by Eric Dunbar
Because God loves us, He is merciful toward us. One of God’s fundamental attributes is His mercy, and because God is merciful toward us, He desires that we be with Him forever. God’s love and His mercy are inseparable. It was God’s mercy that allowed His Son to be condemned in our place at the cross, thus Jesus became the sacrificial lamb for our sins. God’s mercy shows His compassion for mankind. Justice has been satisfied at the cross, therefore God can justifiably show mercy to everyone who has chosen to follow Christ.
God’s mercy says when we deserve to be punished, God does not punish us. Instead He blesses us. The Bible is filled with illustrations of God’s mercy,but the greatest illustration of God’s mercy is revealed in His Son.
God’s Mercy Is Compassionate
When Joseph was in prison God showed him mercy. “…Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.”
God showed mercy toward the nation Israel each year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It was the day that the high priest was to perform elaborate rituals to atone for the sins of the entire nation.
In a show of mercy toward mankind, God instituted the Day of Atonement on our behalf. On that day the priest was to take two young goats as a sin offering, and one ram as a burnt offering from the congregation of Israel to be offered to God. But before entering the tabernacle, the priest was to bathe and put on special garments. Before he sacrificed for the people, the priest was to first sacrifice a bull for a sin-offering for himself and his household. The priest was to then take the two young goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. At the door of the tabernacle, the priest cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. The goat on which the Lord’s lot fell was to be offered as a sin offering for the people. But the goat on which the other lot fell was to be the scapegoat. It was to be presented before the Lord alive to make atonement on it, and then the priest was to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness.
Details of the entire sacrificial ritual are described in Leviticus chapter 16. It is important that we understand the hows and whys of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement because it is a type of the sacrifice of God’s Son for us.
The symbolic significance of the sacrificial ritual is seen in the washing of the high priest. But the need for such ceremonies came to an end when Jesus came to make the once for all sacrifice. When Christ on the cross said, “It is finished” He meant the final sacrifice had been made. He was that sacrifice.
The completeness of Christ’s sacrifice is seen in the two goats. The blood of the first goat was sprinkled on the ark which would appease the wrath of God for one more year. The scapegoat took the sins of the nation into the wilderness where they would be forgotten. That is why God says, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
We are all sinners, and none of us meet the requirement of righteousness of a holy God. But through His mercy and the grace He provide at the cross, provision has been made for our sins to be forgiven, even though none of us deserve such provision. The only requirement is that we believe in the Son of God and accept Him as our Savior, thereby we receive the free gift of forgiveness.
Jesus Is God’s Mercy and Grace Embodied
God is rich in mercy, and because of His grace and unconditional love for us, He has made us alive in Christ even while we were still dead in our sins. We have been raised up with Christ and seated with Him in heavenly places. We are saved by grace through our faith in Christ — not because of anything we do, or do not do — for grace is a free gift from God.
Jesus is the Word of God. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is God’s mercy embodied. The Bible says, “The law was given by Moses, but grace (compassion, unmerited favor) and truth came by Jesus Christ.”