Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 5 Study # 12
Thesis: The "big picture" problems with "mercy" are two: first, the "problem" of a lack of interest in the objective; and, second, the "problem" of a lack of interest in having to wait for the fulfillment of the means.
Introduction: In our study last week, we looked into the issue of the promise of salvation in light of the reality that what has been promised has not yet been fulfilled. We saw that there is a rather significant disconnect between what has been promised and what is being experienced. What Zacharias addressed as "salvation" was "deliverance from the negative impact of the evil behavior of others." We saw that the fulfillment of this "promise" is "timed" in the plan of God for the far distant future (as far as the perspective of men is concerned). And we saw that the entire issue of having a "promise" from God that is not going to be fulfilled in our temporal lifetime is problematical because the lack of fulfillment is used by our adversary as an accusation of a breakdown of integrity. What, the accuser asks, is the point of having a promise that is not going to be fulfilled in your case? We answered that question last week by saying that promises about the far distant future are necessary in order to establish legitimate hope because legitimate hope is absolutely critical to our walk of faith. If we expect incorrectly, we will react incorrectly when the expectation is frustrated. If we react incorrectly we will discover that our lives spin down in terms of the quality of our experience. If the spindown is deep enough over a long enough period of time, we will suffer the shipwreck of our faith and the disaster that brings is not what we want to live with. We have seen that Luke 1 is a microcosm presentation of how this all works. Zacharias and Elizabeth are presented as examples of people who have been given a "delayed fulfillment promise" and their fear and unbelief is presented as the consequences of putting too much emphasis upon a false expectation in respect to the timing of the fulfillment of the promise. But, their exceedingly great joy, and their extraordinary privilege is also presented so that we may see that the integrity of God stands uncompromised and the end result of His promises is to be highly desired. Who wouldn't like to experience exceedingly great joy and extraordinary privilege?
Now, as we continue to investigate the meaning and significance of Zacharias' words this morning, we are going to see that we are in constant need of believing that our God is a God of daily mercies. And, in order to be able to believe that, we are going to see that there are two problems that need to be clearly addressed.
October 3, 2004
- I. The Fact of the Mercy of God.
- A. It is a fact of human nature that people tend to develop a view of God that puts a premium upon one attribute to the exclusion of the other attributes.
- 1. The classic illustration of this is what is typically called "Reformed Theology" with its overstated emphasis upon the holiness of God, defined as an intense antagonism toward sin.
- 2. That it is patently erroneous should be abundantly clear because of the Gospel.
- a. If holiness were an over-riding concern for God, it would have been permitted by God to override His other concerns.
- b. But the Gospel says that God went into "hyper-drive" to over-ride the legitimate conerns of holiness...that He might be just and the justifier of those who believe in Jesus.
- B. It is a fact of human nature that people tend to believe one thing and say another.
- 1. The classic illustration of this is the glib God-talk people engage in when faced with the tragedies of others as opposed to the fact of deep-seated terror when faced with the possibility of personal disaster.
- 2. That this is done proves one thing: people wish God was genuinely interested in making life better, but they believe He is really only interested in getting even with them.
- C. It is a fact of true Theology that God's Mercy Trumps His Justice.
- 1. Six times in Luke 1 we are pointed to the mercy of God by specific mention.
- 2. Two sections of Luke 1 are intended to address the superior interests of mercy over justice.
- a. The "name him 'John'" passage early with its muteness as a discipline.
- b. The "named him 'John'" passage late with its return of speech for faith.
- 3. Jesus is presented both by Mary and Zacharias as the outworking of God's focus upon mercy.
- a. In 1:50 and 54, Mary calls God's activities an expression of mercy.
- b. In 1:72 and 78, Zacharias calls God's activities the result of His mercy.
- II. The Problems Men Have With the Mercy of God.
- A. First, we do not understand the nature of mercy.
- 1. We all tend to make "mercy" a periodic and unusual experience.
- a. All of the references to mercy in Luke 1 can be twisted into an "occasional", and even "unusual" thing.
- 1) The "remember mercy" concept can be twisted into "unusual mercy" by the focus upon the centuries between the promise and the "mercy" of fulfillment.
- 2) The flawed translations of 1:58 make us think in terms of "occasional" mercy ("showed great/displayed great" instead of "magnified").
- b. All of the consequences of this tendency deny the plain declaration that Yahweh is fundamentally merciful.
- 1) Exodus 34:6.
- 2) Psalm 145:9.
- 2. We all tend to ignore the daily expressions of provision that come out of mercy.
- B. Second, we do not understand that we are the only reason that mercy does not triumph in our experience.
- 1. There is an objective of mercy that will not "go away" ... we are supposed to be interested in "serving Him all of our days" and without that interest there is no solution to the lack of mercy.
- 2. There is a method of mercy that will not "go away" ... we are to trust in the truth without becoming weakened by the appearances and the lack of fulfillment in the present, and without faith it is impossible for mercy to have an impact.