Tag Archive: mercy


as i stand so close to the flames

that the tiny hairs on my arms start to catch alight

filling my nostrils with that pungent, burning hair smell

i catch the silhouette of my reflected outline

quietly nodding my silent assent

to those who by their righteous actions tonight

have ensured that this clinic’s business

for the immediate future at least

has been violently aborted

 

as i stand to the far edge of the back of this lively and passionate crowd

i am caught up by the exuberance with which our leaders

are delivering today’s heartfelt message of righteous anger and God’s judgment

on those who would exchange normal relations

for these abominations

not quite confident that God does indeed hate fags as has been so eloquently declared

through the intimacy of a well-intended loud speaker

or the letters lovingly painted onto an otherwise pure white poster

i at least choose to hold my focus

on all those who will be set free

as a result of us gaily presenting our well-crafted sermon

as we came out here today

Lovingly Gesturing Biblical Truths

 

back at home i spend some time online

catching up on the news

all the time dodging the vitriolic and caustic comments

of fellow christian brothers and sisters

resolutely aligning themselves with either camp

and how could you possibly hold THAT opinion

if you have given any attention at all to THIS specific verse?

(“You fool!”… understood.)

 

another moment, yet another person caught in a crime

this time i bend down to pick up my stone

but am stopped in my tracks

by the sound of his voice

speaking these words

so lovingly

‘let the person who is without sin throw the first stone.’

 

and i pause for just a minute

 

as i think it over to myself…

a ticking watch nervously counts down this moment of interruption

my heavy breathing bears testimony to the wrestling that’s going on within my head

as i roll his words around in my mind, this way and that way, looking for the answer

but then suddenly it comes to me in a flash

as i remember that he has already paid for my sin

when he died on the cross

he took all my guilt and shame

and the sin penalty that should have been mine to pay

and he paid for it in my place

and so that makes me sin-free, right?

 

that makes me the one able to throw the first stone…

just like he said.

 

my hand finds a suitably jagged edged piece of stone

closes tightly around it

i can feel its rough edges digging into my skin

i stand to my feet in a single motion

powered up by all the holy righteous anger i can muster

and with every muscle in my body giving assent to my actions

i hurl that stone with all my might and watch as it hits its target

watch as you slump quickly to the ground

 

and, as if the dam wall has been burst

i watch as my just action unleashes the rest of the frenzied crowd

some who had already started to let their personalised rocks fall to the ground

 

again and again the rocks smash against their intended victim

your cries have long since passed

blood and bits of skin and bone fly hideously around

and within moments you are no longer a person

but a grotesque mass of broken body and blood

 

broken body

and blood?

 

as if in a pitch black tunnel just noticing a faint hint of a light up ahead

something starts to swirl within my mind

a recollection, a mass of thoughts, something is trying to be heard

and i try to focus in on what is being said, as my stomach fights against gagging from the smell that is rising up from your body

your dead body

broken by me… broken for me?

no, broken by me.

 

i glance up.

struggling to see clearly with these beams of wood protruding from each one of my eyes

i manage to finally catch a glimpse of him

his face displaying so obviously that this is not the way he was hoping it would end

as if something has gone wrong

gone horribly wrong

but what is it? i did what you said. i did what you have to have wanted. right?

 

and there it is

off to the side, faint and very much in the distance

but there is no mistaking the call of the farm bird sounding the beginning of a new day

or is it the end of one?

nope, there it is again.

and one more time.

 

i realise that the first crow has labelled me a resounding gong, a clanging cymbal

the second told me i am nothing

the third plays out that i have gained nothing

all three signifying that i have failed in this,

in this, my virtuous enacting of your justice

and if that is true, if i have failed in this

that surely means that no part of this was truly Love

 

what is the first commandment? obey the rules

what is the most important? don’t step outside of the lines

what is the gospel? don’t do this long and complicated list of things

GODHATESFAGSGODHATESPEOPLEWHOHAVEABORTIONSGODHATESTERRORISTSGODHATES

wait, what?

 

 

 

 

i stand close to the flames

trying to massage some warmth back into my hands

no-one needs to come up to me and ask if i know Him?

i know my actions have already answered that one

and as i catch my reflection in a nearby piece of glass

i notice the flames, licking at my feet.

 

‘For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.’

i mean, that’s quite an intro already, right? and possibly carries a profoundly deep message in terms of really getting our minds around the fact that David, altho he had messed up horribly, still ends up at the feet of God, rather than simply trying to hide or run the other way… where do you end up when you are caught up in the depravity of sin?

‘You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart
You, God, will not despise.’ [vs 16-17]

and there we see that David really gets it – he starts at the point of his brokenness and failure but realises that it is not the outward motions that God is after – it is not about performing the right religious activities or rituals – God wants to know and see that he has truly changed – God is interested in the heart…

‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.’ [vs 1-2]

this is the start of the Psalm – David appeals to what He knows of God, who he knows God to be – He appeals to God’s ‘mercy’ and His ‘unfailing love’ as well as His ‘great compassion’.

Note that David is asking for mercy, not justice. Which is a thing most of us do much of the time i imagine. David knew that calling for justice for his actions would mean his life. But knowing the God he serves, he knows deep down that even though he doesn’t deserve it and possibly might not even feel like he has the right to even ask, that God is all of those things and will likely respond with much mercy and grace and undeserved forgiveness and new life.

and then he speaks those words that Keith Green turned into such a brilliant and haunting song:

‘Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. [vs 10-12]’

this could be a daily prayer to start the day with… the search for a clean heart, the joy of really knowing God’s salvation and a spirit that is willing for whatever opportunity is placed in front of you…

[To return to the Intro page and be connected to any of the other Psalms i have walked through before now, click here]

‘Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.’ [vs. 1-4]

Um, wait, what? This must be one of those other psalms, right, the psalms not written by david?… Nope, says it right there, a psalm of david, a petition…

Hm.

something must have happened.

the “them” became the “me” perhaps…?

which i have been alluding to as from psalm to psalm we have been seeing this gung ho “kill the bastards” type attitude from david towards “those who sin” giving the strong impression that he was not part of that team… and now suddenly, he has fallen, and not just a little [popular opinion places this psalm after the bathsheba incident] and now suddenly he is the prodigal shamefully crawling home with his tail between his legs and no longer the older brother indignantly declaring his worth and deservement of reward.

how quickly the tables turn.

i wonder how differently david would write most of the psalms we have looked at already now that he finds himself on the other side – do you think his “smite the enemy” and “decimate those who sin” calls might be more grace-filled restoration focused petitions?

how does this affect the way i view the people who i don’t like or who have hurt me [maybe really deeply and painfully] when i start to get how someone maybe doesn’t have to be a complete schmunglehead to do complete schmunglehead things? because i did those things so it can’t be SO bad, right?

‘Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.’ [vs. 21-22]

while it is a good thing to call on God in your time of need and brokenness, once has to ask the question of whether david might have had a lot more people to call on as well and to have gather around him [dispensing grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, compassion] if he had shown a lot more of it to others in his previous writings…

i hope this psalm in some small way is a reminder to us that God has shown us incredible grace and mercy [love, forgiveness, compassion] in sending Jesus to die in our place. How dare we not extend the same kind to those around us, whose sins against us will not likely compare with God’s need to pour His wrath on His very Son.

[To return to the Intro page and be connected to any of the other Psalms i have walked through before now, click here]

been great hearing some thoughts from my friends and may have some more at a later stage but back to me for now… with psalm 35:

as i was reading this psalm [of david once again calling besmitement upon his enemies for all the nasty things they are doing or plotting against him] i had the thought that david’s only reference was the old testament God… now one of the big contentions of the Bible for a lot of people who don’t follow Jesus [and believe me, a whole lot of those who do as well] is that the God of the old testament seems to be different from the God of the new testament… old testament God = angry and violent and vindictive and new testament God = loving and full of grace and mercy – and a quick reading of the whole bible may help give you this opinion as there is a lot more killing in the old testament and appears to be a lot more forgiving and teaching on it in the new testament…

but a deeper reading will show that while God may change the way He interacts with people or reveals Himself to them, He doesn’t change in character… i assume this psalm is another of the pre-bathsheba stories of david’s life as he is once again appearing innocent while wanting all the ‘guilty’ around him to be taken down – and i imagine after that whole episode where he has received the punishment of his sin [loses the child conceived in sin] but also the forgiveness, grace and mercy of a loving God who will one day come Himself to bring release from the pain, sin and suffering of the world and bring the message of His heart of Love, Grace, Mercy and Freedom to us personally, that david would have had a different understanding of who God is and also chosen to be a lot more lenient on his enemies.

in the old testament we see a lot of God’s Grace, Mercy and Love shown in the way He holds back from destroying His people when they do the equivalent of showing Him the finger in disobedience time and time again and after every punishment He allows them to go through He always ends up rushing back with forgiveness and the next plan and opportunity for kingdom growth. and in the new testament we witness in the Acts 5 story of ananias and sapphira how God is still able to step in and say “enough is enough” – I am Loving, Gracious and Merciful but also I am a Holy God and will not just sit back and watch my name and character be mocked without ever intervening… so two examples of which there are more of the old testament God suddenly seeming very new testament and vice versa – God doesn’t change – His character and heart are consistent throughout Scripture even if His methods, style and ways of communication and even being followed might.

so the psalm made me want to introduce David to the new testament understanding of God as we see Him portrayed in Jesus Christ with the words and life on Love and Forgiveness and cheek-turning and enemy-Loving and so on…

and then i really loved verse ten which says, ‘My whole being will exclaim, “Who is like You, Lord? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them.”’

Both the question of “who is like You, Love?” with the obvious answer of “No-one!” And the heart for the poor and needy, the least of these, who are shown to be on God’s heart all the way through the story of the bible… and the strength of the statement coming from the exclamation of the writer’s whole being. definitely words to live by.

and on to Psalm 5:

this is an interesting one. powerful line in verse 5 – ‘You hate all who do wrong.’

is that true? of course it is. it is true to where david is at the moment of writing and what he is feeling [and maybe secretly wanting]

but is it Truth? absolutely not. we know from reading the rest of scripture that God does not hate anyone – His desire is that all will be saved [‘This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.’ 1 Timothy 2.3-4] – but we can see this as an expression of the frustration david is feeling as he writes this piece.

what’s interesting is that david himself secretly doesn’t want it to be true… read a little further – ‘You destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful, You, LORD, detest.’ [vs 6] is that starting to sound familiar?

remember this same david when it comes to the story of bathsheba, the wife of one of his trusted army officials and how david tells lies, is bloodthirsty and deceitful and even more… he definitely does a whole lot of wrong and is not hoping at that point that God will wipe “them” out quite as passionately as he is in this psalm… which makes me think he wrote this before the events of 2 Samuel 11 had taken place, probably from a place of thinking he was so much better than those around him who get it wrong.

this feels like the psalm from someone who is largely naive and untested in the ways of temptation and needs a bit of the reality check that screwing up royally can bring you. which he later gets. to the extreme. i wonder how this psalm would sound if it was written after that incident? probably a lot more use of words like ‘mercy,’ ‘grace’ and ‘forgiveness’?

i do like how it ends though, ‘But let all who take refuge in You be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread Your protection over them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You. Surely, LORD, You bless the righteous; You surround them with your favor as with a shield.’

[To continue on to Psalm 6, click here]

[To return to the start of this series on Psalms as well as some other Bible things, click here]

it is important for us to realise just how insulting and offensive the son’s attitude towards his father is, because otherwise we will never fully ‘get’ just how incredibly over-the-top ludicrously insane the father’s response is.

the father hands over to his son the inheritance (and if it is half of everything he owns then it must be at cost to him and to his lifestyle and comfort/luxury) and the sons heads off and wastes it on ‘wild living.’

eventually the son has spent all his money and his ‘friends’ have all disappeared now that he is no longer providing the party and he ends up working as a man who feeds pigs. it gets so bad he starts looking at the food the pigs are eating and being tempted to dig in. realising that his father’s servants eat better than that, he decides to head home and throw himself at his mercy and ask if he cannot return as a servant in his dad’s house.

now if we ‘get’ how completely rude and disrespectful the son had been to his father, then the father’s response is even more insane. in the jewish culture of the day a man of wealth and position would never run. he was dignified and would walk at his own leisure to demonstrate that position.

but in the story Jesus is telling, the moment the father spots the son (which shows that he was looking out for the son and probably spent a lot of time doing so) he runs out of the house and sets off down the road, screaming to his servants to bring the good robe and the ring and sandals and start killing the fattened calf for the party we are going to have tonight.

not just undignified for a father of his stature to act that way – but remember he is acting in response to the hugest possible insult and betrayal from his son – and the response is absolute unconditional undefiled love.

the kind of love the world does not largely ‘get’ today, except in extreme cases. the kind of love the church is meant to be known for and by, altho too often is sadly known for the opposite (especially when it comes to treatment of people we view as horrible sinners – rather them than us).

the God i love and serve is the father in that story. even while we were turning our backs on Him and rejecting Him and screaming (with our mouths or our lifestyles) ‘i wish You were dead!” He was watching us with love and compassion and secretly storing up party supplies and simply waiting for the second we came to our senses and started the journey home…

And then there He is, once again, running undignifiedly full of compassion and love and forgiveness and mercy and hope and invitation and declaration (my son was once dead but is alive) straight towards you…

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