me, in my study of the concept, that mercy is something one can feel. You have to take God’s Word, sometimes, that He loves you and that He has graced you in some way. However, mercy is that from God which you experience firsthand.
Paul felt the mercy of God as profound relief that Epaphroditus would live and not die. Epaphroditus felt the mercy of God in the regaining of his physical strength and health as he moved away from death’s door. You may not know to identify it as God’s mercy when such blessings come your way, but you know something has happened, and you’re glad. Each and every one of us here this evening that are saved from our sins is loved by God and has been the beneficiaries of God’s abundant grace. We know this because God’s Word tells us these things are so. However, the mercy of God we have felt, we have experienced, even if we did not at the time know what it was. You, who are not saved, however, have not experienced God’s mercy. How tragic. How sad. How unnecessary. You see, God is merciful. Muslims say that Allah, their god who is in fact a demon, is merciful. However, is a false god who demands the annihilation of the Jewish people merciful? Is a god who keeps the Muslim people in darkness concerning the glorious Savior Jesus Christ a merciful god? No. Our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the One Who sent His precious Son Jesus Christ to save sinners from their sins, He is the One, the only One, Who is merciful. As David wrote in Psalm 37.26, “He is ever merciful.” As Psalm 100.5 declares, “For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting.” And as Psalm 103.8 echoes, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.”
I make a point of emphasizing God’s mercy for a reason. I once spoke to a young man about the Lord Jesus Christ. During the course of our discussion, I asked some question or other about the reason the Lord Jesus shed His blood on the cross. The young man said that Jesus shed His blood to satisfy God’s blood lust. At that moment I realized why that young man was not saved. His view of God was pagan. He saw God through the eyes of a heathen, yes, a pagan, who see gods as superior beings whose arbitrary demands for sacrifice were to satisfy their blood lust. It was such false gods the Canaanites and Ammonites worshipped who demanded the living sacrifice of children in fire to appease them. The same demands were made upon the Aztecs in Mexico, the Incas in South America, and the Polynesians in the South Pacific. Human sacrifice. Why? To satisfy blood lust.
That is not at all what the true and the living God is like. God is not filled with blood lust to demand the murder of little babies, to demand the murder of virgins, to demand the sacrifice of captives taken in war. No. The God of the Bible, my God, is good, and holy, and righteous, and gracious, and just. Let us also realize that He is merciful. Oh, my friend, when I look back on my life I see the mercy of God so many times. And as I look into God’s Word and see His mercy explained, and recounted, and praised, I want you too to experience the mercy of God. May God have mercy on you in four ways:
First, MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOU BY SHOWING YOU THE PERIL OF YOUR SOUL
The children of Israel rebelled against the LORD in refusing to enter the Promised Land after the spies returning from spying out the land gave a bad report. At that moment in their history God spoke to Moses of smiting the people and disinheriting them, and of making Moses the head of another nation. However, He did not do that. Why did God not destroy Israel for their rebellion and raise up another people? Because He is a God of great mercy and for the greatness of His mercy.
Examine your own life. Compare yourself to God’s absolute standard of righteousness, which is the Law. In God’s Law, He forbids the bowing down to statues, He forbids dishonoring parents, He forbids sexual activity between people who are not married, He forbids lying, He forbids stealing, and He forbids covetousness. Yet you have committed some of those terrible sins many times. You sin with impunity, thinking in your own mind that you have a right to do what you want to do. May God have mercy on you. Lamentations 3.22 tells us that “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed.”
Do not deceive yourself into thinking that there will not come a Day of Judgment, a day of accounting, a day when your soul will be required of you. This coming Day of Judgment is clearly pointed out in scripture. It will be a day of wrath and rage. It will be a day of vengeance against those who have wronged God. Mercy is not extended to all. Most will be consumed. My prayer is that God will have mercy on you and will show to you the peril of your soul before it’s too late.
“For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away,” James 4.14. In the time that you have left, however long it may or may not be, may God mercifully show you the danger you are in as a sinner before God.
Next, MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOU BY SHOWING YOU THE POVERTY OF YOUR SIN
You see, it is your sin which puts your soul at peril. It is your sin which estranges you from God. It is your sin which leaves you spiritually barren and wasted. You think that you’re living when you commit sin. But sinfulness isn’t living, it’s dying. You think you’re loving when you commit sin. But sin isn’t loving, it’s lusting. You think you’re growing when you commit sin, expanding your horizons and become more sophisticated. But sin isn’t growing, it’s groaning, and you’re too deceived by the ravages of sin to realize what’s really happening to you.
Would a merciful God command you not to sin if sin was good? No. Would a merciful God punish sin if sin was okay? No. Would a merciful God turn from sin in disgust if sin wasn’t contaminated and corrupt? No. My friend, there are reasons why God, Who is merciful and whose mercy endureth forever, is so opposed to sin. It’s because sin isn’t bounty, it’s poverty. Sin isn’t good, it’s bad. Sin isn’t right, it’s wrong.
Consider, why do you commit such sins as lying and cheating and stealing? Why do you commit sexual sins, drink booze, and talk profanely, and look at pornography, all the while laughing like it’s funny and ignoring the peril of your soul? Because you are weak. Psalm 6.2: “Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am weak.” My friend, you couldn’t do right if you wanted to. You’re weak. As a matter of fact, you’re dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2.1.
Additionally, you’re afflicted. This thing called sin has gotten a hold on you. The grip of sin is so complete that your mind is affected by it. In Psalm 25.16, the psalmist pleads with God, “Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.” Truly, sin will drag your soul into Hell unless God is merciful to you and shows you the peril of your soul and the poverty of your sin.
Here’s more. Psalm 56.1: “Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me.” As if your own sin isn’t bad enough, you’re also the target of other men’s sins and oppressions. Every day you have to put up with the assaults on you that come from every quarter. So much for mankind begin basically good. So much for the brotherhood of all men.
“What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Don’t you see the poverty of your sin? It’s all for here and it’s all for now. However, you are a soul created by God to live for eternity. But live where for eternity, in heaven or in Hell?
I pray God will be merciful to you, and you will be smitten in heart and convicted in soul, in a manner similar to what Joel wrote about so many centuries ago, in Joel 2.12-14:
12 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.
14 Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?
Why the weeping? Why the fasting? Why the rending of the heart? Why the mourning? It comes when God has been merciful to show you the poverty of your sin and the peril of your soul.
FOR PERHAPS, HAVING BEEN MERCIFUL ENOUGH TO SHOW YOU THESE THINGS, GOD WILL ALSO BE MERCIFUL ENOUGH TO SHOW YOU THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL
I am sure that as many people as there are who think God is a God of blood lust, there are also that many people who think God is powerless, impotent, and unable to save sinners. However, as they were wrong about the mercy of God, so are they wrong about the power of God. God is merciful and powerful to save. Psalm 51.1 shows us that God is merciful to blot out transgressions:
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.”
Psalm 85.7 shows us that God shows His mercy by granting salvation:
“Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation.”
Psalm 86.5-6 shows us that God is ready to forgive sins because He is merciful:
5 For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
6 Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.
In Psalm 109.26, David cried out,
“O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy.”
Psalm 130.7 shows us that with God there is both mercy and plenteous redemption:
“Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.”
Micah 7.18 shows again the connection between pardon and mercy:
“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.”
So you see, my friends, God is a God of mercy. But He is also a God of power and might. How, then, is mercy connected to might in the power of the gospel? Mercy has to do with God’s disposition. The gospel has to do with God’s movement in great and awesome power to provide for sinner’s salvation, Romans 1.16:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
According to First Corinthians 15.1-4, the gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son who was born of the Virgin Mary, died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures. Does the power to conquer death suggest enough power to save sinners from their sins? I should think so.
May God be merciful to you by showing you that Jesus Christ is powerful to save. May God be merciful to you by showing you that the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead in victory over sin, death, Hell and the grave is applied to the salvation of sinners. You need a powerful gospel to offset the poverty of sin. May God be merciful to you by showing you that Jesus, the One who shed His blood on the cross for you and me according to the good news of the gospel, is ready and able to cleanse away your sins.
BUT ONE THING REMAINS. I PRAY THAT GOD WILL BE MERCIFUL TO YOU BY SHOWING YOU THE PATH TO JESUS THE SAVIOR.
Psalm 119.41 reads, “Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word.” No matter how merciful God is, salvation must always and can only come to a sinner according to God’s Word. My friend, God is merciful when He shows you that you have to be saved the Bible way. And what way is the Bible way?
For God to be merciful to you and to remember your sins and iniquities no more, Hebrews 8.12, you must come to Jesus Christ. Did God answer the sinner’s prayer in Luke 18.13, “God, be merciful to me a sinner?” Yes, by sending His Son Jesus to be the savior of sinful men.
Turn to Titus 3.4-6:
4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,
5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Beloved, God is merciful to save sinners, not by works of righteousness which you have done, but according to His mercy. Now look at verse 6, “through Jesus Christ our savior.” God’s mercy to save is in His Son Jesus Christ. The question is how do you get to Jesus? By Faith. “For by grace are ye saved through faith,” Ephesians 2.8.
The night of his arrest, the Lord Jesus Christ talked with his men of his imminent departure. In response to a question by Thomas, Jesus said these words: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the father, but by me,” John 14.6. In other words, the only way you can come to the Father is by coming to Jesus Christ. My prayer is that God will be merciful to you by showing you that the path to Jesus is simple, childlike faith, and that the only way you will ever be saved, the only way you will ever be forgiven, the only way your sins will be cleansed, is if you come to the Savior, Jesus Christ.
The mercy of God. God is merciful. It’s His nature. It’s related to His goodness and His grace. My desire is for you to experience the mercy of God, by seeing the peril of your soul, by seeing the poverty of your sin, by seeing the power of the Gospel, by seeing the path to Jesus.
Those of you who would like to discuss with me the mercy of God, and perhaps how to be saved, can come back into the auditorium later to talk to me. And if you’re not inclined to talk to me today, I urge you to go straight home and ponder the peril of your soul. Reflect on the poverty of your sin. Is the pleasure of sin worth eternal damnation? I think not.
 Noah Webster’s First Edition Of An American Dictionary Of The English Language, (Anaheim, CA: Foundation For American Christian Education, 1967)
 Numbers 13
 Numbers 14.11-12
 Numbers 14.19-20
 Exodus 20.3-17; Matthew 19.18-19; Romans 13.9-10; Ephesians 5.3-5;
 Revelation 20.11-12
 Mark 8.36
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