Mercy That Gives

The LORD said to Moses, ‘Cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.  Be ready by the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai, and present yourself there to me on the top of the mountain.’ So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, ‘If now I have found favor in your sight, O LORD, please let the LORD go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.’” Exodus 34:1-2,4-9

Grace is God’s giving what we do not deserve, and mercy is God’s not giving what we do deserve. This passage expresses God’s wide mercy with voice and arms, rather than a withholding, as He meets with Moses. Following Moses’s throwing down and breaking the stone tablets in anger at Israel’s golden calf, we never hear a reproach from the Lord Who had inscribed them with His hand, Who Himself exhibits righteous anger, but we do hear a calm, firm “Let’s do it again.” When Moses readily obeys, the Lord meets him and proclaims Himself all Moses could ever want or need in a Master and Redeemer and Friend. (Exodus 31:18; Matthew 21:12-13)

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My mother always taught me never to say, “I told you so,” never to dig into what has already been regretted, or bring up what is past and cannot be undone. When we tend to remind someone of their error, or point out that we knew better, or prove our expectations were met in their blunder, or even teach an unnecessary lesson from another’s failure, our underlying motive is to elevate self and diminish the other. Pride swells into a cloud of my expertise, my righteousness, and the one who is already ashamed or sorry has no clear way to redemption.

Wouldn’t we benefit and build up others more by extending wide mercy that flows from a heart aware of our own foibles? If I tend to the plank in my own eye, I am much gentler with the splinter in another’s. When I acknowledge with humble gratitude that God in Christ has forgiven all my sin, my heart is kinder, more tender to forgive others. (Matthew 7:3-5; Ephesians 4:32)

Merciful Lord, may my attitude and treatment toward others exemplify Yours toward me, proclaiming Your great name and lavishing Your generous mercy.

 

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