Reading 4 – Tuesday, December 5, 2006
We live in a world where unrighteousness reigns, where many innocent people suffer. People who try to do the best they can for their neighbours are sometimes misunderstood. Human nature is degraded. As the struggle for survival in this crisis-ridden world becomes ever more difficult, more people seek security and mercy. In these last times, when people often take advantage of the mercy shown to them, we really need to ask God to guide us in practicing mercy in the right way.
Job, “the father of the poor”
“When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me: Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.” Job 29:11-16.
Job lived a righteous life, remembering those around him who needed help. Mercifully, he shared the blessings God gave him with the needy.
Satan, allowed to test Job, tried to sow in the heart of the patriarch mistrust in God’s promises, but Job’s faith remained firm. He continued to believe that the merciful God would be at his side. “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” Job 19:25-27.
The enemy of souls tries to rob us, too, of God’s present and future blessings. Satan is sad when God’s children lead a righteous life and receive blessings from above. He does his best to make us unhappy, to make us believe that we shall receive no mercy even if we are merciful with others. But let us remain as firm as Job did! Even when, during trials, we may not always see or feel God’s mercy, let’s trust in Him and His promises. He has prepared a great reward for us in heaven. If we remain faithful, we shall receive it.
Being a Good Samaritan requires sacrifice
“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” Luke 10:33-35.
The Good Samaritan did all he could—using his own strength, time, and money—with no thought of reward. We cannot practice mercy either without making sacrifices. But being merciful is not a natural trait of human beings. We tend to find excuses for ourselves: “I have no time. I have no money. I have no opportunities.”
The Word of God says, however, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:38.
From this text we understand that our giving should be generous and enthusiastic. Unfortunately, many times our measure is not what the Word of God advises. Many people want mercy but do not support God’s work. Other people clamor for love but do not manifest love for others. I must examine my measure, while you examine yours, to see if our measures are God’s measures.
“The heart of man,” however, “is by nature cold and dark and unloving; whenever one manifests a spirit of mercy and forgiveness, he does it not of himself, but through the influence of the divine Spirit moving upon his heart. ‘We love, because He first loved us.’ 1 John 4:19, R.V.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 21. May the merciful Lord give us merciful hearts.
Man easily forgets God’s mercy
“And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
“But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
“So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
“And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” Matthew 18:24-35.
When we confess our sins and ask God for forgiveness, He is merciful with us. Yet how do we treat our neighbors when they ask forgiveness for their mistakes? Many friendships and marriages break up only because no one is willing to say, “I forgive you.” Many people die pleading for forgiveness but receiving none.
Remember God’s warning about withholding forgiveness. “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” James 2:13.
Often wrongdoers refuse to admit fault but, instead, blame someone else. How should we act in such cases? Jesus, and later Stephen, forgave their murderers! Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60. Our compassion and mercy should extend to all people.
Let it alone this year also
“Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” Luke 13:7-9.
God wants us to be “trees of righteousness” in His garden. Isaiah 61:3. He will be happy to see the fruits of the Spirit in our characters. Jesus, the Dresser of the vineyard, does everything possible so that we may bear fruit. Let us not repeat the history of ancient Israel.
“The warning sounds down along the line to us in this generation. Are you, O careless heart, a fruitless tree in the Lord’s vineyard? Shall the words of doom erelong be spoken of you? How long have you received His gifts? How long has He watched and waited for a return of love? Planted in His vineyard, under the watchful care of the gardener, what privileges are yours! How often has the tender gospel message thrilled your heart! You have taken the name of Christ, you are outwardly a member of the church which is His body, and yet you are conscious of no living connection with the great heart of love. The tide of His life does not flow through you. The sweet graces of His character, ‘the fruits of the Spirit,’ are not seen in your life.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 216.
Dear brother, do you, through these words, feel the influence of the Holy Spirit in your hearts? Dear sister, do you feel the same? Do you each realize your spiritual condition? Will you admit where you have erred? Can you, with the eyes of faith, see the High Priest, Jesus Christ, in the heavenly sanctuary, and hear His prayer for you? He pleads for more time for each one of us: “Let it alone this year also.” He is patient and merciful. Can you see good fruit in your life? Jesus, the Gardener, wants to continue His work in us. But He must cut off the useless branches, so that we may produce fruits of righteousness. Let us give Him that possibility by cooperating with Him.
The source of all mercy
“God is Himself the source of all mercy. His name is ‘merciful and gracious.’ Exodus 34:6. He does not treat us according to our desert. He does not ask if we are worthy of His love, but He pours upon us the riches of His love, to make us worthy. He is not vindictive. He seeks not to punish, but to redeem. Even the severity which He manifests through His providences is manifested for the salvation of the wayward. He yearns with intense desire to relieve the woes of men and to apply His balsam to their wounds. It is true that God ‘will by no means clear the guilty’ (Exodus 34:7), but He would take away the guilt.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 22.
Jesus urged His followers to be merciful as His Father is merciful. Luke 6:36. We have a perfect example – our Father, full of love and mercy – and may learn from Him. Is this not a great privilege? He accepts us as His children and yearns to imprint in us His own character. Let us give Him the possibility by becoming instruments in His hands. God wants to glorify His name before the world through us. This is possible only if we remain in constant communion with Him. He wants to manifest His mercy to many people through us, as we invite them to be citizens of heaven.
“God imparts His blessing to us, that we may give to others. And as long as we yield ourselves as the channels through which His love can flow, He will keep the channels supplied. When you ask God for your daily bread, He looks right into your heart to see if you will impart the same to others, more needy than yourself. When you pray, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner,’ He watches to see if you will manifest compassion to those with whom you associate. This is the evidence of our connection with God—that we are merciful even as our Father who is in heaven is merciful.” – Counsels on Stewardship, p. 164.
“We are called to represent to the world the character of God as it was revealed to Moses. In answer to the prayer of Moses, ‘Show me Thy glory,’ the Lord promised, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before thee.’ ‘And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.’ Exodus 33:18, 19; 34:6, 7. This is the fruit that God desires from His people. In the purity of their characters, in the holiness of their lives, in their mercy and loving-kindness and compassion, they are to demonstrate that ‘the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.’ Psalm 19:7.” –Counsels on Health, p. 203.
God has placed us in a high position and has called us with a holy call to be Christ’s ambassadors. He wants us to reflect His character and reveal His law to the world. Let us, with His help, fulfill this holy mission.
The last word
We live in very dangerous times, the last hours of the history of this world. Soon our Mediator will finish His service in the heavenly sanctuary and pronounce the last words, “It is done.”
“I saw angels hurrying to and fro in heaven. An angel with a writer’s inkhorn by his side returned from the earth and reported to Jesus that his work was done, and the saints were numbered and sealed. Then I saw Jesus, who had been ministering before the ark containing the ten commandments, throw down the censer. He raised His hands, and with a loud voice said, ‘It is done.’ And all the angelic host laid off their crowns as Jesus made the solemn declaration, ‘He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.’” –Early Writings, p. 279.
Soon probation will end. Then we can do nothing for our own salvation or that of others. Imagine the time of Noah! The door of the ark closed; outside, the terrible storm began. Then people sought salvation, but it was too late – just like when the door of grace closes. So let’s hurry up and get to work! Let’s examine our hearts to see whether they are clean and fully consecrated to God. Do we reflect the character of Jesus? Only then can we say, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20.
In the eternal home
Are you – brothers, sisters, friends – tired of walking toward the eternal home? Do you find the way too long, too stony, too steep? Are you exhausted and about to give up? Don’t! Remain firm until the end! Look upward – there, where our eternal home is, in the New Jerusalem! There the host of angels are preparing to make a seven-day trip. Our beloved Saviour will soon come with that host of holy angels! We shall soon hear music and hymns that we have never heard before! Soon shall we hear the wonderful voice of Jesus saying,
“Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:34-40.
God will be merciful with us if we practice mercy in our lives. We shall soon be in our eternal home! Our long struggle will be over; we shall enjoy wonderful rest and peace, eternal joy and happiness! May the Lord help us to be citizens of the heavenly home!