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Tag: mercy





These are the words that are engraved in the perimeter walls of our county courthouse.  I had the occasion to read them again last night.  The first time I stopped to read those words, they fascinated me.  This time, they bothered me.  In particular, what bothered me was the word “justice.”  For as I stood reading those words, I had to admit to myself that I don’t know what true justice is.  I can tell you what I believe justice is in my mind, but how do I define true justice?  As I stood outside staring at the engraved words, I was speechless.  I felt as if I was standing before a judge, with all the evidence presented against me, and the judge asked me what I think the verdict should be.  In my heart, and out of pure selfishness, I would blurt out “NOT GUILTY!” Truth, however, which is what I claim to desire, says “I am guilty.”  The verdict, then, is that I am guilty of not knowing what true justice is.  It should be noted here that the etymology of the word “verdict” explains that the word is formed from two roots: ver, meaning true, and dit, from the verb to say. An accurate transliteration of the word verdict would be a true report.

The following parable is an example of true justice.  It is found in the gospel of Matthew, in the 20th chapter.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. And after agreeing with the workers for the standard wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When it was about nine o’clock in the morning, he went out again and saw others standing around in the marketplace without work. He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and I will give you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and three o’clock that afternoon, he did the same thing. And about five o’clock that afternoon he went out and found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why are you standing here all day without work?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go and work in the vineyard too.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give the pay starting with the last hired until the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each received a full day’s pay. 10 And when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each one also received the standard wage. 11 When they received it, they began to complain against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last fellows worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us who bore the hardship and burning heat of the day.’ 13 And the landowner replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am not treating you unfairly. Didn’t you agree with me to work for the standard wage? 14 Take what is yours and go. I want to give to this last man the same as I gave to you. 15 Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”

I have read this parable many times, and have received greater understanding since I have heard the gospel of the kingdom of God.  But as I pondered this parable again in light of the words engraved upon the walls of our county courthouse, I was humiliated.  I knew that I would be one of the first to say “Lord, that just isn’t fair!”  For how could it be fair that some workers had toiled all day in the heat of the sun, while others, who stood idle all day, come in at the last hour, do a little work, but earn the same compensation?  Of course, I had to realize that I was viewing this parable from a very jaded, temporal perspective, instead of from a true, eternal perspective.  For if the reward is eternal citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, then the amount of time one spends laboring in the vineyard of this life is of little relevance.  I should be rejoicing that one performed any labor in the landowner’s vineyard, and that we both have equity in this spiritual commonwealth.  Instead, the selfish, corrupt heart of mine prohibits me from seeing the truth, and I want merely my own brand of justice – “pay more to the one who worked more!”

Lord, have mercy upon my tarnished, shallow soul.  Forgive me for petitioning you to exact my own perverted brand of justice.  Forgive me for attempting to know better than you what truth is.  Forgive me for not exhibiting the mercy that you have shown me, when true justice would demand that I receive no mercy at all.

left hand right handToday, we will conclude this series on the left hand and the right hand by examining what we have learned and applying it to a very important passage in the book of James.  Before we examine the passage, let us remember we learned that in the Bible, the right hand is stronger, or greater than the left, and that the right hand represents mercy, and the left hand judgment.  Now, let us look at a very important passage in James:
James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James is warning the saints of God that he who judges without mercy will be judged without mercy.  Then, he concludes by saying that mercy triumphs, or is greater than, judgment.  Meditate on that for a moment.  The right hand of mercy is greater than, or triumphs, over the left hand of judgment.  If this is the case, why don’t more Christians display this attribute of mercy?  Perhaps it is because they have never learned this truth.  One will not exhibit what one has not learned.  In other words, if I came to Christ out of fear of judgment, that is the only attribute I have experienced.  If, however, I heard the gospel in love, and experienced mercy, then that is what I will exhibit.  There are many in the body of Christ who have never truly experienced the mercy of God, so they themselves are unable to exhibit this attribute.  And yet, mercy is essential attribute in God’s kingdom.  How do I begin to learn and understand about mercy?  By first hearing and understanding the gospel of the kingdom.  The very fact that God allowed Gentiles to hear the gospel is evidence of his mercy.  And it is this mercy that true saints of God are expected to display in their lives.

left hand right handYesterday, we looked at the symbolic meanings of the left hand and the right hand in the Bible, and we applied them in the teaching of Christ in Matthew 6. Today, we will reconsider the meaning of Jonah 4:11 in light of what we have learned about the left and the right hand.  Let us first review what God told Jonah:
Jonah 4:11 And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
First, it is important to note that Nineveh was a city of Gentiles.  This means that they were uncircumcised people who did not know God.  Since they did not know God, they also did not know of his attributes.  Nineveh did not know of God’s judgment, neither did they know of his mercy.  Yet God, in his discourse with Jonah, is revealing his mercy, or lovingkindness toward Nineveh.  He is showing mercy to a people that cannot discern between mercy and judgment.  The irony in this account is that Jonah was angry that God did not exhibit judgment on Nineveh.
Does Nineveh represent us today?  Are we a people that, like Nineveh, are unable to discern between the right hand of mercy and the left hand of judgment?  Consider the woman caught in adultery:
John 8:And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
This woman was not simply accused of adultery; she was caught in the very act.  Caught in the act implies that there were witnesses who saw her.  Indeed, according to judgment, she should have been stoned to death.  Instead, the Lord Jesus shows mercy on her life and spares her.  But is that what we would do today?  If we encountered someone in the act of a transgression, would we show judgment, or mercy?  Do we believe that a person should receive the punishment they deserve, while at the same time boasting that God had mercy on our lives?  If God had mercy on our lives, is it not reasonable to believe that he can have mercy on the lives of others?  When we are on display in the world, are we exhibiting the lovingkindess of God, or are we exhibiting what we believe to be the judgment of God?  Perhaps it is time for us to reexamine our own hearts to consider if we have a hardened heart of judgment, or a fleshy heart of mercy.  

left hand right handYesterday, we saw examples in both the Old Testament and the New Testament of the use of the left hand and the right hand.  Today, we examine what the left hand and the right hand symbolize, then apply that symbolism to the passages we previously read.
According to the website
“The biblical usages of “right” and “left” are basically fourfold: right as opposed to left; directions (cardinal points); strength and weakness; merism. As is the case in many cultures, right is favored over left in various contexts.”  Merism is a word that means everywhere, in any direction.  It goes on further to state:
“In rabbinic theology, God’s right hand represents the Attribute of Mercy, his left hand, the Attribute of Judgment.”
What we see, then, are two important principles: 1) the right is favored, or greater than the left; and 2) the right hand represents mercy, and the left hand judgment.  Now, let us reconsider the passages we read yesterday.  In the first passage, Christ Jesus was instructing His disciples:
Matt. 6:3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
When Christ was speaking to His disciples, they understood that the right hand represents mercy, and the left hand judgment.  Christ, then, was implying that when they were giving, they were not to let the left hand of judgment know what the right hand of mercy was doing.  In other words, they were to give mercifully without judgment.  This applies to us as saints of God today.  When we give, we are not to judge those to whom we are giving; rather, we are to give mercifully, in the same way that God indeed had mercy on us when we were estranged from him.  Have you judged those to whom you have given, or those from whom you have withheld giving?  Have you observed someone and thought “they deserve to be where they are,” or “they are too lazy to get out and work,” or any other number of thoughts that may run through your mind as you judge that person based upon what you see?  Our Lord is charging us to give mercifully without judgment.  We are to be just as merciful as Zacchaeus:
Luke 19:And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
This type of merciful giving is the result of a renewed mind, a mind that understands that God had mercy on me, and now I must show mercy toward others.
Tomorrow, we will examine Jonah 4:11 in light of this renewed understanding.