Midweek Fellowship – February 24, 2016
“Mercy and Judgment”
Bishop Ricardo Alcaraz
I remember someone asking, “Why is it that sometimes some people get a second chance and some people don’t?” I read a book about an evangelist who said that before he started ministering and took upon himself the mantel of an evangelist, he was running with the wrong crowd. One time, he was in a car and there was a transaction that went bad; and all of a sudden he saw a gun pointed at this head. Just before the gun was fired at him, he felt a hand push his head downward and the bullet hit the guy beside him and was killed. He believed that it was an angel of God that did it for him. Why did an angel intervene in his life and the other guy died? I said, “God is Sovereign. He can do whatever He wants.” Have you ever felt that somehow that you gave an answer that sounded quite right but inside you felt that something was lacking?
So many events are going around Middle East and we hear prophetic utterances about doom and gloom, about judgment falling, about darkness coming. We also hear prophet utterances about the favour of God, the goodness of God and the blessing of God. Looking to these people who are speaking, we know that they are filled with the Holy Spirit; but how is it that their prophecies are different? Which one is right and which one is not?
I looked into Scriptures concerning mercy and judgment. Is it really just God deciding or do we have a part to play in mercy and judgment? James 2:13 says, “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” I asked, “What makes mercy triumph over judgment? Why is it that some individuals get the judgment but some individuals do not?” If God’s mercy is for all, then, mercy should triumph over judgment over all. We know that God would have mercy over judgment.
In the story of Jonah, the reluctant prophet, when God sent him to Nineveh, he did not want to go. The people in Nineveh were wicked and they are the equivalent of ISIS today. They would rip open pregnant mothers and would do all wicked things, but God said, “You talk to them, Jonah. You tell them that if they don’t change, judgment is going to fall on them.” Jonah ran away and got swallowed by a fish and eventually he said, “God, I am sorry. I am going to do what You say.” The fish spits him out and finally, he goes to Nineveh. He steps into Nineveh and he says, “You are all going to be destroyed. Goodbye!” Is that what he should have preached? He could have said, “God sent me. He is not pleased with what you are doing. However, if you are going to change your ways, God will have mercy on you.” This is not what he preached! He did not want them saved or delivered. He did not want them to get the mercy of God. He wanted them to get what they deserved! For him, it was not mercy.
The pagan king says, “What are we going to do? What do they do?” He was told, “They put dust on their heads and they put on sackcloth and they tear it.” For them, it was a formula. They did not know about Jehovah God so they went through that. Probably, they were guessing and they were trying to punch the right buttons. We would think that they are doomed, but God had mercy on them. They moved in the light that they had which was very little, and yet God had mercy on them. Jonah, instead of thanking God for His mercy, got angry and said, “I knew this would happen. I knew they would be forgiven. I knew it!”
God is Someone who would rather have mercy rather than judgment. Why send a prophet? Could God have done it Himself? He is God and He is Sovereign, but as we look through Scriptures, we see that God has chosen to work together with us. Is there something that we should be involved in to make sure that mercy triumphs over judgment?
Psalm 89:14 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; mercy and truth go before Your face.” As the righteous God, He rewards the righteous and He punishes the wicked. As a merciful God, He forgives us and He blesses us. We see this easily worked out especially in our lives. If we are doing something wrong, and we know it, and our conscience bothers us and the Holy Spirit deals with us, we know that if we continue doing the wrong, eventually, we are going to reap the consequences of our bad actions and decisions. But in the middle of that, we can yield to the dealing of the Holy Spirit and we can say to Him, “Lord, I am really sorry. Thank You for being patient with me. Thank You, Lord, for dealing with me. Thank You, Lord, when people gave up on me, You never did and You are still talking to me. Forgive me, Lord. Have mercy on me!” The moment we ask forgiveness from God, we get it. The moment we ask mercy from God, we get it. In this case, we are on a sure road towards judgment, but because we yielded to God, mercy triumphed over judgment in your life. We had something to do with it. We took action and responded to the Holy Spirit.
This is easy for us, but what about prophecies and nations are involved? We are hearing about issues like same sex marriage being legitimized and all about abortion. In the Empire State building, where before the Cross was once displayed there during special occasions, now, they displayed a Hindu god. Last December 2015, the first state sanctioned service for Satan was celebrated on the Capitol steps. We hear prophetic utterances that America is going to be destroyed among others. However, there are also prophetic utterances saying, “This is a time for awakening. This is a time for favour.”
What happens? How do we deal with these? When people go astray, we normally get seemingly contradictory prophetic utterances. We know that prophetic utterances concerning judgment flows from the righteousness of God. But then, we also know that the prophetic utterances concerning mercy and favour flow from the mercy nature of God. Is God fighting Himself? Is He having a split personality crisis? No! One of the things that we need to understand is that there is a pattern that God wants to show us. Normally, when a nation is going astray, there is going to be a declaration, a pronouncement of judgment. Just because that comes forth does not mean that it has to be because God, now, begins to wait how His people will begin to respond, and how His people would respond will determine whether mercy would triumph over judgment.
In Exodus 32:1-6, “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” Then all the people tore off the golden earring which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He received the gold from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” So Aaron saw it, and built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow is the feast of the Lord. Then, they rose up early on the next day and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.”
In this story, did they sin against God or not? Did they do right or wrong? These people sinned! We are not talking about the fourth generation. These are the people who actually witnessed God’s great acts. They were there when the plagues struck Egypt. They were there when the Red Sea parted. They were there when they saw the pillar of clouds by day and the pillar of fire by night. They were there when the sea swallowed up the Egyptian army. These were not the fourth or fifth generation who just heard about God from their forefathers. They were the generation who actually experienced God. They knew how it felt like when there was darkness in Egypt, but there was light in their areas. They saw the Nile turn to blood. The evidence before them was so clear that this God, this unseen God that Moses talked to them about, was not the figment of their imagination. This God that Moses talked to them about was somehow superior and greater than the gods of Egypt that they have known. They were a free people and so Moses goes up to Mount Sinai and he tells them to wait. They were not accustomed on waiting God on His terms.
When they made a molten calf, Israel sinned. They violated the God who rescued and delivered them, and what was the reaction of God? In verses 7-8, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go get down for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt’” They know how God speaks about them. God used to refer to them as, “My people,” but God says to Moses, “Your people. They turned away against Me. Go down and looked at what they have done.”
In verses 9-10, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and indeed, it is a stiff-necked people. Now, therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I will consume them; and I will make of you a great nation.’” The people sinned. The Lord’s anger was aroused. Understand that when the Lord gets angry, He is not like us. Sometimes, we get angry because we are pissed off or simply because we have a short temper. Sometimes, we get angry because we need to take a course on anger management. Sometimes, what we do out of anger is unrighteous, but our God doesn’t just get angry unrighteously. If ever He gets angry, if ever the wrath of God begins to burn, there is good reason for that. Then, He pronounces the judgment. God says, “Moses, I am going to consume that. I am going to destroy that. I am going to wipe them out. And then Moses, I will start with you again. I will make a new people out of you, Moses. This stiff-necked people, away with them!”
There is something that in the beginning doesn’t really make sense. In verse 10, God says, “Now, therefore, Moses, let Me alone.” He is God. Who can prevent Him from doing anything? Somehow, God had allowed His people to have a special hold on Him. He chooses to work together with us. It is not a matter of God saying, “I don’t care what Moses thinks. I am just going to do what I need to do. These people sinned against Me. I am righteously angry at them. I am going to destroy them all and I am going to start a new people with Moses. Moses, let Me alone. Don’t hold on to me, Moses.”
Somehow, through the area of prayer, God allows His people to have a hold on Him. It is like God saying, “Moses, stop praying for them. Stop interceding for them.” God said to Moses, “I will wipe them out; then, I will create a new people for you.” This is a critical point because Moses could have said, “Well, You are God. You know better than I do. Who am I to stop You? Wipe them out!” He could have said, “I am already tired of these people. They had nothing better to do than to complain. I tried to help them. I delivered them and they tell me that it is better to go back to Egypt because I am trying to kill them in this desert. God, I am really tired of these whiners, these complainers, so go ahead.” Moses could have thought, “Wow, they will be wiped out and You will start a people for me. They will be called Mosesites!”
It could have gone that way. The Israelites could have been wiped out, and a new people could have come from Moses. Somehow, God might have found a virgin from this new people, and the Messiah might have come from this virgin from the Mosesites; and the plan of salvation and redemption would still have pushed through, but it could have had a different history. The plan of God will push through, but history might have been different had Moses not reacted the way he reacted. It would not have been the Israelites, but the Mosesites.
In verse 11, Moses pleaded with the Lord, his God and said, “O Lord, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth?’ Turn from Your fierce wrath and relent from this harm to Your people.”
As I was reading this, I was thinking that it was kind of wrong. Moses said, “Lord, what will they say? That You destroyed them and that You can’t bring them to the land? The Egyptians will talk about You that You can’t do this so this is the reason You destroyed that.” I was thinking that Moses was appealing to the Lord’s pride. If someone appeals to our pride, it might work with us. If we were vain people and they appealed to our vanity, it might work with us. Somehow, we have our own quirks that if we are not careful, other people can manipulate. This can’t work on God for God has no insecurities.
If I were God, I would say, “So what? Why should I care what bunch of godless idolaters think about Me? I am thinking that this should not have worked, but it did.” Moses prayed and was fighting in prayer for the people. He was not letting go of them. There were on the verge of judgment. This was a critical point for they could have been wiped out. In verse 13, “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.” Why was Moses reminding God? God is a God who does not forget. Moses’ prayer was a covenant prayer. He was standing on God’s promises. “I am standing on Your promises, God. You said this to Abraham. I know that He is dead, but if You are still there and that promise stands, I am appealing to that promise that You made to Abraham.” What was the result? Verse 14, “So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.” A nation sinned grievously against God. One man dared to fight in prayer and intercession for them and a whole nation was spared.
We could criticize Moses’ prayer of appealing to God’s pride. It should not work but it did! On the occasion when God came to Abraham, he had already a son named Ishmael from Hagar, and God, through His messenger, said to Abraham, “You are going to have your own son.” At first, Abraham laughed. “I am this old and I am still going to have some pleasure? Oh, that Ishmael might live before you.” God said, “No, this is not the plan for you. I am really going to give you a son.” When Abraham prayed, “Let Ishmael live before Your sight,” he was suggesting something else that was really workable; and God said, “No, that is not what I had in mind. You are really going to have a flesh and blood son. You prayed a prayer not really in My world. That is not My plan for you. You prayed the wrong kind of things not according to My plan. You know what Abraham? As for your son, Ishmael, I have heard your prayer. There are going to be twelve princes that will come from him.”
It was a simple prayer. Did Abraham specify what God should do for Ishmael? He did; and said, “Lord, that Ishmael might live before Your sight.” But God said, “That is not what I have in mind for you. That is not the plan. I am going to bless you with an Isaac. Since you mentioned your son, Ishmael, I have heard your prayer about him and I will create for him twelve princes.”
Can you see the impact that we, as a Church, have when we pray to God? We can read the news and be sorry about it or we can mumble prayers. We could speak prayers for the state of the nation. We could pray for the crisis that we read from newspapers and see in television. Don’t just be a spectator but become interactive in the area of prayer.
Moses, as one man, prayed and a whole nation was saved. He prayed and God already pronounced the judgment on them. He said, “I will wipe out these guys. They don’t deserve to live. They don’t deserve to be My people. Now, they are your people, Moses.” But Moses prayed and held on. History could have gone another way, but the people were preserved and Jesus was born to these people.
It might have been prophetic that it was going to happen, but some things can change because we pray. When Jesus Christ talked about the destruction of the temple in Matthew 24 and saw the pregnant women, the ones who were nursing babes, He said, “Pray that your flight would not be on the Sabbath or on winter. It is going to happen, but if you pray, you will have to flee where it is not too hard for you.” Some things can be affected simply because we come to God in prayer.
God doesn’t judge and destroy nations because of the abundance of their wickedness, but of a lack of response from God’s people. When we hear something or someone judge and pronounced, what do we do? Do we shrug it off and say, “It is their fault,” or do we get involved and cry out for mercy? In Jeremiah 5:1, “Roam to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now and know, and seek in her open places, if you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the truth, and I will pardon her, who will do right by her.”
In Ezekiel 22:30-31, “ ‘So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Therefore, I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their heads,’ says the Lord our God.’” God said, “I looked for someone who would pray for them. I looked for someone who would stand in the gap. I looked for someone who would dare intercede for them and he could have averted the judgment. He could have allowed mercy to triumph over judgment, but there was no one. So My indignation was poured on them.”
In 2Chronicles 7:14, “If My people are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn form their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven; I will forgive their sin; and I will heal their land.” Why should we pray? How many of us have been given joy and gladness in exchange for sad things? God has made us glad. God has given us pleasure. Return the favour to God.
In Ezekiel 33:11, “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn form his way and live. Turn from your evil ways, for why should you die, O house of Israel.’” God takes no pleasure on death, but it is when people turn from their wicked ways. When we pray and they respond, it gives God pleasure. It is our chance to make Him happy. When we bring someone to the kingdom of God, the angels rejoices. We are not just partaking of the rejoicing in the heaven, but we are contributing to the joy of heaven simply because of what we do here.
When God gives us mercy, it doesn’t mean that we are immune from penalties and we can still live a wicked life. In 2Peter, it talks about the coming of the Lord, and people have been saying that has been said and we don’t think it is coming. We think that God is not too serious about His promise because it has already been a long time. Peter says that God is not slack concerning His promises. It is His desire that everyone would be given more than enough time so that we could turn from our ways and turn to Him. The world was first destroyed by water. One day, we will be destroyed by fire and we know that the anti-Christ is coming and because we know that day is coming, what should we do? We should live lives that are serious before God, holy before our God. Let us not take God’s mercy for granted.
If someone could be doing the wrong things and his time is up and it is time for him to be judged, pray for him; intercede for him. He has been given more than enough time. It is not immunity from penalties. It is not immunity from punishment. It is not saying, “Go and live a hedonistic life. As long as I am praying for you, you are not going to be punished and you are still going to make it to heaven.” This is not what it is. God extends more time and resources in our behalf so that eventually, we will come to our senses and say, “Lord, I am really sorry for doing this. Thank You, Lord, for being patient with me. Thank You, Lord, for not judging me. Thank You, Lord.”
Sometimes, we do our own thing and we are not caught and we do not suffer the consequences. We think, “Oh, we were spared. The Lord loves us!” Instead of being thankful for a chance, we think that it is just okay with the Lord for He loves us. If we are not caught for doing the wrong thing, be grateful that God has given us a chance and use that time to turn to God. “Lord, I should have suffered the penalty for this. I am sorry. I am turning back to You.” If you do this, mercy triumphs over judgment.