Grace and Mercy

A Journey To Grace through the Old Testament
by Eric Love
Podcast available

Journey To Grace

We are going to take a look at grace and its origins in the Old Testament. Clearly, what is called the “grace dispensation” came through the sacrifice of Jesus. The O.T. was dominated by the Law. However, there are dynamic examples of God’s desire for grace even in the O.T. Then we are going to look at what grace does in us and how we begin to utilize it.

Grace and Mercy in the Old Testament: Consider:

Lot

We know that Abraham convinced God to spare the “one righteous” in Sodom, so we tend to look at Lot as being a righteous man. He wasn’t. He:
disobediently argued with Abraham over which land would be his (Gen 19) and selfishly chose the best
commits incest with his daughters (Gen 19)
chose to live in Sodom even with the knowledge of what kind of city it was - even offering his own daughters to appease the mad homosexuals of the city.
NOTE: Peter calls him righteous (2 Peter 2:7-8). However, his lifestyle wasn’t righteous.

I believe his righteousness and his salvation were the fruit of Abraham’s intercession on his behalf. What does that sound like?

David with Bath-sheba

According to the Law, David should have been put to death because of his adultery with Bath-sheba (Lev. 20:10) and he should have also been put to death for his murder of her husband (Numbers 35)
David’s repentance led to God “putting away” his sin in 2 Samuel (even though his son did die)

Finally, let’s look at Israel and Judah.

The O.T. epic of Israel is a story of their journey to grace. We’re going to look at the book of Ezekiel to see how.

Ezekiel is the last of the great prophets to prophecy to Judah before (and during) the fall (when Judah was carried off in bondage to Babylon - other prophets come during the exile; Ezekiel and Jeremiah are the last two prophets to bring the word of the Lord to Judah as an independent nation).
- I point this out because this is the culmination of everything that has happened since Israel left Egypt in Exodus. Everything has been building to this point.

Side-note: Ezekiel comes from a priestly lineage and would be a priest himself one day. The Lord begins coming to him in visions and visitations when he turns 30 (in Exile, among the first small group carried away years earlier) - the year of his maturity when he could begin his priestly duties.
I believe this is indicative of God’s desire to restore: the Levital lineage was God’s chosen from within God’s chosen
O.T. priests represent God’s covenant relationship with His people: that’s why now we are all priests, a Kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:9)
We will see how Ezekiel’s message is one of ultimate hope and restoration even considering the dire consequences of their rebellion... and it points us to grace

His language to Judah is HARSH. In fact, he points out that their sins under King Mannasseh are WORSE than the sins of Sodom and Samaria. Yet God holds off their judgement for a long time, whereas Sodom was destroyed and Samaria (the fallen Israel) had already fallen.

However, if you look closely at his book, you see a pattern of three things:
This judgement is simply the consequence of their sin (something they’ve earned, they deserve it: this wil become important later on - that they earned it), not an aggression on the part of God.

He says He is bringing their “deeds down on their own heads.” (16:43; also 14:23)
He states over and over that HE is doing this (instead of just saying this will happen). The reason He says it this way is because it has been His own hand all this time that has stayed the judgement they deserved... it was His mercy that protected them from the consequence of their sin for so long. Therefore it is He who brings their destruction when He removes His hand of mercy
Read chapter 16. He describes Israel as being an orphan born and discarded, naked and left to die in her own blood. But He took her and made her beautiful. She used her beauty to prostitute herself out to lovers. Now, He will turn her over to her lovers and she will once again be left naked, destitute, covered in her own blood.

Over and over again He says :Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”

In fact, He says it (concerning Judah as well as other nations) 62 times in the book of Ezekiel
Significance? The point of the consequence was ALWAYS that they would KNOW Him (this knowing isn’t mere knowledge, it is relational)
specific example: 6:10, 14; 7:27

He talks about restoring their fortunes, bringing back a remnant, declaring again “they will be My people and I will be their God”

this is restating His covenant with them
in fact, His discourse in chapter 16 where He calls her a prostitute, the chapter (which is long) ends with an image of restoration
11:14-21 - He makes this promise and says He will remove their stone hearts and replace them with hearts of flesh (hearts that live and breathe and feel)
other examples: 14:11; 34:13; 36:24

It was God’s mercy that sustained them up to this point and would ultimately restore them again. In this way, they did not get what they deserved. That’s mercy. This paved the way to grace.

Grace vs. Mercy
What we often consider to be grace is more aptly called mercy: us not getting what we deserve.

Grace is often defined as “unmerited favor.” This definition is pretty accurate, but it misses the greater implication. Grace is far more than God loving us even though we don’t deserve it.

The full definition of grace (in both Greek and Hebrew, they differ very little) is the state of kindness and favor toward someone (the Greek specifically has a focus on what is given to the person receiving grace).

Look at it from this perspective: we are saved by GRACE through faith, not of ourselves lest anyone can boast... Look at this closely:
salvation requires faith (our part) and grace (God’s part)
salvation is something that cannot be attained by us on our own... it’s a supernatural miracle
Rick Sizemore said grace gives us the ability to be something we could not otherwise be (my paraphrase)

So GRACE, by implication, results in the supernatural ability for us to become something we could not be on our own. Grace transforms us into the New Creation we become following salvation.

If grace is God’s favor toward us, then consider this: what happens when God applies His favor to us? What does that look like? Let’s look at three examples of people who had God’s favor on them.

Mary

Luke 1:28-30: Mary was “highly favored” by the Lord. The word for favor here is the exact same word that means grace. The result? She miraculously conceives Jesus in her virgin womb. Not too shabby.

Jesus

Luke 2:52: Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (again, the exact same word as grace). The result? Well, He’s Jesus... just pick something.

David

Acts 7:45b-46: David found favor in the sight of God and prayed that he would be able to find a dwelling place for God. (You guessed it, same exact word as grace). Cross reference this with 2 Samuel 7:8-16, when this actually happened and you can see the result of God lavishing His favor on David:
he went from shepherd to Prince
his enemies were totally cut off
God promises to “make [him] a great name”* (keep this in mind; something interesting is coming)
also promises that after he is dead and gone, his offspring will in fact finish the dwelling place, that God will establish David’s throne/house/kingdom forever
initially, this is speaking of Solomon, but it becomes clear quick enough that David becomes a precursor to Jesus

For example, The first time Jesus is referred to in the New Testament, He is called the Son of David. The last time (Rev. 16:22) He calls Himself the root of David. He is called the Son of David (or a variation of it) in N.T. at least 19 times.
Isaiah prophesies Jesus sitting on the throne of David or having the keys of David (9:7, 16:5, 22:22)
Jeremiah calls Jesus a righteous branch of David (23:5; 33:15,17) and talks about His kingship and priesthood
Ezekiel actually calls Jesus “David” (34:23; 37:24, 25 - as does Jeremiah 30:9 and Hosea 3:5)

David’s throne is Jesus’ throne. David’s kingdom is the Kingdom of God. Why is David, a man wiling to have someone murdered to hide his adultery, so associated with Jesus? This is the result of God’s favor being on David. Again, not too shabby.

(Note: it’s not that there wasn’t a consequence to his thing with Bath-sheba. There was: the child died. But grace exceeds consequence.)

So what’s the point?

The entire O.T., culminating in the fall of Judah, is a meticulous stripping away of Israel’s  self righteousness (which is merely the illusion of goodness, the illusion of righteousness), their “filthy rags.”

To be clear: righteousness is NOT goodness (although it makes us good). It is (definition here) acting according to God’s standard; more specifically the state of being in proper relationship with God. It is obedience birthed from a healthy relationship with God through Jesus.

Righteousness cannot be “self righteousness” by definition. Righteousness cannot exist outside of relationship with the Lord because it IS relationship with the Lord.

This stripping away in the O.T. must happen in us as well because if we even have a shred of hope left intact in our own goodness, it is impossible for us to accept God’s grace. Grace - the application and reception of God’s unmerited favor, manifesting itself in supernatural elevation - cannot coexist with our self righteousness.

Application:
When God brings humility to our illusion of goodness, embrace it. Accept it as an upgrade.
Because it’s difficult to truly embrace grace without first losing our own illusion of righteousness, when hardship and consequence make us raw and vulnerable, recognize that as God’s grace... again, it’s an upgrade.
Lastly, as we move more and more from self reliance into mercy and supernatural grace, we can expect to see transformations that is nothing short of miraculous. God can do the impossible. We know that, but do we accept it?

Know this: we are already under grace. We don’t have to walk through the difficulties Israel faced in the O.T. because we have grace to enable us to walk supernaturally in the Light.

Eric Love, 9/6/2009 1