by Rev. D. H. Kuiper
"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassion fails not. they arenew every morning: great is Thy faithfulness." Lamentations 3:21-22
The time or setting in which Jeremiah penned the words of this passage is immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and his powerful army. Jeremiah and a few other elderly people have been left behind. Amazingly the prophet sings a song that extols the mercy of God even as he sits amongst the ashes of the holy city! Here, as elsewhere in Scripture, divine mercy stands closely related to God's pity, compassion, tenderness, and lovingkindness.
If we review the occurrences of this word in the bible, we see, first, that mercy is an attribute of God within Himself without regard to the creature. God is the Father of mercy and is rich in mercy toward Himself. Thus, God is tenderly affected toward Himself as the highest good, and constantly wills Himself to be most blessed, glorious and happy! Most often, however, Scripture speaks of the mercy of God that He shows to His people who are in the midst of sin, misery, and woe. Then God's mercy is that powerful attribute according to which He both wills and accomplishes their deliverance out of that misery unto a state in which they are supremely blessed by knowing and partaking of the blessedness of God Himself. Understand well, mercy is not only a feeling that God has, but is also a power; in mercy He acts to accomplish the deliverance of His people and brings them into a situation of joy and comfort.
The mercy of God, as a precious gem, has many facets. It is eternal. The mercy of God is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, so that there never was a time when God did not burn with desire to deliver and bless His children!
The mercy of God is great! It is above the heavens; it is abundant. How great that mercy must be when we consider the depths out of which it has taken us and the heights to which it has raised us.
The mercy of God is sovereign and free. Mercy does not come to man, or to a particular man, because of something he has done, but it is due only to God. We refer you to Romans 9:9-15; after you have digested those verses, notice the conclusion: "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." (verse 16)
The above means that the mercy of God is particular, just as love and grace are particular. God is not merciful to every single individual, but only to those whom He has chosen unto faith, obedience, and salvation; those He forms by the Holy Spirit to be the vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction.
Fifth, the mercy of God is unchangeable. The great I AM never changes in His desire to deliver and bless; He never removes His mercy from His children. In Psalm 66:20 the psalmist is compelled to bless God for this truth by saying, "Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer nor His mercy from me."
When we look into the verses quoted from Lamentations above, we find two more facets of divine mercy that we ought to appreciate and love. When the prophet says. "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed . . . ", he says that God's mercy is a power which preserves us. He has in mind five stages of Israel's history, three in the past and two yet in the future. There was the four hundred years in the land of Egypt, long years of cruel bondage not only, but years in which repeated attempts were made to destroy the people of God. But God preserved them and lead them out with a mighty hand. Nest, forty years in the waste howling wilderness; beset on the one hand by heathen nations, on the other hand by the mixed multitude within. Yet the Israel of God was not consumed! And then, after they had finally obtained the promised land, there were still idolatrous nations around them, and there continued to be much unfaithfulness with Israel and her kings. False prophets abounded, and the true prophets of God were stoned.
And what do we see when we turn to the time following the above text? The day of reckoning came as the prophets of God foretold. Jerusalem was sacked, the temple defiled, and the Israelites scattered. Yet, not a single child of God perished in the captivity, and the line of David was miraculously kept alive. And so the final stage of Israel's history also causes Jeremiah to have hope; he looks ahead and sees the return from Babylon, and looking further ahead he sees the coming of Christ! The church of the ages is preserved, and with her every child of God in his place.
The second aspect of mercy that we are to appreciate here is indicated in the words "They are new every morning". Although it is possible to interpret these words figuratively (the morning, then refers to the time after a particularly trying time of history has passed: the dark ages and then the Reformation, for example), we prefer to give them a literal meaning. The mercies of God are new every morning, after the hours of darkness have passed. It is during the night watches that we have time to reflect upon our sins and weaknesses after a busy day. This leads us, often times, to tears and lamentations in the night. When we are alone with God at night there is no pretending; we see things as they really are. And we sometimes wonder how we can continue, how we can get up in the morning and face the new day with its labors and demands. then, after God gives His beloved sleep, we are awakened unto the new day, and we find ourselves wondrously equipped to carry on! We are refreshed not only in body and mind, but in soul and spirit as well! The reason is that God's mercies have revived us and renewed us. We are refreshed by His mercy every morning anew! That the text speaks of mercies and compassions in the plural is due to the fact that God reveals Himself through many acts of mercy, through ,many deliverances of His people. But standing at the center of all those mercies, and standing alone as the most splendid revelation of mercy, is the great mercy of the cross! it is the mercy of the cross especially that is new to us every morning, don't you agree? What mercy of God in sending His only begotten Son into this world of woe, and to shameful, bitter death of the cross! If we would ask, Why does the enemy never prevail over the Church, why is a single child of God never lost, why am I able to arise every morning to fulfill my station and calling in life? one answer rings down through the centuries: Christ and His cross! It is of the Lord's mercy in Christ Jesus that the Church is redeemed and justified, delivered and sanctified, liberated and preserved, and one day glorified to be with her Lord.
God reveals His mercy in Christ, secondly, by anointing Him to be our eternal High Priest; He serves in the great house of God as our merciful High Priest. What kind of a Mediator and Deliverer do we have with God in heaven? What may we know of Him Who has gone beyond the veil into the very presence of God on our behalf? We read in Hebrews 2:17, "Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of his people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted." Add to that Hebrews 4:15, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Briefly these verses teach us that Christ is as much like us as is possible for Him to be. He understands the human condition; He knows what His dearly bought people have to go through. He was there; not only did He see it all, but He suffered and endured it all! Thus, He can be touched (that's mercy!) by the feeling of our infirmities. Because He is so close to us, because He so thoroughly and tenderly knows us and our needs, the risen, ascended Christ is supremely qualified to go into the presence of God in our behalf with unceasing prayers of intercession. Who else could do that for us? Who but the great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, the faithful, well-pleasing Son of God in our flesh, could offer intercessory prayers to the Holy God?
As Christ intercedes for His people, he does so on the basis of the blood which He shed on Calvary. And just as God was pleased by the sacrifice of Christ when it was offered, thus raising Him the third day, so also does God hear and grant the prayers of Christ for the sake of that powerful, atoning death! through that same High Priest, God sends to the Church all the spiritual benefits that Christ has merited for her and that God, in His mercy, is of a mind to give her.
All those who receive the mercy of God have a calling. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." No, this does not mean that our mercy towards others is first, and then God bestows mercy on us. God's mercy is first, and having tasted of that wonderful mercy of God in Jesus Christ, we have a calling to be merciful, and we want to do that too! We are to love mercy. As God loves mercy and delights in showing it, we are to love mercy and delight in receiving it.
Secondly, we are to show mercy towards others, especially towards those who are in need. We are to be moved by the plight of the widows, the orphans, and the poor. Moved by mercy, we actually do what will assist them in their hunger and their lack. To refuse to do this, as we have opportunity, is to be merciless. And the citizen of the kingdom of heaven is not merciless or cruel.
We are to hope in God's mercy, and trust in God's mercy. As far as the return of Christ is concerned, as far as the events of the Judgment Day are concerned, only one thing will comfort us: hope in the unchanging mercies of God!
We are to pray to God every day, making confession, and making petition, on the basis of His mercy in Jesus Christ. Do you know the parable of the Pharisee and the publican? I mean, do you know that parable deep down in your soul? Hear him pray, "O God, be merciful to me, the sinner!"
Finally we are to sing of the mercies of God! Make melody in your hearts, make melody with your families and in the Church. Let it be true: "My song forever shall record, The tender mercies of the Lord Thy faithfulness will I proclaim, And ev'ry age shall know Thy Name."
That's a reasonable calling, is it not? By His mercy God hath chosen us, by His mercy He has redeemed us, by His mercy He hath begotten us again unto a lively hope! Let all the people of God say so: His mercy endureth forever!