Sabbath, July 14, 2012
“Clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne.” Psalm 97:2.
Attributes of love
1. What are two attributes of God’s love?
Psalm 97:2 Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.
Proverbs 21:3 To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
“The law of God is as sacred as God Himself. It is a revelation of His will, a transcript of His character, the expression of divine love and wisdom…. To man, the crowning work of creation, God has given power to understand His requirements, to comprehend the justice and beneficence of His law, and its sacred claims upon him; and of man unswerving obedience is required.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 52.
2. Although sometimes justice and mercy seem to be opposites, how does God reconcile this apparent contradiction?
Isaiah 30:18 And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.
Psalm 30:5 For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
“As the bow in the cloud is formed by the union of the sunlight and the shower, so the rainbow encircling the throne represents the combined power of mercy and justice. It is not justice alone that is to be maintained; for this would eclipse the glory of the rainbow of promise above the throne; men could see only the penalty of the law. Were there no justice, no penalty, there would be no stability to the government of God. It is the mingling of judgment and mercy that makes salvation complete. It is the blending of the two that leads us, as we view the world’s Redeemer, and the law of Jehovah, to exclaim, ‘Thy gentleness hath made me great.’ ” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1133.
“While you seek to administer justice, remember that she has a twin sister, which is mercy. The two stand side by side and should not be separated.” –Child Guidance, p. 262.
“… It should ever be remembered that firmness and justice have a sister which is mercy.” –Christian Education, p. 25.
Meeting of mercy and justice
3. What does the illustration of the rainbow show about how and where God’s justice and mercy meet?
Genesis 9:13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
Revelation 4:3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
Psalm 85:10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
“In the rainbow above the throne is an everlasting testimony that ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish….’ Whenever the law is presented before the people, let the teacher of truth point to the throne arched with the rainbow of promise, the righteousness of Christ. The glory of the law is Christ; He came to magnify the law, and to make it honorable. Make it appear distinct that mercy and peace have met together in Christ, and righteousness and truth have embraced each other….
“Look at the superscription written above the cross. The Lord arranged it. Written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, it is a call for all, Jew and Gentile, barbarian and Scythian, bond and free, hopeless, helpless, and perishing, to come. Christ has made of none effect the power of Satan. He laid hold of the pillars of Satan’s kingdom, and passed through the conflict, destroying him that had the power of death. A way was now opened whereby mercy and truth could meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, pp. 1133, 1107.
4. How are justice and mercy reconciled in God’s law and redemption?
Isaiah 51:4 Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.
Romans 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
“It is the mingling of judgment and mercy that makes salvation full and complete. It is the blending of the two that leads us, as we view the world’s Redeemer and the law of Jehovah, to exclaim, ‘Thy gentleness hath made me great.’ We know that the gospel is a perfect and complete system, revealing the immutability of the law of God. It inspires the heart with hope, and with love for God. Mercy invites us to enter through the gates into the city of God, and justice is sacrificed to accord to every obedient soul full privileges as a member of the royal family, a child of the heavenly King.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1072.
“Our only definition of sin is that given in the word of God; it is ‘the transgression of the law;’ it is the outworking of a principle at war with the great law of love which is the foundation of the divine government.” –The Great Controversy, p. 493.
Freedom of will
5. Why did God give man a free will? What is the relationship between law and liberty?
Deuteronomy 30:19, second part … I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.
James 1:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
James 2:12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
“God had power to hold Adam back from touching the forbidden fruit; but had He done this, Satan would have been sustained in his charge against God’s arbitrary rule. Man would not have been a free moral agent, but a mere machine.” –Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1084.
“… Not so did prophets and apostles regard the holy law of God. Said David: ‘I will walk at liberty: for I seek Thy precepts.’ Psalm 119:45. The apostle James, who wrote after the death of Christ, refers to the Decalogue as ‘the royal law’ and ‘the perfect law of liberty.’ James 2:8; 1:25. And the revelator, half a century after the crucifixion, pronounces a blessing upon them ‘that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.’ Revelation 22:14….
“The law of God, which Satan has reproached as the yoke of bondage, will be honored as the law of liberty. A tested and proved creation will never again be turned from allegiance to Him whose character has been fully manifested before them as fathomless love and infinite wisdom.” –The Great Controversy, pp. 466, 504.
6. How is God’s law related to the happiness of mankind?
Psalm 119:165-167 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. Lord, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments. My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly.
“The law of love being the foundation of the government of God, the happiness of all intelligent beings depends upon their perfect accord with its great principles of righteousness. God desires from all His creatures the service of love–service that springs from an appreciation of His character. He takes no pleasure in a forced obedience; and to all He grants freedom of will, that they may render Him voluntary service.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 34; see also The Great Controversy, p. 493.
7. Does God, who granted free will to all, continue to give it in completing the plan of redemption?
Joshua 24:15, second part … Choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Revelation 22:17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
Psalm 119:47 And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.
“In the work of redemption there is no compulsion. No external force is employed. Under the influence of the Spirit of God, man is left free to choose whom he will serve. In the change that takes place when the soul surrenders to Christ, there is the highest sense of freedom. The expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself. True, we have no power to free ourselves from Satan’s control; but when we desire to be set free from sin, and in our great need cry out for a power out of and above ourselves, the powers of the soul are imbued with the divine energy of the Holy Spirit, and they obey the dictates of the will in fulfilling the will of God.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 466.
“God does not employ compulsory measures; love is the agent which He uses to expel sin from the heart. By it He changes pride into humility, and enmity and unbelief into love and faith.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 77.
8. What will God use to fulfill His plan of salvation?
Psalm 119:97 O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
Jeremiah 31:3 The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
“The history of the great conflict between good and evil, from the time it first began in heaven to the final overthrow of rebellion and the total eradication of sin, is also a demonstration of God’s unchanging love.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 33.
“It [love] is diffusive in its nature and quiet in its operation, yet strong and mighty in its purpose to overcome great evils. It is melting and transforming in its influence, and will take hold of the lives of the sinful and affect their hearts when every other means has proved unsuccessful…. Jesus was the Prince of Peace. He came into the world to bring resistance and authority into subjection to Himself. Wisdom and strength He could command, but the means He employed with which to overcome evil were the wisdom and strength of love.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2, pp. 135, 136.
For review and meditation
• How can God’s love be categorized?
• Where are the attributes of justice and mercy reconciled?
• Why did God grant free will to mankind?