Gracious, Merciful and Just

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 2 – The God who created

[Bible references: 2 Sam 24:14; Psalm 5; 85; 88; Matthew 5:6; 18:21-35; Romans 1:18; 9:22-24]

There is a common misunderstanding of how God is seen in the Old Testament vs. how God is seen in the New Testament. The perceived contrast has caused reactions such as thinking that there are two different gods or ignoring the Old Testament while focusing exclusively on the New Testament. It is easy to see how these misperceptions happen while looking cursorily at the Bible, but this misperception can be resolved by looking more carefully into the text. We can see that God’s love, mercy and grace is found not just in the New but also the Old Testament. We can also see that God’s wrath and justice is found not just in the Old but also in the New Testament.

God’s love, mercy and grace can be seen in the Old Testament right near the beginning.[1] There is grace in the placing the image of God on creatures that did nothing to earn it. There is mercy in the judgements meted onto Adam and Eve after their sin and grace in the provision of covering for their nakedness. While we could look at more other instances of mercy and grace in the Old Testament[2], let’s just consider the meanings of the Hebrew words that have been translated as “mercy.”[3]  One Hebrew word, “racham,” can also be translated as compassion and another word, “chesed,” can be translated as steadfast loyalty and is seen as God’s steadfast compassion and loyalty to Israel even after repeated rejections from his image-bearers.

But even beyond mercy and grace, God’s compares his love with his chosen people with the love of a husband to a wife. This Hebrew word that God often used for love, “ahavah,” refers to a giving type of love, which indeed was the way God showed his love to his chosen ones; even though time after time his people rejected him, God patiently worked through it all giving us a chance to see ourselves as we really are and the chance to put our trust in his unfailing love.

Wrath and justice in the New Testament can be seen in God’s strong desire expressed as zeal or jealousy concerning the welfare of his image bearers. In both the Old and New Testaments, God is clear about his desire for justice and righteousness. God expresses his anger very clearly when we try to cover-up our lack of justice with religious exercises or pretentiousness.

God’s response to injustice is his wrath. Although God’s wrath has been long covered by his patience and his desire that all people would come to him, his wrath will eventually be revealed when he comes back to earth to fully restore his kingdom on earth. While he cautions us to allow him to carry out vengeance, that does not mean we should not be concerned by the injustice that we see. The Greek term “dikaiosuné” which is usually translated as “righteousness” can also be translated as “justice.”[4]  Jesus exemplified justice throughout his ministry, and he encourages us to practice justice as well.

That concern for justice and desire to eliminate sin is explicitly expressed in Jesus’ statements in Matthew 10:34 (“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”) and Luke 12:49 (“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”). Then later in Revelation 19:11-21, however real or metaphoric this passage may seem to be, the passage clearly expresses in very warlike terms, Jesus’ concern to eliminate evil.

So on the one hand, God’s often responds to the injustice in the world with patience and mercy – and we all need the kindness of God so that we can respond with repentance and receive forgiveness. On the other hand, God will eventually respond to unrepented injustice with righteousness, justice and wrath.


[1] Arsenault, Bill. “Grace vs. Mercy – What’s the Difference?” Faith Island 10 Sept 2017 faithisland.org/grace/grace-vs-mercy-whats-the-difference/

[2] Forest, Joe. “A Better Way to Read the Old Testament” 29 June 2018 Instrument of Mercy instrumentofmercy.com/2018/06/29/a-better-way-to-read-the-old-testament/ ; Deem, Richard. “The Mercy of God as found in the Old Testament” God and Science http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/mercy_of_god.html; Beale, Stephen. “God’s Tender Mercy in the Old Testament” Catholic Exchange 10 Feb 2021 catholicexchange.com/gods-tender-mercy-in-the-old-testament

[3] Schmalz, Matthew. “What is the true meaning of mercy?” The Conversation, College of the Holy Cross, 8 Feb 2017, theconversation.com/what-is-the-true-meaning-of-mercy-72461

[4] Foster, Robert L. “Understandings of Justice in the New Testament;” Society of Biblical Literature www.sbl-site.org/assets/pdfs/TBv2i5_Fosterjustice.pdf’; Grimsrud, Ted. “Justice in the New Testament” Society of Biblical Literature www.sbl-site.org/assets/pdfs/TBv2i5_Fosterjustice.pdf

Reflect

The Hebrew words we translate as mercy also can be translated as steadfast compassion and loyalty. How does that affect your view of mercy and how mercy is shown to others?

Observe

Read Deuteronomy 7:8; 2 Chronicles 2:11; Jeremiah 31:3. The Hebrew word for “love” in these passages is the same as used in the Song of Solomon describing marital love. How does that affect the way you perceive God’s mercy, grace, righteousness and wrath?

Author: transcendenttouched

I have been teaching the Bible to children and adults for over twenty years. Most recently, including teaching Discipleship/Confirmation classes. I have also been involved in various church leadership roles for many of those years. Until recently, my writing endeavors have been confined mainly to poetry. I've written an anthology of my first 40 years of writing poetry in my book, Growing. I have also written an overview of the Bible called, God Reveals Himself.

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