Grateful for the Gracious Mercy of God

    March 13, 2018 | Articles by Rev. David Bodanza

    Remember the old parable of the six blind men and the elephant? Each one of the blind men touched a different part of the elephant's body and thereby concluded that the elephant was like a wall, snake, spear, tree, fan or rope, depending upon where they touched. And so these men, says the old poem, "Disputed loud and long, Each in his own opinion, Exceeding stiff and strong, Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong."

    This is reminiscent of how people view the nature of God. There are many different opinions. Some consider Him as loving of everyone and everything, a permissive Father. Others think of Him as stern and capricious, a strict potentate who is aloof from humanity. Still others consider Him as a "higher power" but really don't know what He is like, although He is helpful when asked. Indeed, some are not even theists. They may not believe in God at all (i.e., they are atheists) or they believe all nature is God (i.e., they are pantheists). We live in an age of opinions. Everyone has an opinion, nobody cares about anyone else's opinion and most of them emanate from dubious sources. Yet, sources are crucial in seeking the truth.

    The worship of a god of your own imagination is idolatry. The worship of the one and true living God, the God of the Holy Scriptures, is right and blessed. It is God's prerogative in selecting the means by which He reveals His nature to humanity. God has chosen to reveal His nature through the inspired words of the Holy Scripture. The 1689 Confession of Faith summarizes this well, "The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased."

    If you revere God, you can be very grateful for the following aspect of His nature. He is graciously merciful and compassionate to His people. He remembers we are only human after all. Consider Psalm 103:8-18: "The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness

    with their children's children-- with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts."

    God is slow to anger, abounding in love. He is not like one who is quick to point out your faults and criticize you for them. There are individuals who are quick to tear someone else down, thinking that they can build themselves up this way. Pride has displaced love in their hearts. God is not like this. He bears with us for His love is amazingly deep. Matthew Henry put it this way, "He bears long with those that are very provoking, defers punishing, that he may give space to repent, and does not speedily execute the sentence of his law; and he could not be thus slow to anger if he were not plenteous in mercy, the very Father of mercies."

    God does not treat the person who reveres God as their sins deserve or repay them according to their iniquities. The one who reveres God is the person who has received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) "As far as the east is from the west," so far has he removed our sins from us. In other words, He has completely removed them. This is due to His holy love, mercy and grace through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood, to be now received by faith. Christ is the propitiation and expiation of our sins. Expiation is the removal of guilt through payment of the penalty, while propitiation is the averting of God's just wrath. In Christ alone, there is a very great reversal. Mercy is God not giving us what we do deserve. Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve.

    The LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. We are imperfect. Our days are fleeting. Time passes quickly and our lives will be over sooner than we realize. Life is truly short. "But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children-- with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts." Despite the brevity of human life on earth, God is eternal. He always was and He always will be. His love is forever with His people, those who are faithful to His covenant and precepts. His loving kindness even extends to our progeny!

    Sometimes we can express gratitude for the gift but not the giver. We dare not take the giver and the giver's generosity for granted. Our post-modern, post-Christian culture focuses on what we have and our happiness to have it. Many Americans live without reference to God, preferring to congratulate themselves for every good thing they have and blame God for everything that goes wrong.

    Abraham Lincoln hit the nail on the head in an 1863 Proclamation for a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, observing, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of

    redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God that made us! It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

    The life of the Christian should be marked with an attitude of gratitude toward God, the Giver. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." (James 1:17) Thomas Merton put it this way, “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us - and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”

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