Who is a God like to you, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?…
My text is the keynote of the Bible, and reveals the very heart of God. You will see there is in the beginning of the passage a recitation of God's wonderful works, "pardoning iniquity, passing by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage, and retaining not His anger forever." And then the Prophet gives the reason for it, and looks joyously out into the future and says, "He will turn again; He will have compassion upon us, He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."
I. I WANT TO EXPLAIN THE TEXT, "God delighteth in mercy" What is meant by mercy? Of course, a great many people don t think about God. It never enters into their heads to ask what God is, what His intentions are; and there are those who seem to confound His attributes most painfully. Some confound this beautiful word mercy with others of His attributes. They confound it with love, with pity, with justice. We cannot make an error in this matter without suffering more or less from doubts and fears. Let us try to get a clear idea of the meaning of this blessed word. Now, I will put the question to each of you, what do you understand to be the meaning of this word mercy? Let my illustration help us. Here is a man who is a father and a master. Let us follow him five minutes, and I think we shall have a clear idea of the meaning of the word mercy. The men go to the master for the wages. When you go to the master for the wages do you ask for mercy in that transaction? Your labour is your capital, and you have entrusted your master with your capital for six days, and now you bring in your bill for your master to pay; if the master pays you, you say he is just; if he does not pay, you say he is unjust. There is no idea of mercy in that transaction. We have not found mercy, have we? We have found justice, having to do with right. Let us try again. I said this man was a father. Tomorrow is his child's birthday. He has had a good week, and is in a generous mood. He makes up his mind on his way home that he will buy a book that will gladden his child's heart. He reaches the bookseller's shop, purchases the book, pays the money, and goes on his way. What was that? That was not justice, for he had not promised it to the child. You say at once it was love, having to do with the lovable. Now then, there is nothing of mercy in that. We have found justice having to do with right, and we have found love having to do with the lovable; but we have not found mercy yet. As he goes along he sees on the doorstep a little half-naked, hunger-bitten, shivering child. He hurries by; but he has seen that face, and he cannot get away from it. He compares it with the little sunny faces awaiting his arrival at home. That morning when he was with his companions he said what a wrong thing it was to relieve beggars, it did harm to the recipient and it did harm to society, and it ought to be carefully avoided. That is his theory. But he can see the child s face, and he stops, and his heart runs away with his head. He comes back to the child, puts his hand into his pocket for the third time, and puts something into the little trembling hand. That was not justice. The claims of justice were met in the Poor Law arrangement. It was not love; for when he had relieved the child he shrank from kissing it. What was it? Pity, to be sure, pity having to do with misery; but no mercy in the sense used in my text. Let us try again. A concrete instance. I said this man was a master. He has in his employ a man who is a splendid workman, but he is a drunkard. He knows where some of his master's property is, and under the shadow of evening he lays his hand upon it, and takes it to the pawn shop, and finds his way to the drink shop again. Just after the master had relieved the little child he meets this man full face. The poor man wishes there was a corner to run into; but there is not one. The master says, "William, you have not been for your wages today." "No, sir; I have not done anything this week." "And you knew that you had work to do that was very important, and you knew that I should suffer by your absence." "I am very sorry, sir." "But that is not the worst of it; not only have you not done your duty, but you have taken my property, and you have applied it to your own base, sensual purpose." Tell me, what will that man say to the master.? Will he say, "Be just"? That would be to imprison him. Will he say, "Love me"? Such a thought never presents itself. Will he say, "Have pity"? He would have pity on the drunkard's wife and children. He looks at the master and he says, "Do have mercy on me." When the master says, "Well, William, I will. The past shall be as if it had never happened, and shall never be mentioned. Here's your full week's wages. Go, and sin no more," would not that man know what mercy was? Mercy is kindness shown to the guilty. When you go, then, to God in prayer, let this thought be before you: I am coming not for justice, I am coming for mercy. If I am wronged I can appeal to God's justice, and He will take my part. If I am in trouble I can appeal to His pity and He will sympathise with me. But if I am guilty, mercy is the only attribute that I can appeal to. There is an attribute which can touch the sinner without damning him.
II. I WANT TO GIVE YOU A FEW PROOFS THAT THIS BLESSED DECLARATION IS TRUE. Why should I do that when it is expressly stated in the Book? My answer is this, as soon as a man's eyes are opened and he sees his sins, then despair takes hold of him. I read the text to him tonight, "God delighteth in mercy," and he says, "Too good to be true, too good to be true." The Devil brings out the past sins, and aggravates them and flings them into our heart till the pangs of hell get hold of us and we dare not think of God. Can it be true, He delights in mercy? Let me give one or two proofs.
1. First, I know God delights in mercy because He says so much about it. "Out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh." That is so with man, and that is so with God. I go to a home where I hear the music of children's voices, and I always know I shall be happy with such music. I sit down at the tea table, and the mother tells me about the wonderful things the children have said and done, and she goes on and on, and I listen interestedly. I try to say a little about my own, but it does not go, so I listen to her and thank God for a mother's love. When I get home they ask me, "Well, how did you get on?" "Very well, but how she does delight in her children." They ask, "How do you know?" "Because she was never tired of talking about them, that is how I know." I come to you tonight and I say to you with a glad heart, our God delights in mercy, for He is never tired of talking about it. Take the Book. What did I say, mercy was kindness to the guilty? To whom did God give the Bible? Not to saints, but to sinners. Now, I find that this word "mercy" studs the pages of the Bible like the stars stud the heavens. God's mercy is higher than the heavens, is longer than eternity. God is rich in mercy, "God delighteth in mercy." Over and over you have it in one of the Psalms. In that one Psalm we are told twenty-six times God delights in mercy, because "His mercy endureth forever."
2. Again, I know God delights in mercy, because so many people have found mercy. Look at the millions on the earth in all lands, in all climes, in all colours, that could stand before us and bear the same testimony. "I obtained mercy." If we could write out the names of the people who had found mercy, and were to unroll it, would it not reach from the gate of heaven to hell and back again? And hundreds of you could say, My name is there. Ah, what a lot of trouble God took to get us to yield to Him. How He followed us, how He knocked at the door, how He pleaded with us many long rebellious years. When at last we cried for help He shewed us mercy, and our names were on the roll. Thank God, if your name is not there it may be there tonight. Does God delight in mercy? Yes. How do I know it? You want solid ground to rest upon. How do I know that God delights in mercy! "Behold the Lamb of God." How can one speak in His presence, beholding the bleeding Saviour, and hearing Him say, I suffered this for thee." See Him on the Cross. Is it too easy? Is the mercy bought at such a price too easy? Fling thy doubts to the wind. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." "It is so easy," said a young girl; "I wonder I did not believe before." We have all felt the same, I daresay. It is so blessedly easy that a dying man may find mercy. And now, may I say a word to you? When you go to the Throne of Grace, never forget that you are coming for mercy. The Devil never troubles me so much as in prayer. He brings up the horrible past, and asks me how dare I to stand face to face with that holy God. It is said, in the time of Napoleon one of his officers was accused of disloyalty and was apprehended. His daughter prepared a petition. One day when the Emperor entered Paris she approached with her petition. The Emperor was struck with her looks, and the earnest words she used in presenting the petition, and he read it. He said, I will inquire about it. In a day or two her father was liberated. Two or three years afterwards that same officer was involved in some scheme against the Emperor and was again apprehended. The daughter came again with a petition to the Emperor. The Emperor saw the petition, but did not take it. He said, "Child, you came to me before for your father, and I granted your request; I cannot grant it again." "Sir," she said, "my father was innocent then, and I asked for justice; now my father is guilty, and I ask for mercy." Take the name of Jesus with you; link Him with your prayers, and ask for that mercy which God never denies.
Parallel VersesKJV: Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.