Spirit of all compassion, awake my heart to rejoice in your mercies today. All the beautiful expectation of this day is an echo of the expectation of the King. Be blessed, Father God, who sent your Son for our Salvation; be blessed, Spirit of life, by whom the glorious Incarnation came about; be blessed, Son of God, Savior and King, who came to bring us out of darkness and into your marvelous light. Let me walk in your light today.
“Almighty and merciful God, who art the Strength of the weak, the Refreshment of the weary, the Comfort of the sad, the Help of the tempted, the Life of the dying, the God of patience and of all consolation; Thou knowest full well the inner weakness of our nature, how we tremble and quiver before pain, and cannot bear the cross without Thy Divine help and support. Help me, then, O eternal and pitying God, help me to possess my soul in patience, to maintain unshaken hope in Thee, to keep that childlike trust which feels a Father’s heart hidden beneath the cross; so shall I be strengthened with power according to Thy glorious might, in all patience and long-suffering; I shall be enabled to endure pain and temptation, and, in the very depth of my suffering, to praise Thee with a joyful heart.–Amen.”
-Johann Habermann, quoted in Great Souls at Prayer, 352
“For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10, NIV).
These words are spoken by Jesus after He pronounces the salvation of a greedy tax collector who repented of his ways. A miserly government stooge is just the kind of person that people love to hate; but God has compassion on them, just as He has upon the poor. The greedy, too, are lost. Christ came to save them.
In all of our disagreements and our (often legitimate) criticisms over social issues, we must never forget the compassion of Christ, the compassion we are to carry if we would be Christlike. Jesus came to save the poor and needy; He also came to save the rich and greedy. He came to save the lost. The gospel is offered to all people: repent and believe. Repentance will look different for different people–for Zacchaeus, it involved giving away (and giving back) a large amount of money. But the core is the same: repent and believe, and receive the gift of eternal life from the crucified and risen Savior.
He came to seek and save the lost.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess” (Hebrews 4:14, NIV)
Easy as it is for Christians to overlook, the ascension is an important event in Christ’s saving work. It is easy for us to think that it would be better if the risen Lord had remained here on earth; then every doubting Thomas could have their fears assuaged, and the church would never have to wrestle through issues of biblical or theological interpretation.
Well, one day Christ will return and all strife and doubt will be ended. But for this present age, God in His wisdom has given us a greater gift than we would have designed for ourselves. The risen Lord ascended. He does not walk among us in the flesh; instead, He stands for us (in the flesh) in the true holy of holies as our great high priest.
The high priest is the mediator who helps the people to draw near to God. Our high priest is God Himself, who first drew near to us. He is the God-man, and after suffering for our sins He rose to bring us life and ascended to provide us with complete salvation. On the one hand, His deity marks His greatness and ability to reconcile us; on the other hand, His humanity marks the fact that He understands our weaknesses and is able to help (v.15).
What is the result? What is the wonderful privilege that Christians enjoy because of the ascension of Christ?
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (v.16).
We come freely before the throne of God. The high priests of the Old Covenant could only enter the holy of holies once a year. Our high priest has entered and remains in the true heavenly holy of holies. Through Him, we approach God’s throne–and it is a throne of grace. Here stumbling saints may find not condemnation, but mercy.
Gracious and glorious is the salvation of our God.
“The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:11, NIV)
How badly we need these words.
God is compassionate. God has mercy on those who cry out to Him.
Do you know this? Do you believe it? God is full of compassion and mercy. When your spirits are low and your heart is afraid, when you suffer and struggle, run to Him. He does not turn away the hurting, or reject those who cry out to Him.
Seek the Lord when you are in need. His depths of compassion are unfathomable, His breadth of mercy immeasurable. God is kind and gentle. God is love.
May God be your comfort and peace in every trouble.
The prophets speak an interplay of judgment and mercy, sometimes moving from one to the other with startling suddenness. In Zephaniah severe warning comes, for both Judah and her enemies. But in the end the Lord gives His people a promise of grace in some of the warmest terms in Scripture.
“The LORD has taken away your punishment,” He says to Jerusalem (3:15). What shall they expect of God now? I think we expect that after punishment is done we’re in a stigmatized probationary status, or at best we’re on neutral footing.
The grace of God is extravagant.
Instead of shame His people are given security and the blessing of His presence and reign. Far from neutral footing, neither favored nor unfavored by God, here is the image of His restoration:
“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”
How often do we reckon with that richness of grace? These words are spoken to Jerusalem, but the promise may be fairly apprehended by the people of God as His words of love for those He redeems. When God reconciles a people with Himself they become the objects of His delight. A prayer: that our restless souls would come to Him with every fear and care, and learn what it means to be quieted by His love.
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
So begins–and ends–the 8th Psalm. Bookmarked by this exultation, David marvels a the greatness of God’s creation; and especially how, in light of this greatness, God has given such honor to human beings, who are nothing next to Him.
We’re inclined to make our achievements a source of pride. Mastery over the created environment perhaps more typically makes humans see ourselves as large. But the psalmist finds humility even in rulership. Seeing that God has given people headship over the created world directs David’s thoughts not to the greatness of humans–glorious among creatures–but of God, our incomparable Creator.
He is glorious. What a wonder is this created cosmos we live in, how exquisitely crafted from the tiniest of molecular details to the spreading vastness of galaxies. And He is gracious from the very first, giving His human creatures headship over the world He made, despite our smallness.
The intertwined excellences of God’s power and grace that are showcased in the drama of redemption display themselves even in creation. This is the might and character of the Holy One.