(Re)actions that speak louder than words

Psalm 145:8-9 “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”

Aren’t you glad that the true God is the God of the Bible?  When we think of His great power, aren’t you glad that the things that are said of Him in the verses above are true?  We have a perfect God Who is perfectly pure.  He never sins.  Everything He does is perfect and right. Yet, in His dealings with us He is gracious and merciful.  It’s an incredible attribute that this One Who is superior to us in every way treats us with blessing instead of cursing in spite of what we might deserve.

What if God was cruel? What if He was merciless?  What if He was intolerant of our imperfections and quick to punish our sin?  But He is anything but these things. He is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.  He is good to all. 

For any believer, knowledge of the wonderful attributes of God should fill our hearts with gratitude. It should motivate us to thank and worship Him. It should fill our hearts with praise.  But beyond this, it should give us a desire to be like Him. 

As I think about this, it strikes me that it is our reactions to the actions of others that is one of the greatest tests of how our attributes are measuring up to His.  Grace, mercy, slowness to anger, and abundant and steadfast love can all be viewed as going above and beyond what is natural.  Grace is defined as unmerited favor. It’s acting in ways to bless others who have done nothing to deserve that blessing.  Mercy goes even further. It is defined as “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.” Although someone may act toward us in a way that might cause us to justly seek retribution, mercy is to do just the opposite. It’s a desire to do good to others when they may not deserve it.  It’s an inclination, a bent towards being patient with people as opposed to being impatient and harsh.  It’s a propensity to be slow to anger, when a fit of rage might be the natural reaction to a wrong that is done to us. 

If I am honest with myself, I know I have a long way to go to model these things in my reactions. I know that they are all supernatural attributes, things I need help with every day.  But if I truly love God, it is these things that I will desire.  It is these attributes that I will pray for and that I will seek.  You see, these are the very things that Jesus described for us in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.  In this teaching He was describing for us what He is like, and if we are brutally honest, He is describing the great gulf there is between us and Him.  But then He tells us “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).”

So, in context, what should we be asking for? What should we be seeking?  Isn’t it to be like Him?  Wonderfully, His promise to those who really want this and who will seek such things with all their heart, is this: “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:8-11).”

But are these the things we really want? Are the good things God has for us, i.e., His very attributes of grace, mercy, and love, our heart’s greatest desires?  They should be if we love Him.  It’s all summed up in these words which follow immediately after verse 11 of Matthew 7: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”  In other words, that merciful and gracious love that God pours out on us, those things for which we are so thankful, should in turn be reflected in our lives towards others.  It’s the message of the Bible and it’s what God would have us become.

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