A Gracious and Compassionate God

A Gracious and Compassionate God September 15, 2022

“The glory of the majesty of Your Kingdom” (Psalm 145:12)

Scripture:        Ezekiel, chapters 38-39; Psalm 145; Revelation, chapter 20

Psalm 145:8-13 (NASB) – The Lord is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works. All your works will give thanks to You, Lord, and Your godly ones will bless You. They will speak of the glory of Your kingdom, and talk of Your might, to make known to the sons of mankind Your mighty acts, and the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in His words, and holy in all His works.

Revelation 20:14-15 (NASB) – Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Observations: These two passages present what seems to be a paradox: a God who is gracious and compassionate, and a judgment of being thrown into the lake of fire. Many people ask, “How can a loving and compassionate God ever send anyone to Hell?” The theological answer is that God doesn’t “send” people to Hell; they choose to go there by rejecting Him. So where does the compassion come in?

It comes through the demonstration of his grace.  The Lord is gracious and compassionate; slow to anger and great in mercy.  In His grace and mercy, He sent His Son to be the sacrifice that paid the price for our sins. He offers us forgiveness, salvation, and life in the name of Jesus.  All we have to do is accept that offer and receive His gracious gift.

I’ve said this before (and it’s not original with me):

Justice is getting what we deserve.

Mercy is not getting what we deserve.

Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.

Justice means that we get what we deserve: “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23). In His mercy, God offers us forgiveness and life, so that we do not receive the penalty for our sins. In His grace, God offers us forgiveness and life – which we don’t deserve – because He loves us. “For God so love the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). What seems to be a paradox is in fact the demonstration of God’s character. He is a holy God, which means that sin must receive its penalty. He is a loving God, so He has provided a way for that penalty to be paid on our behalf. And because He is a loving God, He does not force us to accept His offer of forgiveness and life.

Application:  Many Christians are uncomfortable with the idea of Hell, even though it is clearly Biblical. That’s understandable, because it’s not a pleasant subject.  However, the fact that it is unpleasant does not give us permission to deny it or ignore it. I suspect that one reason that we avoid it is because we are concerned about family members or friends who have not yet accepted God’s offer of salvation.

One problem that many people may have is the idea of “scaring” people into a relationship with God. I don’t talk about Hell to scare people into a relationship with God, for several reasons. First, I think it’s counterproductive; that sort of fear does not lead to a healthy relationship. Second, I think it sells God short.  If we have to scare people into accepting Christ, what does that say about God? Third, in the same vein, if we have to scare people into that relationship, what does it say about our own lives? Can people not see the value of a relationship with God by the way we live?

I’m not suggesting we ignore Hell, or deny that it exists. I think we should follow Jesus’ example; He spent much more time talking about God’s Kingdom than He did talking about Hell. The reality of Kingdom life should be evident in our actions, our attitudes, and our priorities.  The reality of Hell should motivate us to proclaim the good news, rather than “scaring people into heaven”!

Prayer:  Father, you are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in mercy.  It is unfathomable to realize the lengths to which You have gone to reconcile us to Yourself. Help us to recognize the reality of Hell, and to strive to keep people from it. Help us to demonstrate the goodness of Your Kingdom so that people are drawn to You. Help us to model the joy and the peace that Jesus has given us. Amen.

 


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