Wednesday, December 07, 2011

"The Theme of My Song," part 2

Yesterday, I posted part 1 of my talk. Here's part 2. Tomorrow, I'll post the conclusion.


First, let me share with you the “theme of my song,” at least for this particular season in my life. The title for my talk actually comes straight from an old hymn that begins, “Thy mercy my God is the theme of my song, the joy of my heart and the boast of my tongue. Thy free grace alone from the first to the last, hath won my affections, and bound my soul fast.”

So there it is, “Thy mercy my God is the theme of my song.”

The introductory notes of this theme for me – the “da-da-da-DA,” if you will – was hearing a pastor named Dave Harvey speak on the topic of “God’s Mercy and My Marriage.” This talk has perhaps been the single most influential thing in our marriage, and it’s because Pastor Harvey drew out how greatly God has been merciful to us and how that impacts our relationships.

“Mercy.” It feels like one of those words from the Bible that we intuitively might know what it means, but we would have trouble actually verbalizing a definition of it. So here’s a dictionary definition: “Mercy is a quality fundamental to God’s interaction with humankind. In the English Bible, the noun signifies concrete expressions of compassion and love… The primary Hebrew term for mercy refers to the love, compassion and kindness upon which God’s covenant with Israel was founded. The experience of God’s people was that his mercy revealed in historical acts of redemption (especially Christ’s death on the cross) was … inexhaustible.” (from the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology).

We see the mercies of God in the story of the Old Testament Israelites … they were in a nonstop cycle of sin and rebellion, followed by a period of repentance and obedience. Things would be going well and they would forget God and sink more and more deeply into a mess of their own making. Then they would remember, “Hey, we have this God whose name is The Merciful One, and they would call out to him, and – totally out of his mercy and not at all out of their deserving – come to them and rescue them and restore them to himself and to each other and to their land … and then they would forget him and the cycle would continue. But God doesn’t change and that’s why the prophet Jeremiah, in the middle of one of Israel’s big messes, could say “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.”

In the New Testament, mercy is embodied in Christ. We see mercy in the simple acts of how he responded to people who were living messy lives, or who were just hurting. He was tender and compassionate to the greedy old tax collector and to the sick little child. He was also tender and compassionate to his bumbling, selfish, flighty disciples … which a lot of the time sounds a lot like me. He helped them grow and change, but – unlike us when our friends or spouse or kids are self-centered or rude – he didn’t lecture them, but was kind. His ultimate act of mercy – the mercy of all mercies – was his death on the cross. Coming down from a perfectly blissful life in heaven, rescuing us out of a mess of our own making.

How much of God’s mercy do you actually experience day to day? We all have no idea! You experience God’s mercy every day when you are not crushed under the weight of your sin. Then again, you experience God’s mercy when you are weighed down by your sin, as it is his kindness bringing you to repentance. God in his mercy gives you friends to share our joys and friends to help bear your sorrows. You experience his mercy when you have rich food and rich fellowship, like this morning, that remind you of his abundance; you experience his mercy when you are hungry and alone, as he is calling you to find your fullness in him. It is his mercy when you pray and know that he is listening, because in his mercy, he has covenanted love and goodness toward you.

I experience God’s mercy when I am snippy with my husband and he shows what Dave Harvey calls “mercy in kindness” and still does the dishes for me while I am putting Titus to bed. It’s because of God’s mercy that when we went to bed angry with each other the other night, we were able to forgive one another before falling asleep.

The more my eyes are open to it, the more I see God’s mercy in every moment. Another stanza in the song I opened with says, “Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart/ Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart / Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground / And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.”

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