The mercy of God has the cross of Jesus as its focus and without the cross there is no forgiveness.
2 Samuel 24:18-25
18 On that day Gad went to David and said to him, ‘Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.’ 19 So David went up, as the Lord had commanded through Gad. 20 When Araunah looked and saw the king and his officials coming towards him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground.
21 Araunah said, ‘Why has my lord the king come to his servant?’
‘To buy your threshing-floor,’ David answered, ‘so that I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped.’
22 Araunah said to David, ‘Let my lord the king take whatever he wishes and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing-sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 Your Majesty, Araunah gives all this to the king.’ Araunah also said to him, ‘May the Lord your God accept you.’
24 But the king replied to Araunah, ‘No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’
So David bought the threshing-floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. 25 David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered his prayer on behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.
When reading through this chapter, you would be tempted to think that it could have finished at verse 17. After all, the judgement of God was under way. Then the Lord had a change of mind and chose to intervene. The destroying angel was told to stop before he brought calamity to Jerusalem. David followed this by praying to the Lord, confessing his sin and asking that the judgement cease or just come on him. What more could be required? In fact, that is a popular but mistaken understanding of Christianity. You sin. God has compassion for you, you acknowledge your sin, and all is good.
This final part of the chapter outlines how God’s mercy is possible. God is just. Sin must be punished. If he is going to show compassion and mercy, then justice requires that punishment take place; but on another. Here God, through David, outlines his ultimate requirements.
David is going to offer a sacrifice. Araunah offers to provide all that is needed but the King makes it clear that he must pay for any sacrifice. So, David pays, and the sacrifice is offered; then all is well.
The pattern is a familiar one in the Bible. Sin needs sacrifice so that it can be forgiven. The big reality is that the sacrifice needed for all sin is not that of cattle on an altar but of the Son of God on the cross of Calvary. All that we have seen here is part of the process. The Lord looks on our sin and we deserve his condemning anger. That could be all there is, but the Lord looks at us with compassion. He then has sent his beloved son to do two things for us. He offered himself, at total cost to himself, as the once and for all perfect sacrifice for our sin. He also prays for us so that the substitutionary sacrifice is applied to our lives. Then, and only then, all is well for all eternity. What is the big difference between this and that popular version of Christianity that leaves out the cross? It is very simple really. Properly understood, true Christianity, true faith in Christ means that all focus is on him and his work. All thanks and praise belong to him. The lives of believers are totally devoted to him.
Head: It is import for all Christians to rid their minds of vague notions of God’s mercy and recognise it as totally focused on the work of Jesus.
Heart: Reflect on your life and ask if overwhelming gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ for his sacrifice at the cross is the driving force of all you do, say and think. If not, have a think about what concept you have of God’s mercy and compassion toward you.
Hands: How can our conversations better reflect that mercy is all about the cross?
Prayer: Father, I am weak and sinful. I need that sacrifice of Jesus on the cross so that I might know your forgiveness. Thank you that his work was perfect and help me to live in humble thanksgiving to you my God. In Jesus name. Amen
A song to listen to: Mercy Mercy
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