In my sermon I said that the justice of God implies that He will judge the wicked, the sinful, and the rebellious and that every sin has consequences
Romans 6:23 NIV For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (emphasis mine).
This is always true because a God of justice rules and under all circumstances.
Deuteronomy 32:3-4 NIV I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
No one really deserves mercy.
The interesting thing about mercy is that not one of us deserves it.
Romans 3:23 ESV for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
We have all sinned and fallen short of what God requires. This means that we all deserve to be judged by God for our sins. He would be within his legal authority to pronounce judgment on us, however, he doesn’t – at least not immediately and not for the reason you would think. God uses judgment but there is something that judgment cannot accomplish that only mercy can.
Judgment brings correction, mercy brings connection.
When God brings judgment to a person, let’s say you or I am living in sin and God brings judgment to our door because of the sin. The purpose of that judgment is to bring correction. However, judgment alone cannot re-establish our relationship with him because judgment is based on punishment and fear. It is his mercy that allows us to connect with him in relationship.
God pours out judgment so he can pour out mercy.
We often view judgment in the wrong light. The purpose of judgment in this life is to lead you to mercy. What is fascinating about God is that his first desire is always to pour out mercy, however, sometimes he uses judgment to get to that point.
For example, take the nation of Israel from time between the death of Joshua and Saul the first king.
Joshua 24:31 ESV Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel.
When you read the book of Judges you will recognize there was a pattern of behavior that the nation followed. Here is how it typically went.
The nation of Israel would experience a time of peace but then they would get trapped in the sins of the nations around them leading them to turn their backs on God. God would then bring judgment, which would cause them to cry out to God for help, and in doing this God would then extend mercy and peace would be restored to the land. God’s desire was to get to mercy, but he used judgment to bring them to the place where they would ask for it.
The greatest example of God using judgment to get to mercy is Jesus. God poured out his wrath and judgment for sin on Jesus so that in doing so he could offer us mercy and give to us something we truly don’t deserve to receive.
Isaiah 53:1-10 ESV Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
God executed judgment on sin through the death of Christ on the cross. He did that to offer us mercy. Judgement is what we deserved but he judged his Son in our place so that he could offer us mercy and not have to give us what we truly deserve.
2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
God’s ultimate desire was to display mercy however he used judgment to get there.
James 2:8-13 ESV If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (emphasis mine)
We should really be asking God for mercy and not justice. For God to be just means that he is consistent, virtuous, innocent, and right. And since his justness is part of his immutable nature (meaning it cannot change), then he is always right and just in whatever he does.
In fact, God’s justice shines a bright light on his love, grace, and mercy in a way that nothing else could because not only is God just, but he is our justifier — meaning he alone has the power and ability to make us righteous before him.
Romans 3:23-26 NIV for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (emphasis mine)
If we could pick only one passage from the Old Testament to define the character of God, it would be hard to beat;
Exodus 34:6-7 NKJV And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”
God is revealing himself to Moses, causing his glory to pass by Moses, who God has put in a cleft in the rock. “Merciful and gracious.” These are the first words out of God’s own mouth after proclaiming his name. The very first words after saying I am the Lord He said merciful and gracious.
We give mercy because we have received it and when we utterly understand the mercy we have received, we will always choose to exercise mercy over judgment. In other words when you understand the nature of mercy that you have received the only response is to give it to someone else. In doing so you are responding like the Father, offering mercy when judgment is deserved and in doing so causing mercy to triumph over judgment.
God’s mercies are new every morning.
Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
So, if you need mercy just ask God for it. His first desire is to pour it out, He will give it every time that you ask, and then you need to pass it on.
Psalm 103:8 ESV The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.