Read 2 Samuel 24:14
I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was my senior year of high school. At the beginning of my accounting course, we were warned that, if we were caught cheating in class, we would receive an “F” for the nine weeks and we would fail the course. So, with only a few weeks to go until graduation and senioritis kicking in, I, along with four friends, thought it would be wise to copy one of our friend’s ledgers for the final assignment. AND it was wrong. All five copies with identical mistakes.
One by one we were questioned by our teacher at different times so we did not have the opportunity to discuss our “interrogation.” We were busted and the teacher knew it. The punishment for cheating was failing the class and we knew it. When questioned by the teacher what I had done, I confessed (without naming my accomplices) that I had cheated and that it was wrong. I felt awful!
The following day my teacher called me into her empty room before class where I feared that I would receive my sentence of failure. To my surprise, I received something else – her mercy. She did not fail me for the course. She said I was the only one who had admitted and confessed what I had done so she did not fail me, even though I deserved it.
Mercy is one of the great attributes of God revealed to us in Scripture. It is often confused with the grace of God. However, there are differences between God’s mercy and His grace. While the two are indeed similar, there is a difference between them. Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness that is extended to someone where another has the power to punish or harm them. It is when punishment is deserved, but it is withheld to the benefit of the object of the mercy.
Grace is a gift that we do not deserve. It is God blessing us, despite the fact that we have not deserved it. Simply put, grace is getting what we don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what we do deserve.
From the fall of humanity, the sin of Adam, we have deserved nothing but the wrath and punishment of God. Romans 3:23 says, “. . .for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We are all guilty. We have all sinned against our perfect and Holy God. We are also told that, because of our sin, our punishment is death. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We deserved death and eternal separation from God. But thankfully that is not what we received!
God has shown us his mercy! Over and over again, He is merciful to us who daily fall short of His perfection. Each and every day we live is an act of mercy from God. Rather than receiving the punishment of eternal death, those who follow Jesus receive the free gift of eternal life.
The greatest example of mercy is shown by Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paying our debt on the cross. Jesus paid the debt for our sin. The punishment He received was for all of my sin (past, present and future). We do not need to look any further than the cross for the perfect example of mercy.