Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5
In these two verses we see six substitutions where Christ Himself took our place:
Surely our griefs He Himself bore.
Our sorrows He carried.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions.
He was crushed for our iniquities.
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him.
By His scourging we are healed.
Note the first four substitutions are “acts of mercy”—not getting what we do deserve. Sickness and disease, grief and pain, rebellion and guilt—all inherent with our nature, and all deserving of judgment. But Christ died to save us from these. Here then is mercy.
The last two are “acts of grace”—getting what we do not deserve. God’s peace, His shalom, and His healing—things which we do not deserve. Christ died to save us for these. Here then is grace.
Over the next few days let us consider these six great acts of mercy and grace which Christ accomplished on the cross.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. Psalm 103:11
How great is His lovingkindness (mercy)? For as high as the heavens are above the earth. This shows how lofty His nature, and how low He will stoop for us to receive His mercy.
So, how much higher are the heavens—the dwelling place of God—above the earth? Imagine if we were to progress even beyond Star Trek levels, and could travel to the ends of the universe. Still, no amount of time, no traversing of any distance, will get us to the heavenly realms. They are completely beyond our access and capability. And this is the extreme from which His great mercy is measured.
Even though David is using distance as a metaphor, this is not just a matter of navigation. This also reveals the vast and impassable chasm between creation and Creator. Indeed there is nothing we can mount, build or design to cross this great expanse. But His mercy crossed it.
It also illustrates the contrasts in nature—one being the natural, the other being the supernatural. One is God’s dwelling place, the other is ours. And in keeping with the previous point, God is the One Who must cross, if we are to receive His mercy.
There’s not enough room in all of heaven for you, Lord God. How could you possibly live on earth in this temple I have built? But I ask you to answer my prayer. This is the temple where you have chosen to be worshiped. Please watch over it day and night and listen when I turn toward it and pray. (1 Kings 8:27-30)
God has crossed the great divide, for He has chosen a place for to be worshipped.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. (Isaiah 55:9-11)
God did indeed cross the uncrossable. He sent forth His Word. And this does not mean only His Holy Scriptures which He gave to us, but more critically it means He gave us the Incarnate Word, His One and Only Son.
This is how great His mercy, or lovingkindness, is. He gave us His Son. And perhaps this metaphor really isn’t one; for Christ literally dwelt with the Father in Heaven, and He loved us enough to go to the extreme, and come down to us.
Perhaps now we understand how great His lovingkindness is toward us.
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. ( 1 John 1:3)
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51:1)
Have you ever committed a sin you thought was too big for God to forgive? How about adultery, murder, and deceit? For the whole story about David and Bathsheba, and why He wrote this Psalm, read 2 Samuel 11:1-12:20
Because of the magnitude of these offenses, David appealed to the LORD’s nature; and there are three characteristics and one action to which David pleads:
Be gracious. It means take pity, have mercy, and show favor. David asking for a change in attitude—the Lord who was angry, may He now be moved by pity.
Lovingkindness. This too is translated as mercy, goodness and kindness. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23)
Compassion. Not just compassion, but the greatness of Your compassion. Other definitions are: to love deeply, to have tender affections, and mercy. Psalm 131:2 reveals how we respond to the depth of the LORD’s compassion: Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.
Three words, and in their meanings, you find mercy. David asks God to be merciful; he knows it is in His nature to be merciful. The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:8-10)
David is pleading for God to act according to His nature. These attributes, grace, mercy, lovingkindness, and compassion are all characteristics which are aimed at another; toward David, and toward you and me.
Why plead for mercy? Here’s the one action: so his transgressions would be blotted out, wiped out, obliterated, and exterminated. David is seeking is for God to destroy his transgressions, his rebellion.
Strong words, but God is merciful. What do you need blotted out?