The Mercy of the Lord | Part 1: Extending Mercy

When I was in Boy Scouts, whenever we were on long hikes or drives, we would play games that involved inflicting pain on another until he cried out for “mercy.”

What I found in playing those games is that I was very good at crying out for mercy when I needed it, but I was very reluctant to give it to others.

The same temptation continues in my role as a father. My oldest boys are in that pre-teen stage of life, and they look at their dad and think, “He’s scrawny; let’s take him out.” So they come at me a lot now, but they forget that I’m smart and surprisingly strong for my frame, and it’s a matter of seconds before I have them in a punishing position whereby I inflict all kinds of tickle-oriented pain on them. They then cry out for mercy in a myriad of ways, and I confess to you that it’s often difficult for me to give up torturing them. Why should I be compassionate toward someone who was obstinate toward me? They asked for it … why shouldn’t I just give them what they deserve?

What about you? How compassionate or merciful are you toward those that are antagonistic or obstinate toward you? When you are in a position to offer hope and kindness and generosity and compassion and mercy to someone who deserves the exact opposite, what do you do?

This is the same sort of position Jonah found himself in. 

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. (Jonah 1:1-3)

This was not the first time the word of God had come to Jonah. Earlier, he was given the privilege of speaking God’s word to God’s people, and it was a word of great blessing, even though they did not deserve it. It was a message of compassion. It was a message of mercy. It was a message of grace. The narrative is found in 2 Kings, where we read of King Jeroboam II who ruled over the northern kingdom of Israel from 783-743 BC. 

23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. 24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. 25 He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. 26 For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. 27 But the Lord had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. (2 Kings 14:23-27)

Don’t miss the description of Jeroboam II in verse 24. He and his father before him were evil, idolatrous men who led the country in like manner, and yet through Jonah came not a word of judgment, but a word of mercy. A word of compassion. A word of grace. 

Imagine the pleasure of truthfully preaching such a message! How cool would it be for your deacons or pastor search team to say to a potential pastor, “Things may not look all that rosy, but the Lord has told us unequivocally that the church is going to grow like crazy! Offerings will triple! We’re fulfilling our building plans with cash!” Everybody would want to be on the Pastor Search Team if they knew that was the message! What a pleasure! 

Such was Jonah’s first prophetic assignment. A word of mercy. A word of grace. A word of compassion. A word of blessing. All to his own people. And God would bless them not because of their obedience or repentance, but only because He loved them and made a promise to them to not blot them out of existence.

And if you keep reading 2 Kings, you discover that God’s grace/mercy/compassion did not have the desired effect on His people. They became even more selfish and greedy and idolatrous. All they could think about was more money, political power and pleasure. 

So what would this new prophetic assignment be? How would it compare to Jonah’s first? Would it be a word of blessing, or something else entirely?

We’ll find out in our next post.

 

Rob Tims

Rob is Teaching Pastor at Blackman Baptist Church.