Psalm 78 turns again to Israel’s rejection of God. And as I wrote two days ago, despite Israel’s sin…
Yet [God] was merciful;
he forgave their iniquities
and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
and did not stir up his full wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
a passing breeze that does not return. 38-39 NIV
I like that last part, where God remembers how incapable we are to do the right thing – apart from Him. So God continues to give Israel chances, all the while planning His final solution: Jesus’ death on the Cross for us.
I believe I need to have that kind of mercy towards other human beings myself!
And what mercy God showed the Apostle Paul in today’s Acts reading.
Paul held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, while approving the murder. He tried to destroy the church, dragging believers into prison. He continued to “[breath] out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” as he sought to jail more followers of Jesus. Acts 9: 1 NIV
…suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. (vs. 3b-6)
Jesus doesn’t yell or threaten or berate Paul. He asks him a question, reveals Himself, then calmly gives Paul his marching orders.
Jesus mercifully knew that Paul was just flesh, “a passing breeze,” too.
- Maybe that’s why Stephen asked God to forgive those who killed Him: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” 7: 60b
- And Jesus asked the same: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
Yet Jesus knew that God couldn’t just forgive the sins of His murderers, of Stephen’s stoners, of Paul – no matter how weak, how deceived, or how blinded these men were. Justice required punishment, so Jesus paid the just penalty Himself.
Even though we are “passing breezes,” we are guilty just the same. God is merciful because of our weakness, but more than that, He is gracious because of His Son.
By the way, I love that last line above, “The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless.”
Today’s Readings: 1 Chronicles 21:1-22:19, Psalm 78:34-39, Proverbs 20:1-2, Acts 9:1-19a. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts. Your daily blogger, Holiday Longing (Reproduce with permission only).