The Lord our God is well-known for His mercy. It is written that He created us mankind in His likeness; not necessarily in the physical form but in the spiritual realm. How we humans express our feelings mirrors God’s own. We are sometimes happy, sad, offended, forgiving or are forgiven.
By PROSPER TINGINI
Those who commit crime (sin) in human society are often punished for their offences. Jails are places of imprisonment for offenders. Some people are made to pay a fine for their crimes, to escape incarceration. Others are warned, forgiven and discharged.
Our Lord is a God of good and of mercy. It should follow that anything bad affects Him. How He reacts to sin is another matter. Early scriptures tell us He was first angered by His first human creations, Adam and Eve, after they disobeyed His instructions. As a result, He cursed them (Genesis 3). He did not seek to destroy them. It was a sign of mercy and forgiveness.
Generations later, the sins of man overstretched God’s patience to such an extent that He wanted to exterminate mankind from the planet Earth.
However, He still exercised His mercy on one man and his family, Noah. Genesis 6: 5-8 reads: The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of his heart (that of man) was evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the ground, man and beast and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them”.
But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord. Even in anger, God still has room for mercy. Such is the Lord our God.
Punishment is the last option for the Lord. After the floods, He felt remorse for his actions and vowed never to inflict such a punishment to mankind again. He made a covenant with all living things of the flesh, through Noah, that He wouldn’t repeat such a retribution.
Genesis 9: “When I set my bow [rainbow] in the cloud, it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of the flesh, that the waters shall never again become a blood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will look upon it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth”. It is apparent that God, in His mercy, sometimes feels some regret for punishing us for our sins and becomes sorrowful later.
Just like us, God is at times overcome by feelings brought about by our actions, even exhibiting feelings of jealousy. The second commandment of the 10 reads; “You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity [sins] of the fathers upon the children of the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” Exodus 20: 4-5. In this one law, He speaks of dislike of sin, jealousy, judgement, warnings and above all, He talks about love.
When we sin and regret our sins, God forgives us because He has mercy. If we plead with Him to save us from His anger and punishment, He will listen. His heart is not made of stone. He will reverse any punitive action directed at our sins. Let’s put aside those who teach us that we can freely sin on the strength of Jesus’ death.
In Exodus 32, we read that while Moses was up the mountain receiving God’s instructions and commandments, the people moulded a golden calf and bowed down to worship it, in contravention of the second commandment which He had spoken to them directly at Mt Sinai just a few days earlier.
As a punishment, God sent a plague upon the people. He further told Moses He would withdraw His presence from among the people on their journey to the Promised Land. So heart-broken was Moses that he went down on his knees and pleaded with the Lord to reconsider His stance.
In His mercy God reversed His intended threat of punishment in sympathy with Moses and the people. In reply to Moses’ plea for mercy, He said; “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest”. As a lesson, let’s not hesitate to ask for God’s mercy after we commit acts of sin. He is not a hard-hearted God.
More than anything else, the Lord our God does not enjoy human suffering. While in His anger He can inflict some form of human suffering in response, He would always want to come to the aid of the suffering and of poor people. The poor and the trodden are always closest to His heart. He will do anything to change their situation.
His mercy will push Him to act. A good example from the scriptures is when He rescued the people of Israel from slavery. When you cry out to Him, He will come to your aid to change your situation. In Exodus 3: 7-8, He said to Moses, “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their task masters; I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the Egyptians . . .”
God is prone to show His anger towards people who bring suffering to others. He did this to the Egyptians by bringing plagues of various kinds for their cruelty towards His people. His mercy towards the oppressed will attract His anger towards wrongdoers.
In Exodus 22: 22-24, He warned; “You shall not mistreat any widow or orphan. If you do afflict them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry; and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword,…”. To the money lenders he warned in verses 26-27, “If ever you take your neighbour’s garment in pledge (loan security), you shall restore it to him before the sun goes down; for that is his mantle for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate”. In such instances, it shows God exercising both mercy and anger, side by side.
The same can be said about his Son, Jesus Christ. Countless times, He shows his mercy through his acts of kindness and through his mercy healings. He also showed his compassion for mankind by sacrificing his own life for the forgiveness of our sins. Christ is a carbon copy of his Father, the Lord our God. In Isaiah 54 verse 8 it reads; “In overflowing anger, for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you”, says the Lord, your redeemer.
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