I believe in mercy
Many people seem to be overly concerned about justice being done, especially as it might pertain to them. I realize that there is much injustice in the world, and that many suffer unfairly at the hands of oppressive individuals and corrupt authority figures. That’s tragic!
God’s word teaches that divine love rejoices whenever and wherever truth prevails. There is no doubt that the many injustices of this fallen world and of its inhabitants are grievous and intolerable. Still, I’m personally grateful that justice is trumped by mercy in the economy of God.
Both Scripture and personal experience teach us that we humans are prone to sin, and that perfect justice demands that sin be recompensed with judgment … good, old-fashioned punishment of some kind for wrongs committed against God and others. Justice is at the heart of the Mosaic Law, King Hammurabi’s “an eye for an eye” code, and – at least in theory – the American “justice” system.
While justice is far ahead of injustice and corruption, most honest people can relate to the story of the woman who was disappointed in her photo proofs, and complained to the photographer that the pictures he had taken just “didn’t do her justice!” The wily shutterbug retorted, “Yes they do, ma’am, but with a face like that, what you need is mercy, not justice!” That’s what I need, too! Mercy, and lots of it. Not just in my photo proofs, but in every other area of my life, too.
By definition, justice is served when we get exactly what we deserve. Mercy goes beyond that, and gives us much better than we really deserve. That’s what God’s forgiveness and grace is all about, and why broken people, weak people, and confirmed “sinners” come running to Christ to find “mercy, and grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
I think that was clear in Moses’ mind, when he passed on God’s offer to send an angelic escort with him to lead the Israelites through the wilderness and on into their “Promised Land.” To many, the offer of an angelic assignment may have seemed great, but the biblical record shows that Moses turned down the offer, saying to the Lord, “If YOUR presence doesn’t go with us, we will not leave this wilderness!” (Exodus 33:15-17).
Some commentators attribute this response of Moses to an unbending, demanding “self-will” that was left over from his days of power-wielding as “the Prince of Egypt,” but I don’t see it that way. God’s offer of an angelic escort is found in Exodus 23:20, but the verse following is the key to Moses’ response. The Lord says that His angelic messenger of justice and truth would not forgive them if they sinned, or were disobedient! (vs 21). Moses’ response was based on a firm conviction that, as good as justice might be in many situations, it would be insufficient for him and the people he was leading. He knew they needed mercy to survive their difficult plight and fulfill their God-ordained destiny.
So he honored the messenger of “justice” but pressed God for something even greater – for divine grace, forgiveness and mercy for him and for his people.
I’m with Mo on that deal. I’m thankful for justice, and truth, but I believe we all need mercy from time to time, and that we should be willing to extend it to others, as well. I do believe in justice, but even more, I believe in mercy.