Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 5 Study # 19
Thesis: In the attempt to make sense out of what happens in our lives, we must take the mercy of God into account.
Introduction: As we have considered Zacharias' words regarding the purpose of God in driving a great wedge between us and our sins so that there is a vast fixed gulf between us and both the guilt and reality of our sins, we have seen that the Spirit sought, by prophetic utterance, to make sure that the people of God could understand their future in the salvation of God in respect to His creation of this vast fixed gulf. This morning we come to 1:78. In this verse we are told pointedly what is responsible for God's action. So, we are going to look into this business called by the translators "the tender mercy of our God".
November 21, 2004
- I. First, Some Comments Regarding the Translation.
- A. The translation, though linguistically acceptable, hides as much as it reveals.
- 1. The translation given is "the tender mercy".
- 2. Another possibility is "merciful feelings of tenderness" [Note the translators' choice in Colossians 3:12, or Philippians 1:7, where the same grammatical construction exists].
- B. The focus of Luke's wording is upon God's "feelings" and where they come from.
- 1. The "feelings" are expressed in the word translated "tender".
- 2. Their "root" is expressed in the word translated "mercy".
- II. Second, a Note About the Fundamental Primacy of "Mercy" in God's Works.
- A. "Mercy" is a fundamental thesis of Luke 1 [1:50, 54, 58, 72, 78].
- B. "Mercy" is characteristically noted as the root of "salvation".
- 1. Titus 3:5 pointedly says that it is "according to the standard of mercy" that we have been saved.
- 2. Romans 9:23 calls us, as the elect of God, the "vessels of mercy" in contrast to the "vessels of wrath".
- C. "Mercy" is even of greater significance than "grace".
- 1. We have made a big deal out of Luke's "big deal" about "name him John".
- 2. But, everywhere in Luke 1 that anyone attempts to explain the "why" of "grace", they point to "mercy".
- 3. This does not minimize "grace" as a required theological shift for mankind; but it needs to be understood that "grace" is not as fundamental as "mercy".
- III. Third, Some Thoughts About God's "Tender Feelings".
- A. The word Zacharias used typically refers to the physical organs that are found in the main trunk of a person's body (see Acts 1:18).
- B. The use of this word in respect to God is a recognition of the principle of John 3:12; it is not a declaration that God has a "body" similar to ours.
- C. The use of the John 3:12 principle means that God experiences the same kind of reactions we experience when we are placed into situations of significant grief.
- 1. The similarity is that both we and God perceive disastrous situations as grievous and needing action.
- 2. The difference is that our perceptions are extremely limited and God's know no boundaries.
- IV. Fourth, Some Observations Regarding the Root of God's Tender Feelings.
- A. Just as the organs within man's body are not the root of his "feelings" (they are merely the place where he "feels" them), so also God's "feelings" are not rooted in some kind of cosmic body part.
- B. According to this text, the root of God's "feelings" is His "mercy"...an attitude of love and compassion.
- C. The main stumbling block to man's perception of God's "mercy" is that He appears to refrain from taking the needed action a great deal of the time, and even when He does take action, He almost always hides it within the actions of others.
- 1. In many of the cases in which men see a "need" for mercy, there does not seem to be any.
- 2. In almost all of the cases in which men see mercy extended, it is extended by another human being.
- D. The theological solution to the question of the mercy of God is clear-eyed understanding of several related truths...
- 1. First, God is not only "merciful" [see the text in Romans 9:23].
- 2. Second, God has already made some statements about some cases in which a person may need mercy and not get it.
- a. There are those cases when mercy is rejected because of pride and the knowledge that it "obligates" the recipient.
- b. There are also those cases when mercy is not extended because of the merciless attitude that has been taken by the one now needing mercy [James 2:13].
- 3. Third, God is never presented in the Scriptures as refusing mercy to anyone who was willing to seek it in humility (i.e., willing to admit the need, and accept the 'obligation' -- both of reciprocation and of extension to others).
- a. There are many who decry the mercilessness of God's actions/lack of actions in their gross ignorance and automatic antagonism toward Him.
- b. No one has ever been able to show that mercy was refused when confident humility was being exercised.
- c. It is fundamental to the promise of God that He turns none away who come to Him without the arrogance or despair of the "accusing".
- V. Finally, Some Conclusions We Ought to Draw.
- A. First, Luke didn't tell Theophilus about the primacy of Yahweh's "mercy" just to round out his theology.
- B. Second, it is, apparently, crucial to development as a theophile that people begin to take seriously the biblical claim that God is not unmoved by the tragedies of which He is the most perceptive witness.