Category Archives: Mercy

What Makes a King a King?

Proverbs 16:12

“It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.”

A king detests wrongdoing, for his rule is built on justice. (NLT)

I have never met an earthly king, but I have often wondered what makes a king a king, or a queen a queen. The history books tell us that many kings and queens built their rule not on justice and righteousness, but on evil and by instilling fear among their subjects. There are countries in our world that continue to be ruled in this way.

Jesus was born into poverty in a land ruled by terror. A foreign king ruled the land with the help of a local puppet king. Neither covered themselves in glory in the way that they ruled. Compare Caesar and Herod to Jesus. The fact that Jesus was different was evident after His arrest when He was interrogated by Pilate, the Roman governor for the province:

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:33-38 NIV)

Did Pilate understand what Jesus was saying? Here was a King like no other. A King who is holy and perfect in every way that we are not. A King from another place who cannot be compared to any earthly ruler, but a King who considers every human welcome in His Kingdom. It is not us that this King judges, but our wrongdoing. His rule is built on justice, and the forgiveness made possible by His sacrifice.

Before Jesus all human beings are equal, and all are equally welcome. He hates the wrongdoing, but He loves the wrongdoer. What a King!


Are You Afraid?

Proverbs 15:33

“The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom,
    and humility comes before honor.”

What is Fear?

We see lots of mention of fear in the Old Testament. It’s a word that doesn’t fit well with our modern mindset, and so many people who speak about these verses reduce fear to something else. They tell us it is more like awe or respect. Yet even these words have been diluted by our present culture.

When I was a child and did something wrong, I feared the consequences, I feared my parents and the discipline they would bring, the telling off I would receive. Today children seem to fear very few things, and the ideas of respect and awe are replaced by individualism.

Real Fear

But what if fear means fear? What if there is reason to fear God, and this reason makes the grace He shows us all the more amazing?

In the Old Testament the Israelites were afraid to approach the mountain that God met Moses on, Jacob comments on how he came face to face with God and lived.  Maybe fear is the beginning of all wisdom because when we realize that God could do anything He wants at any time, He could make our lives miserable and full of suffering, He could punish us for our sins.

And yet he doesn’t.

Instead He pours grace upon us, and in Jesus shows us how humility comes before honor.


Don’t Confuse His Emotions

Proverbs 15:9

“The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.”

Abomination

Have you ever stopped to really ponder the word abomination? Do you ever use that word in your regular speech? Probably not. However, you’ve probably used words like “disgusting,” “revolting,” or said something like “that makes me want to gag!”

To abhor something is to be disgusted with it, revolted by it, and it should make you want to gag. It’s like the feeling you might get when a loved one might uncover a bandaged wound and show you the oozing infection.

It’s also the type of feeling you should get when made aware of a man brutally raping a young woman, a parent beating and killing her infant, or a scumbag scam artist stealing the life savings from a little, old lady.

These things are abominations, and so is the “way of the wicked.”

“Loveth”

Who can justly deny God’s love for man? The merciful One who puts up with our unrighteousness on a minute-by-minute basis could rightfully call for our lives to be extinguished, yet he graciously gives us opportunity after opportunity to repent.

Of all the nations in the Old Testament, was there any the Lord would have destroyed had those nations repented of their wickedness, asked for forgiveness, and followed after the one true God? Doesn’t the book of Jonah make it perfectly clear that God wants to forgive?

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9

Yet, one could read Proverbs 15:8-9 and come to the conclusion that God only loves those who do what He wants, that He really doesn’t love everybody, for He’s disgusted with – abhors – sinners.

And you would be so wrong!

Attractive

If you will look closely, the comparison between the wicked person and the righteous person reveals the actions of each. It is the actions that determine God’s response.

And what is the response? That He will love the lovable and hate the ugly? God forbid! No! This verse describes what is pleasurable, what is attractive, what is a beauty to behold, and what brings a smile.

Are you a parent? Do you love your children any less when they are dirty, infected, or coughing up phlegm? No, you wince, you fight your gag reflexes when you clean them up, but you love them so much you’d die for them.

But when they smell nice, wear clean clothes, do their homework, ask if they can do the dishes for you, and then sit down next to you on the couch just to be close… don’t you “love” that?

God abhorred the way of the the wicked so much that He gave His only begotten Son…

God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son…

Christ manifested, He proved His love for even the ungodly when He humbled Himself to the horrors of the cross…

But it brings a smile to his face when we seek to do His will.


Carpenter King

Proverbs 14:35

“The king’s favor is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.”

I only know one King. He is not an earthly king, in fact he was born into poverty, apparently while his parents were accommodated in a stable. While He was still quite young, this King was exiled from His homeland. When He returned home this King learned a trade, and qualified as a carpenter. Some years later, but while He was still a young man, the carpenter King became an itinerant. He had no palace, in fact He had nowhere to lay His head.

Somehow the itinerant King gathered a band of followers, twelve of whom became so special to the King that He called them His disciples. These disciples weren’t exactly servants, and they struggled to understand their King at times. The King rejoiced when His disciples exhibited wisdom, but often felt frustration at their lack of understanding. While they may have let him down from time to time, only one disciple disgraced the King, and walked away from His favor.

It seems incredible that this disciple rejected his King, turning the King over to the authorities of the day for a financial reward. In a disgraceful, shameful act of betrayal this disciple led soldiers to his King. He planted a kiss on the King’s cheek to identify Him. The King was taken away, interrogated, tortured, and sentenced to death. Although the King was innocent of all charges, He was publicly executed by being nailed to a wooden cross. As He hung on that cross He accepted the wrath and the shame that should have been levied against His subjects.

Lift up your eyes to the cross of the King! While He is long gone from that cross, the cross reminds us that our shame has been replaced by His favor, because He took the shame and made it His. That is His gift to you. Favor instead of shame. Are you a wise servant? Will you accept this gift from the King?


Giving is Honoring

Proverbs 14:31

“He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.”
“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” – ESV

Do You Hate God?

It’s as simple as this: if you take advantage of or mistreat the poor, you hate God. End of story. On the other hand, if you love God, then you will have mercy on the poor.

Do you remember old Scrooge? Remember how he despised the idea of giving money to help the poor and needy. At one point he said, “Are there no prisons? [The workhouses], are they still in operation?” Yet, when he got the “Christmas spirit” he had a change of heart and gave more than anyone else?

Beware the Blowhard

Don’t let any pompous blowhard convince you he loves his Maker if he never drops a dime in a Salvation Army kettle. Never trust a religious deacon who raises the rent on his commercial property in order to keep the single moms away. The lottery promoter who makes huge profits on the backs of those who can barely afford to put food on the table…well, he might as well spit in the face of Christ.

His Hands and Feet

We are the hands and feet of Christ in this world. We are to help those who need help as if the Lord was here in the flesh doing it Himself. That is what it means to be Christ-like. Of course, there are needs which will never be met, no matter how hard we try. But showing mercy is a sure sign we are honoring the one who showed greater mercy, giving us everything in the gift of His Son.


Poor Friends

Proverbs 14:21

He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.”

This verse goes with yesterday’s, and David did a great job with the lead.

Here are the ways the verses work together:

Hating the Poor Neighbor

The poor is hated even of his own neighbour“. A poor man is hated by his neighbor, because many people immediately think about those who borrow money or things with promises of returning them but never do. In other words, they see the poor, even friends of theirs at times, as moochers and robbers.

Is it fair? Sometimes, in the case of those who really are moochers and robbers. However …

He that despiseth his neighbor sinneth“. As mentioned previously, when asked by an expert of the law about loving your neighbor, Jesus’ answer essentially was that all people are our neighbors. Regardless of how people live their lives or their level of prosperity (or lack thereof), we are to love them.

Friends to All

… but the rich hath many friends.” Many rich people seem to give money to make friends, buy their friends, if you will. I posit that this is not the intent of that verse.

… but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.” This verse explains why the rich have many friends. It is the person who looks on that friend down on his luck and helps. It is the person who looks on the person in need and is there.

Jesus is the Answer

Anyone is capable of doing merciful things for others. Jesus basically said so in Matthew 7 and Luke 11.

The difference for the Christian should be love. Not just any love, but the love of God as expressed through Jesus Christ. We must be willing to sacrifice for others. 1 Corinthians 13:3 (NIV) says “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

We can all make friends, but, to use a phrase that has been over-used in recent times, the best friend to make is Jesus. Most people come to meet Him through our mercy and generosity.

Merciful Lord, thank You for loving us through Your richness of grace, mercy, and love. Though we were poor in these, You reached out for us. Through Your Holy Spirit, increase Your grace, mercy, and love in us, that we may reach our world for Your glory.


Friends and Neighbors

Proverbs 14:20

“The poor is hated even of his own neighbor: but the rich hath many friends.”

Definition of a Neighbor

An expert in the law once asked Jesus the question: “Who is my neighbor?” This man knew that the law told him to love his neighbor, but while the purpose of the question was to test Jesus, it is doubtful that he was head over heels in love with all his neighbors. So Jesus told a story and put the expert in the law on the spot. The story involved a Samaritan, a person the expert in the law was least likely to want as his next-door neighbor. At the end of the story the legal expert begrudgingly accepted that out of three people, the Samaritan was the only true neighbor to the injured Jew in the illustration provided by Jesus. The mercy, compassion and love showed by the Samaritan enriched him as the giver, and the injured Jew as the receiver. It must also have enriched the innkeeper.

Poor Neighbor or Good?

While mercy, compassion and love bring enrichment, the process of hating another human being brings impoverishment to all parties. Hate is a strong and unpleasant word, but if there is a person or group of people we despise, don’t like, disrespect, look down on, etc., then is that any better than hate? What gives us the right to judge ourselves better than another human being? Are we good neighbors or poor neighbors? Are we rich in mercy, compassion and love? Should we be friends of the rich or good neighbors to the poor?

Who are Your Friends?

It is said that we can choose our friends but not our families. Similarly, it is not possible to choose our neighbors, especially if we consider how Jesus defined neighbors. Jesus quite deliberately spent much of his time with the impoverished of society, rather than with rich people, famous people, or clever people. His friends were fishermen, prostitutes, tax collectors, and the like. Jesus wasn’t intimidated by learning, wealth or position, He looked at the heart. So when a rich young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved, Jesus told him to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor. By enriching the lives of others in this way this young man would have become wealthy in a different way, with riches that would last forever.

Who is your neighbor?