The traffic was awful this morning. I had an appointment and the time was ticking away. I had already missed this appointment once and had been taken off the list so this was my second chance. I was stuck in an unmoving and frustrating line of what seemed like stationary cars. I considered turning around and going the way I had avoided yet had originally thought would be best but I knew that would be no better, I had seen the line of cars there too. I was frustrated! I had got this far and changing my mind now probably wouldn’t help. When I eventually got to the junction that was causing all the problem I considered turning left instead of right. I could head down to the round-about and then shoot back up the road without waiting. I had crept along this stretch of road for thirty minutes often waiting for several minutes before moving one car length. As I approached the junction at the time my appointment was supposed to be, I offered up a little prayer. ‘I’m late! I hate being late!’ Ok, it wasn’t a prayer, it was a moan. But I was heard. As I got the front of the queue the turning was completely clear and I pulled out without any waiting. When I eventually arrived at my appointment 25 minutes late, I apologised, expecting to be told that a new appointment should be made. I was greeted with a smile and a kind word. ‘Not to worry! Take a seat Mrs Hollway.’ What? Why did I stress out so much? I sat down and laughed at myself. Here I was, about to write a blog post on mercy and GOD had a life lesson for me. I was expecting an angry response for wasting their time and a reluctant expectancy of a new appointment and another battle through traffic. What I got was a smile and a gentle comment. I had received mercy where I didn’t deserve it – I was late. This kindness hasn’t changed my life but it has changed my day. I should have considered the traffic and allowed more time to get there but I didn’t.
The truth is, I wasn’t going to be late at all. I was planning a completely different route and would have arrived early until my daughter had said that she’d had an awful night and the bus was late. I jumped in and had shown a little bit of mercy to her. She didn’t need a lift and could have still arrived on time even with a late bus but I’d rather go the extra little bit with her. My mercy to her wasn’t even a second thought, she’s my daughter.
Sometimes mercy is gentle or even hidden, but it is always powerful because it is a choice to give it. Mercy, in the Bible, holds back what we deserve and gives us the option to turn to Him. What a powerful gift?!
We catch the story in Exodus at the point where GOD had separated His people from the Egyptians in terms of how they experienced the plagues. The next disaster to hit would be hail.
On the morning, before the plague hit, Moses went to Pharaoh. Pharaoh had done nothing but be deceitful and arrogant. Moses was going to tell Pharaoh what GOD had said. GOD instructed Moses to go and talk to Pharaoh. It wasn’t Moses showing mercy but GOD demonstrating it. GOD is merciful.
This account of the plagues may look like an angry god wrecking death and destruction on anyone that doesn’t agree with him on the surface … but we should look deeper.
GOD tells Moses to go and speak to Pharaoh. GOD wants Pharaoh to know that He is GOD and Pharaoh isn’t a god. That is mercy! Hearing the truth is a merciful thing especially when you have been completely blinded to it.
13 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, “This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: let my people go, so that they may worship me, 14 or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. Exodus 9:13-14
GOD states that He could have struck Pharaoh and his people and wiped them off the earth. GOD had withheld His power and wrath. He is such a merciful GOD that He didn’t act quickly and brashly but gave Pharaoh and the Egyptians a chance.
15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. Exodus 9:15
GOD also tells Moses to give instructions to Pharaoh. He gives Pharaoh a warning that He will act with the plague of hail but also tells Pharaoh how to avoid some of the damage it will cause. This does not speak of an angry and domineering GOD.
At this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. 19 Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every person and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die. Exodus 9:18-19
GOD wants us to be saved. He provides all that we need for salvation. There is no one like Him on earth. GOD provided the means of salvation for Pharaoh, it was just a matter of bringing in the livestock and servants to shelter. The sad thing is that many died in that hail storm because they rejected GOD’s mercy. Just as GOD showed fresh mercy to Pharaoh on that morning, despite all he had already done and how he had rejected Him, He continues to show mercy on a world and people that does the same.
25 Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields – both people and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree. 26 The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were. Exodus 9:25-26
It was only the ones that feared to the word of the Lord that hurried to bring their livestock and slaves inside. They chose to except the mercy of GOD. The ones that survived with their livelihood were the ones who had found shelter in the merciful instructions of GOD or the ones who were already in the land of Goshen – the place where GOD’s people lived.
The strange thing is that mercy was extended to both groups. GOD’s mercy really is extraordinary. He extends it where He chooses and to who He chooses. It would have been simple just to let the hail destroy the Egyptians, but GOD always offers a way of salvation.
The Israelites, GOD’s people, were shown extravagant mercy too. We read further on in Exodus that the Israelites weren’t an awful lot better than the Egyptians when it came to worshipping other gods and putting their trust in the GOD. They had nothing that would warrant GOD showing mercy to them except that they were claimed by GOD as His people.
I need GOD’s mercy. I am not perfect! I mess up and make stupid mistakes. I can ignore Him and am prone to disobedience. I often have such little faith and run from Him instead of to Him. BUT He chooses to show me mercy. He is my place of salvation.
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)
GOD’s mercy is new every morning (hence the dew painting on my page!) because each morning I need it afresh. I cannot dig into old mercy or a memory of it. I need it, and it needs to be relevant for the now. I am grateful for His daily, hourly and minute by minute mercy.
He really is faithful.