I’ve messed up. If you’re old enough to read this, you’ve messed up, too. Messes come in different sizes, and if you have an entire variety pack of different failures, you are perfectly normal. I think about the many times when I’ve lost my cool with my kids. I try not to think about times when I’ve cut Chris to the knees with a harsh comment. Then there was our premarital sex. I could go on, but you get the point.
Last week, I was in Genesis where God comes to Abram – a childless and elderly man – and promises to make him the father of many nations. You may know the ending: Abram gets a new name and a son, Isaac, and God makes a covenant with Abraham and Isaac. All of that is amazing. Seriously, just the fact that the Lord showed up to Abraham three times is incredible by itself, but what I had minimized in my memory was God’s mercy.
God makes a promise to Abram but he and his wife don’t trust God to fulfill it. His wife, Sarai, gets the bright idea to help God. (Note to self: God doesn’t need our great ideas.) Not only does Sarai insist her husband sleep with her servant to get a child, but then Sarai mistreats the woman. If I were God, all promises would be null and void! Righteousness and faithfulness weren’t anywhere around when Sarai and Abram decided that using innocent Haggar was the answer.
However… not only does God still come back and continue to fulfill His promise to two sinful people, but Sarai (after her ungodliness) laughs when she hears God’s promise… and then lies about the fact that she’d laughed! In my rule-keeping logic, lying to God would mean you do not pass Go, you do not collect $200, and while you can’t lose your salvation, I do think God would have the right to snuff you out!
In the middle of God unfolding His plan, sin is swirled in… yet God somehow shows mercy not only to all of Israel corporately, but also individually to Sarah, Abraham, and even Haggar and her son, Ishmael.
I don’t pretend to understand when God chooses to show mercy and when He rightfully exercises discipline or judgment. But what I do know is that He’s a good God. He’s a merciful God.
This particular journey in Genesis has led me to a few questions that I want to pass along to you:
- Where are you – like Sarai – trying to help God out?
- In what circumstances in your life where you’ve blown it do you need to be reminded that God isn’t stingy with His mercy and you can still come to Him?
- Where do you need to show mercy to others like your Heavenly Father?