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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Justice and Mercy

The water cooler talk is all about the latest trial of the decade and recent verdict, which many people believe to be a miscarriage of justice. The whole affair has largely gone unnoticed by us (not being cable subscribers), but it is hard to miss the anger and shock post-verdict reverberating over Twitter and Facebook.

It has me reflecting on justice and mercy. Juries declare defendants not guilty based on evidence and it isn't their place, at least in theory, to extend mercy in the face of unreasonable doubt. Yet God is sovereign over temporal court systems and when justice seems to be miscarried by our eyes, one has to wonder at God's granting of temporal mercy.

On the other hand, when God grants life and temporal blessings of any kind to those who deny him, He is granting temporal mercy.

2 Peter 3:9 says,
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

But He is a just God and justice will be done in the Day of the Lord. Aren't we quick to love justice for others and mercy for ourselves?

"Though justice be thy plea, consider this, that in the course of justice none of us should see salvation."

God extends eternal mercy to those who repent of their sin and put their faith in Jesus Christ. When He gives temporal mercy to the unrepentant, it is a sign of His Divine patience, for there is not eternal mercy in store for the unrepentant one.  Enjoying divine temporal mercy without securing divine eternal mercy is living on death row.

Having been given eternal mercy, one finds that extending mercy and grace to others is suddenly much easier. Or, as Shakespeare says, our prayer for mercy teaches us to render the deeds of mercy. There is no better reflection on mercy than Portia's beseeching of the court of Venice to extend mercy to Antonio:

The quality of mercy is not strain'd;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation; we do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of they plea,
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.

(From Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Act 4, Scene I, emphasis mine)

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