Focus: The merciful heart of God
Psalm 51:17 (NKJV) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.
Over and over in scripture we see mankind failing and God forgiving. Mankind failing and God forgiving. From Genesis to Revelation, it’s a story that repeats itself throughout the centuries of time…the merciful heart of God.
When Jesus was on earth, scriptures tell us that He performed many miracles. As He healed the sick and provided food to thousands of people who gathered to hear His teachings—His popularity increased. The religious leaders became nervous about His influence. He had such insight to the things of God—His wisdom was amazing. Toward the end of His life on earth, the scribes and Pharisees were feverishly trying to figure out a way to ‘catch Him in a fault.’
The ministry of Jesus was filled with mercy and compassion. Of course there was the law that gave very detailed instructions for life and punishment for sins. However, Jesus came revealing the merciful heart of God…that sometimes overruled the law. Many things about His ministry contradicted the law, as a way of portraying what His sacrifice would accomplish for mankind. His intention was not that sin would reign—but that mercy would reign as a sign of the new and everlasting covenant.
There is a particular story in the Book of John that perfectly characterizes the merciful heart of God. It is known as, ‘The Woman Taken in Adultery.’ I’ll paraphrase it:
As Jesus continued His public ministry, there began to be some controversy among the people. Some thought He was the Messiah, and others thought He was a heretic. It appears that the Pharisees had sent officers of the law to arrest Jesus, and as they heard His teachings, they believed in Him. The officers returned to the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they said to them, “Why haven’t you brought Him?
The officers claimed, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”
The leaders had a heated discussion and then they all when to their own homes, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives, where He might have spent the night.
Early the next morning, Jesus came again into the temple, and all of the people came, too. He sat down and taught them. In the middle of His message, the scribes and Pharisees burst into the temple with a woman who they had caught in adultery. They brought her right up to Him and set her down in front of Him. Then they said, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do you say?” Of course they were trying to test Jesus, hoping they could find something to accuse Him of.
Instead of answering them, Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger—acting like He didn’t even hear them—but they weren’t about to give up easily. They continued asking Him what His opinion was, and finally, He stood up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her.” After He had made His statement, He stooped down again and continued writing on the ground.
Those who heard what He had said, began to be convicted in their conscience, and one by one, they started leaving—from the oldest to the youngest. Eventually, Jesus was still stooped down writing and all of the men had left, except for the woman. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?”
She answered, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Jesus spoke again and said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
There may be things you did in your life that you have not been able to forgive yourself for. Things that were clearly outside of the will of God. You have wrestled with guilt and shame over the memories and may still have the feeling that some people continue to hold your past sins against you. Remember this story when you are tempted to believe you are condemned.
Declaration: I will find new strength by focusing my attention on the merciful heart of God and the example of Jesus.
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