By Grace, In Grace, With Grace
Grace and mercy
One Sunday I asked my congregation the question, “What are the three most important things about the Gospel?” The answer we came up with was “Grace! Grace! and Grace!” The unique gift that the church has to offer to the world is “Grace”. Whenever we read the scriptures as theological students, we were encouraged to identify the Law and the Gospel in each story and in each word of encouragement that we studied. As a pastor, I have found that the law is not difficult to identify, however, it is grace that I have to keep searching for. Our study for these two months will go searching for “Grace”, the grace that God showers on us, the grace that heals us and those moments of grace that touch our lives every day.
Read Exodus 33:17-20
And the Lordsaid to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favour in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. “But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (ESV)
When we talk about grace and mercy in any context, it is the pattern of relationships that the more powerful shows mercy and grace to the person who is in need of being cared for. The simplest example of that relationship is found in one of Jesus’ parables, the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:23-35).
When we read the words of God to Moses, we see that grace is the way that God deals with those he has chosen to be his children. But what do we understand grace to be? How do you define grace?
In Exodus 33, grace and mercy are placed side by side. They may be two sides of the same coin, or they may focus on two aspects of our relationship with God. Do you have a thought about this possible distinction?God is gracious in compassion and merciful in forgiveness!
So, what is grace? Essentially it is a gift, underserved, freely given, without conditions, granted to the person in need.
What would you identify in your life as a grace, an undeserved gift, freely given?
God is gracious to the lowly, and merciful to his people. Grace was at the centre of God’s relationship with the people of Israel. This is demonstrated clearly in the manner in which the priests were called upon to bless the people of Israel in their worship of God.
Read Numbers 6:24-26
The Lordbless you and keep you;
the Lordmake his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you
the Lordlift up his face upon you and give you peace. (ESV)
While this blessing, spoken in the name of the Lord, covers all aspects and every moment of our lives, it is in worship that we experience the grace of God, the generous favour of God. At what point in worship does the grace of God touch your heart?
The Psalms are full of pleas for the grace and compassion of God. What are the circumstances that force these people of God to cry out for God’s grace?
Check out Psalm 4:1; 6:2; 9:13; 51:1 and 86:16
What does grace mean in each of those situations? Can you identify with any of those cries for grace in your own life?
Jacob has a very specific understanding of the gracious favour of God in his life. Read Genesis 33:5
In the Sermon on the Plain, the word grace is not expressly used; however, the measure of God’s grace is clearly expressed in Luke 6:35. The basics of life are showered even on those who are undeserving and the ungrateful.
Love your enemies! Do good to them! Lend to them! And don’t be concerned that they might not repay. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to the unthankful and to those who are wicked. (NLT)
The implications for our lives are obvious and stark. Grace is all encompassing and comforting. God is gracious to us, always! What about us to those around us?
Prayer: God our Father, you are merciful and gracious to us in so many ways, especially through the grace you shower on us through your Son. Help us to recognize your generosity towards us, to thank you for those expressions of grace, and to reach out in grace to a community that doesn’t know of your grace and mercy. Amen.