Grace of God in the Old Testament | Grace of God Series #2
by Fred R. Coulter—January 5, 1985
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Now, going through the series in the book of John, we basically ended with the third chapter and we had the sermon about the love of God for the world, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and then how we need to walk in the light. This one is going to be in conjunction with it, although not directly in the series of John, but this is going to be on the grace of God in the Bible. And this first one is going to be in the Old Testament, because there are too many people who have the idea that God was only gracious in the New Testament. That God only gave His grace in the New Testament. And His grace was not revealed at all until Jesus Christ. Well, that is not a wholly accurate statement, even though John said the law came through Moses and grace and truth through Jesus Christ. But that is not saying that God was ungracious in the Old Testament. God was gracious in the Old Testament and in dealing with the people that He dealt with.
Now let’s go to Hebrews 13, which we all know is in the New Testament, but Hebrews 13 gives us a very important scripture that we need to just really rely on and understand and realize in approaching this because we’re going to see other aspects of the grace and mercy of God in the Old Testament, which also are precursors or forerunners of those in the New Testament. And after all, let’s not forget that all of those who prophesied also spoke of the grace that was coming. Those who wrote the words of God also were prophesying and writing down what Jesus Christ was going to do.
Here, Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” Now I would have to take it that this statement means Jesus Christ the same yesterday - that is as the LORD God of the Old Testament; and today - which means as He is the mediator of the New Covenant; and forever - which means on into eternity.
Now there’s one thing that we need to grow in, and that is in grace and knowledge. Since we’re back this far in the New Testament let’s go to 2 Peter 3, and let’s see how we are to be growing in grace and knowledge. Here’s a statement that is made, and as we get into this we will see how we are to grow in grace and knowledge. Ok, the very last verse of 2 Peter 3, that is verse 18. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Now as a result of just studying through this again, like I mentioned before this is about the third time in ten years that I have given an in-depth sermon or series of sermons or study into the aspect of grace in the Bible. And this time I know, not just saying it, but this time I know that I understand it more. And I think we’ll all understand our calling better, we’ll all understand… How many have asked this question to yourselves? Why did God call me? Haven’t you asked that question? Almost everyone does. Why did God call me? And you know that’s been one of the hardest to answer, but we’ll answer that.
I’ll give you a partial answer right now. If we look at the things that we have done and what we are, then we have to ask the question: why did God call me? And that’s how we introspect and look at it. But you see the grace of God gives us the answers to why God has called us. And we’re going to see it’s not because of some great thing we have done, but it’s the great thing that God has done. And we’re also going to see that in the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament, how God dealt with the ones that He worked with directly was in a very gracious way, with the exception of when they sinned and God had to really lower the boom on them.
Now we also need to just balance out the equation a little bit. If we sin in the New Testament under the New Covenant, does not God lower the boom on us? What is the ultimate punishment of sin? The lake of fire. It sure is. And that is the opposite of God’s grace. God’s grace is all encompassing, all purpose, as we could put it this way, in God’s goodness to us, and the lake of fire is all encompassing and all consuming in doing away with people who do not follow God’s way. So we have these two very broad extremes.
Now let’s go back to the Old Testament, begin in Genesis, and let’s look at things just from a little bit different perspective than we have before. Let’s go back to Genesis 1:31. Now we’ve gone through this many times. I suppose that we could almost recite the first and second and third chapter almost by heart. If we couldn’t by heart we could surely summarize it without looking at it.
Here in the very last verse of chapter 1 we find something of God’s goodness, or graciousness. Verse 31 says, “And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Now this word in the Hebrew is tobe, which means beautiful or bountiful, cheerful, fine, glad, good, and also a word for gracious. So even the creation of God was an act of grace. Why can we say the creation of God was an act grace? Because grace, when you define the word grace, grace means an act of God unearned on the part of the recipient. Unmerited in why the person is getting it. Grace actually means, it has quite a meaning. Grace in the Old Testament means favor, or kindness, gracious, pleasant, precious, well favored. Gracious in the Old Testament means to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior in position or level or in this case we are inferior to God, even though we are made in His image. So God stooping and bending to us is an act that He does, ok? To be, or to find, or to show favor, and to be or to deal, or to give, or to grant graciousness, show mercy and have pity upon.
So if God is gracious, which He is, then what He does reflects His grace or graciousness, or goodness. Now we know that God is love, so then grace is a quality of that love. And that love is shown in the things that God does. Now you go through the first chapter, everything there is totally positive. God made the earth and all the animals, all the plants, He created human beings, He blessed everything. He blessed all the animals, said be fruitful and multiply. He blessed Adam and Eve and said be fruitful and multiply. And when He finished everything behold it was very good.
And then the next thing He did, chapter 2, was a very gracious thing. In a day, a day, which we can now say is a day of grace, because it’s a day God chose. You know this gives us a little insight verses Sabbath keeping verses Sunday keeping. If you do what God says by His dictate, by His demand, then you’re acting in response to what God has done. So therefore that is a gracious act upon God, or from God to even give us these things. So creating the Sabbath, blessing it, sanctifying it, establishing it as a day of contact between His creation and Himself is in fact a very gracious thing. Adam and Eve didn’t earn it. You know, they were created and you know they came to consciousness and God said, “I’m God and you’re Adam and you’re Eve.” Ish and Isha. It’s interesting the German word for I is Ich, and it’s interesting how so many of these things you can get traces in all languages going back to these very basic things. So here then, God gave the Sabbath, which was a very gracious thing to do. You know, you look at it that way. The Sabbath was given to man, Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath, and it’s given for our benefit. Boy, I tell you, we sure need it.
Doing what I’m doing now I know the value of the Sabbath much more than when I was just full time in the ministry and so forth. There is sort of a little trap in that being full time in the ministry, not to put it down or say that things are better the way they are now, or things were worse the way they were then, or they’re worse now, or whatever. There’s no judgment, it’s just a comparison of the difference in perspective. When I would go around and visit all Church people, which I would do. I’d visit almost all Church people. I hardly had contact with anybody that we would say would be “in the world”. And Sabbath was a totally different thing from what it is now. And people would come to Church and say, “Boy I’m so glad it’s the Sabbath.” And I’d say, yea I am too, but I had all this I had to do, see. Had to go here and go there and do these things, which is fine. I always enjoy doing it but now when the Sabbath comes, and now when we get together with God’s people, because I’m not out there with God’s people day in and day out, I’m out there with the world, the swearing, cursing, smoking, tobacco-chewing, you know, foot-stomping, all this kind of thing world, then when the Sabbath comes boy it sure means a whole lot. And I can see how that the giving of the Sabbath was a tremendous gracious act of God so that we could have a day of contact with Him, a day of fellowship together with Him. A day that He has blessed.
Now have you ever noticed when you’re talking to someone and you have a good conversation and at the end of it they say, “Well, God bless you.” And you feel just real good when someone says “God bless you”, you know. And you go away and you feel real happy. Well just think, God has blessed the Sabbath. That’s a fantastic thing. God has blessed this very day. That’s really a gracious act. He didn’t bless the other days. He said go work. This day He blessed.
Ok, then He showed them the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He gave them a warning, which was gracious. Isn’t that gracious to give a warning…, “In the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.” You know when we look at it it’s a very negative thing and say, “Oh terrible.” But that was really gracious. He warned them before they did it. How would it be if He said nothing to them. If He said, “Go ahead and eat of all the trees in the garden.” So they go eat of all the trees of the garden and ooh, they eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and lo and behold all these things come crashing in on them. You know, what would be the first reaction? “Well God, why didn’t you tell us.” God didn’t do it that way. He told them first.
Ok, then the creation of Eve for Adam was a very gracious act by God. Now then we find where man, as they always do, turn the grace of God into something that it shouldn’t be. Isn’t that right? And doesn’t that go right back to the book of Jude which says that they turned the grace of our God into licentiousness. That’s exactly what happened right here in Genesis 3 if you look at it properly. Didn’t they take the graciousness of God and turn it into license to do what they want? Sure, yes, ok.
Let’s go on and see after man fell, which he did. Satan fell and man fell. Both of them fell. They fell from God’s grace. So then there had to be the penalty of sin that came. And God had to set in motion, then which were already to go, all the laws controlling goodness and righteousness and sin, and all of that sort of thing, to where there has to be a control on evil. There’s an automatic control on all evil whether people believe it or not. Good example, point in case today. Look at all these so called great, great rock stars. Just take an extreme point. They run their lives in a very evil way. They take the drugs, they debilitate themselves, they bring others into the evil that they are doing and what happens? They all die at a young age. That’s almost like an automatic law that sets in. The more evil you are the shorter that you’re going to live. Whenever there’s a sin there’s always a consequence for it because it’s an automatic law. So God set all of those things in motion as well as, within inherited as we have gone through other sermons we have inherited the law of sin and death passed on to us by inheritance. Now then how does God deal with us, because we’re dealing in a situation whereby in certain things in almost everything the law of sin and death keeps us from meeting the requirements of God’s perfection. So the only way that God can deal with us is in a gracious way, or through His grace.
Now the curse came on the world. We know the story of Cain and Abel. We have Genesis 5, which gives the genealogy down to Noah. Let’s come down to verse 28. This tells us a little bit about Noah. But Noah actually, his name has the meaning of God’s favor, not grace, but God’s favor. Because God did something with the birth of Noah that perhaps maybe we’ve overlooked before and we haven’t quite understood in this light.
“And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: and he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us [it means comfort or favor] concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath curse.” So God lifted the curse at this time that was on the land because of the curse of Adam and Eve. “And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters: and all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died. And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Gen. 5:28-32).
Now look at what happens here in God’s intervention concerning the flood. “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). And that’s a result of the laws of sin and death. Only evil continually.
Now, are there good acts and things that people can do? Well sure there are. Yes there are but there are things that are good that are not motivated from goodness. They can be good on the surface. But you see when you get right down to the final analysis, and I’m going to summarize quite a few of these thing cause we’ve covered them in the past, when Jesus said, “Don’t call Me good there is none good but God.” So even though a person can do good things, and do right things, and do responsible things that doesn’t make them good as God is good. They’re good by human standards, ok. So here God looks down on the earth and the thought of everyone was only evil continually.
“And it repented the LORD that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth [in other words, let’s just end all this nonsense]; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth Me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (vs. 6-8).
Ok, now why did Noah find grace? Well, partly because of the things that he was doing, but partly because of the choosing of God. And that’s how we find grace, by God’s choosing. That’s the whole point to remember concerning God’s grace. And we will see this all the way through the Old Testament. It is by God’s choosing. Just a case in point. Remember when Hezekiah was told, “Set your house in order, you’re going to die.” And he wept and he cried, and asked God, “Please remember the things that I have done…”, and whatever his full repentance was, and God chose to be gracious to him, didn’t He? And so He sent Isaiah back and said, “Hezekiah, you have 15 more years.” That is an act of pure grace. Did Hezekiah deserve it? No. Did he earn it? No. Did he beg that his life be spared? Yes. Was he repentant? Yes. But his begging and his repentance didn’t earn it. God chose to do it.
Just like, what does it say is going to happen at the lake of fire? There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The weeping and gnashing of teeth is not going to earn the grace of God because they’ve already rejected the graciousness that God was going to give them. So grace is something that God gives to us. Noah found grace. So then you know the whole story of the flood.
Alright, let’s come over to Genesis 12:1 and we’re going to see something very interesting. Just quite a parallel here. “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:” (Gen. 12:1-2). Now this is a pure act of grace. That is why Abraham is called the father of the faithful. God chose him, which is an act of grace. And God’s calling for us is an act of grace. So here He chose Abraham. Notice what He said. “I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.”
Now just drop back here to chapter 11 and verse 4, and let’s see the attitude that they had at the tower of Babel. They said, “…Go to, let us build a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name…” So they wanted to make a name for themselves strictly out of their own doings, out of their own works, out of their own rebellion, out of the things they were doing themselves. And so what happened? They didn’t make a name for themselves. So what did God do? He chose Abraham.
Now Abraham was probably a reject in his society. Now if you read Josephus you will find that he was a reject in his society because he wouldn’t bow down to idols. He was a reject. So here God calls a reject and says, “Alright, now that you’re rejected get up and completely get out.” And I think there are some parallels for us, you know. One of the reasons God called us, well, I don’t think we were necessarily “in like Flynn” with the world, I don’t believe. I don’t recall in my circumstances I ever was. I wasn’t a rebel but you know, surely anything but righteous. Surely anything but however you want to measure by the world’s standards. And I think we could all say that about ourselves. Sure we could. So here God says He’s going to make a great name for Abraham.
And what is the thing that still motivates so many people in the world today? To make a great name. I mean that’s the whole thing behind the great sports thing, isn’t it? It sure is. Make a name for themselves. They love to be called bad, and you know. What was this one they had. Who was the Raider player that was so hard hitting? He was just…I forget what it was…Dr. Doom come along and club you in the back of the neck and give you a concussion, you know. A great name for themselves. Same way with politicians.
Let’s continue on here with Abraham and see what He told him He would do. “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee…” And that’s still true today. The nations of the world can’t figure it out. All they do is curse us and they end up with drought and famine. Those who bless us and do good to us, well they get blessings too. See, it goes right along. You know, and part of the thing it says, “…and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (vs. 3).
Now part of our faith in God, part of our acceptance of God, because we do have to accept God. He has to accept us, but we’re accepted in Christ. But we do have to accept God. We have to answer the calling. And God takes us as we are and forgives our sin but there’s sure one thing that is true: we aren’t going to change God so that means we have to accept Him for what He is, and what He has done. So we can’t tell God, “Oh yes God, we love You because You gave Your grace to us and You have called us. But then I don’t like the way that You’re doing to the rest of the world. I don’t like it that you’ve blessed the descendants of Abraham.” Or would you like God to lie to Abraham? Of course not. And there are some people who feel that way today. In fact that is the very reason for a lot of the race problems that we have in the world.
Now, let’s go to Genesis 18 and here we will see God’s grace involved in it. And here is when we find that Abraham was asking that he found favor. Genesis 18:1, “And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, and said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in Thy sight pass not away, I pray Thee, from Thy servant: let a little water, I pray You, be fetched, and wash Your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree…” (Gen. 18:1-4). So then he prepared this meal for the one Who was the Lord God of the Old Testament and apparently two angels with Him. So Abraham did find grace in God’s eyes, didn’t he?
Now notice what position this put him in. And notice all the way through this incident where He told him what He was going to do to Sodom and Gomorrah. So Abraham came and he reasoned with God. Now notice how he reasoned with God. Here, just hold your place here and go to Isaiah 1. Very important because if we are within God’s grace, and within God’s mercy, and are in a repentant attitude, which we can see that Abraham was there, then this puts us in a totally different relationship with God.
Isaiah 1:16, it says, “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil.” So there’s something we can do, and that is to quit doing evil. “Learn to do well [we can do that]; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together…” (Is. 1:16-19). You know, within this relationship of God when there is repentance and the acceptance of God’s grace we can reason with God to a certain degree. Not to go against His will, not to change His plan, but we can reason on the basis of mercy. And you can just remember when it was James and John when they came to Jesus when they didn’t receive Him in the village and they said, “Well, let’s call fire down from heaven.” He said, “You don’t know what manner of spirit you are in.” You can always reason with God concerning mercy. So therefore you know one thing: if you have an enemy, don’t go pray that God will destroy him because God won’t do that. You pray for that enemy that God maybe could be merciful to him. Now isn’t that the hardest thing in the world to do? Oh, that is the hardest thing in the world. But if you found yourself in dire circumstances wouldn’t you want God to be merciful to you? Ok, here’s then how we can reason with God.
“…Let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land…” You see what a tremendous gracious thing that God does for us. Then it says, “But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (vs. 19-20).
Ok, let’s go back here to Genesis 18 and let’s see how this actually was the way that Abraham reasoned and dealt with God, and God was gracious, wasn’t He? He would be gracious to all the sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah if there were 50 righteous. So Abraham came here and he said… Let’s begin in verse 23. “And Abraham drew near, and said, wilt Thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” See how he was reasoning with God. This is face to face.
“Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city…” Now what does this also tell you about Abraham? It tells you that Abraham was also a merciful man. Yes it does. It tells you that he was concerned for the shedding of innocent blood, as well as concern for his cousin Lot and his family. And he knew that Lot was there, so he said what if there would be 50 within the city. “…Wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked [so he’s talking very boldly, very directly to God]: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from Thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Now if he was speaking wrongly He would have told him, “Abraham, you’re out of order” (vs. 24-25). Because He just did to Sarah, didn’t He, when He said, “Sarah you’re going to bear this time next year.” She laughed and snickered and said, “Well no, I didn’t laugh.” And He said, “Yes, you did laugh.” So if Abraham were wrong, if Abraham made the statement, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”, if he were wrong He would have said, “Well, Abraham what are you saying this for?”
“And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes…”, notice his attitude. He realized, just dust and ashes because just in the snap of a finger that’s exactly what he could become. “Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt Thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And He said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto Him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And He said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. And he said unto Him, O let not the Lord be angry…” (vs. 26-30). Notice the attitude that he had toward God. This is a perfect example of reasoning with God for what? For mercy, which he was doing.
And then you know the rest of the story. He said don’t be angry. Peradventure there be thirty. God said He wouldn’t do it for thirty. “And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And He said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once [one more time]: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And He said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake” (vs. 31-32). And of course they didn’t find ten, but what happened? God saved Lot and his family.
But also what else happened? His wife did not believe the goodness and mercy of God and she looked back and turned into a pillar of salt. But notice, when they were leaving… Let’s pick it up here in Genesis 19:17, “And it came to pass, when they had brought them [that is the two angels] forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed. And Lot said unto them, Oh, not so, my Lord: Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight…” So he knew that this was a gracious act of God. He knew that he, you know… Did Lot do anything to earn it? No, he actually got out because of the pleading of Abraham. “…And thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life; and I cannot escape to the mountain, lest some evil take me, and I die” (Gen. 19:17-19). So God allows even for our own peculiar little difficulties and problems we have.
You know, here Lot was right in the middle of being saved. He knew he found grace, he knew he was getting out of it, and he had the little peculiarity - he was probably afraid of wild animals up in the mountains, and he said, “Hey, I don’t want to go up there.” “Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live. And [the angel] he said unto him, See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing also…” (vs. 20-21).
So there’s a little more reasoning and latitude with God. But what does it all depend upon? It depend upon our acceptance of God’s grace and our recognition of our own human weaknesses and frailties. Now that is why when we come to the prayer in Luke 18, when the Pharisee came and said, “God I thank you I’m not like other men.” See the difference in the attitude? And the sinner said, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Alright let’s go on. Let’s go to Genesis 32:5, and here again we see the grace and favor of God. This has to do with when Esau was coming back and he was going to meet Jacob. And Jacob was coming with his two wives and two concubines, and all of his sons, and all of his sheep, and all of his cattle. He thought, well Esau was going to take them. So here in verse 5 he sent a present out to Esau and said, “And I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants, and womenservants: and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find grace in thy sight.” Now Jacob also knew the value of how he should treat his own brother. Remember that Jacob, even though he did get the birthright the way he did from Esau, he still didn’t despise his brother. He came and treated him very kindly. He came and said, “If I’ve found grace in your sight.” And of course Esau at that time was probably more powerful militarily and could have really done Jacob in. And he thought, “Well boy, if this guy still really hates me for stealing the birthright I better be very careful.” So that’s what he did. He was very careful.
Genesis 33 goes through the whole episode of Jacob and Esau meeting, and I just want to cover one verse here in particular. Let’s pick it up in verse 10. “And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. Take, I pray thee, my blessing, that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it” (Gen. 33:10-11).
Now there’s another thing that’s very important, is also very true. And this ties in with the parable in the New Testament. If you have received a gracious treatment and mercy, how are we to treat others? The same way. Remember the parable of the lord whose servant was demanded to pay 10,000 talents. He said, “Lord, I don’t have it to pay with.” When he commanded that he be sold and his family and everything, so he forgave him. And then the one who was forgiven went out and choked his servant who owed him 100 pence, and then you know what happened when God found out about that. So here’s a very good example in the Old Testament. Now I think you’re going to be, as we go through, we’re going to see a unity and a consistency in the whole Bible, rather than just divided Old Testament/New Testament in the traditional way that is normally done by most people, yet there is that division. There is the Old Covenant, the New Covenant but the basic principle of grace is true in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Only the graciousness of God to us has the ramification of eternal life, which is absolutely fantastic.
Let’s go on. Genesis 39:4. Here’s another kind of grace and favor that God can give, and it has to do in relation with others. And it also is a reward of God. Not strictly speaking. It is an extension of His grace because I would hate to put it in the form of a reward because you cannot earn grace. So I would have to say that is semantically not correct, though apparently on the surface it is. It is an extension of God’s grace because of your relationship with Him that He will extend His grace into the relationship that you have with others.
And here’s the case of Joseph. He was brought into Egypt. He was sold, especially after the way that his brothers treated him. You talk about a family argument. I just imagine we would be shocked if we had the recording of all the arguments that the 12 brothers had between each other [laughter] and the arguments they had concerning Joseph. “And this upstart with that coat and that smart-alec”, you know, telling them the dream. “So we’ll fix his hide. We’ll take him out here and we’ll do him in. Let’s get this…” You know, they were going to kill him. And then Rueben said, “No, spare his life.” “Ok, we’ll sell him to the Arabs.” And then go through the whole charade of killing a goat, putting the blood on it, taking the jacket back to Jacob and saying, “Well you know, Joseph is gone.” And they had to live with that lie for how long? You know, and did Joseph have cause that he could be bitter? Well, yes, sure he did.
So he was brought into Egypt. He was sold. And verse 2, “And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the LORD was with him…” In other words, just one of these things that the master could see that there was something special about Joseph. So it’s written here “the LORD was with him”. “And that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand.” That’s an extension of God’s grace, ok? “And Joseph found grace in his sight [tremendous favor, tremendous blessing], and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had he put into his hand” (Gen. 39:2-4). And so you know the rest of the story, that it’s the only case that’s recorded in the Bible where a man turned down an illicit affair. One of the few recorded, but nevertheless then he went through all the things of being in the dungeon. Then he found grace and favor in the eyes of Pharaoh, because he told him what the dream was, and put him in charge of all Egypt.
And then what happened? Joseph then returned that grace and favor when his brothers came down to Egypt to buy grain because of the famine. And he had a little trickery in it too but that made it kind of intriguing and nice when you go through and read the whole story. But can you imagine how they all felt when they were all together when Jacob was there and Benjamin and all the sons were there in Egypt after everything was discovered. You know, who they were and what was going on. And Joseph said, “Well, it’s by the hand of God that He sent me here.” So he didn’t even say, “Hey brothers, I want you down here to apologize to me for what you did to me.” Didn’t even say that. Didn’t do it. Didn’t seek any vengeance. He said, “I’m here by the hand of God, and He’s blessed me so let’s receive the blessings of God.”
Then we go through the rest of the story and we come to the time when the children of Israel were then the captives or the slaves in Egypt. Now they went through and they suffered quite a few things. And of course we would have to say that the calling of the children of Israel out of Egypt was a gracious act. And remember the whole beginning of the Passover as it relates to Christ, and it’s through Christ that we have grace. Just relate that all together.
Now let’s go to Exodus 33. Exodus 32 was the sin where they made the golden calf. Then Exodus 33 is really a fantastic chapter when you realize it. “And the LORD said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware…”, and so forth. That’s after he stood between God and the people and said, “God, don’t kill them.” So then He said, “I will take you to that land, only these are a stiffnecked people.” And then we have the occasion where Moses asked to see God in His glory and God told him, “Yes, you can see My glory, but stand here in the rock and I will show you My back part.” Because no one can look on the face of God and live.
So we come to Exodus 34:5, which has to do with what it is that God delights in and what it is that God emphasizes more than anything else.
“And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.” Now what are some of the names of the Lord? The Lord is Almighty. The Lord is all-powerful, isn’t He? Is that what He emphasized? No. He didn’t. “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious [and He sure was, He spared all the Israelites, didn’t He?], longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth…” (Ex. 34:5-6). So because God is love this is what He delights in more than anything else.
This is why if a person approaches God from the opposite point of view, as we find in the parable of the three servants in Matthew 25. You know, the three servants were each given a pound. One gained ten, one gained five, and the one who hid it in the earth. Remember what he said when God came to account? He said, “Here is the pound you gave me. I wrapped it and hid it in the earth.” He said, “I knew you were an austere man. I knew that you gathered where you didn’t sow, and you harvested where you didn’t straw therefore I was afraid and I hid it in the earth.” Now what was God’s response to him? The same that he had to God.
So if our response to God is, and our attitude toward God regardless of your circumstances or what it is, God is gracious and merciful and kind. And if in our prayers and relationship with God, if you really feel down and out and sort of on the odd side of God, and I’m sure you’ve all felt on the odd side of God cause of your own sins and maybe some of the circumstances you’ve gone through, remind Him of His goodness and mercy. Think of the attitude that Abraham had. Think of the attitude that Joseph had. And use those attitudes toward God coupled with repentance and then you won’t be like the third servant who took the pound and hid it.
See, you’ll be like this, “The LORD [is] merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands [and He would have spared all those in Sodom and Gomorrah] forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” That’s what God delights in. That’s why Christ came, to what? Save the world, not condemn it. It’s own sins condemn it enough. That’s why the only sin that won’t be forgiven is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which comes from God the Father. “…And that will by no means clear the guilty…” In other words God is not going to forgive unless there is repentance. And if there isn’t repentance then He visits “…the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (vs. 6-7). And as it is in Exodus 20, for those who love Him and keep His commandments unto a thousand generations. Now a thousand generations is a long, long, long time.
I can’t tell you exactly how long a generation is. I know that came up one time just as an aside, it came up one time where Jesus said in Matthew 24 that this generation shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled, so we all…, “Let’s figure out how long a generation is. How long is a generation? It’s 100 years. Now it’s 20 years. No it’s 30 years. No it’s 40 years. No it’s 25 years. No it’s 18 years.” So I thought, well I”ll be real clever. I took the three sections of the 14 generation of Matthew 1, 14 generations from Abraham down to Moses, and then 14 from there to whatever, and then 14 from carrying away of Babylon to….and all those. And I went through the genealogy tables and I added up all the years of those who were listed and then divided and I had an average, cause each one was a generation. So and so begat so and so, and so and so begat so and so, and I found out that there is no way you can set a definite number of years on a generation because one average was 32 years, one average was 60 years, and one average was 42.
So how long is a generation? However God figures it, see. So how is a thousand generations? You want to take a thousand times 62? That’s almost the whole history of the earth, ok? You want to take a thousand times 42? Well that’s almost all the time from Abraham down to our day, right? You want to take the narrowest amount 32 years? That’s 3200 years. And that goes back at least to David. That’s a long time. So God is interested in that. And I just imagine that if we really knew, we are here as a result of God’s mercy regardless of how we got here, or our forefathers got here. We’re here because of God’s mercy.
I know I would not want to live up in the Eskimo land. I just would not make a good Eskimo. I just wouldn’t. Nor would I want to be down in the jungles of the Amazon. And when I see people in circumstances like that I’ve had two responses. One has been, “Those dirty people deserve it.” No that’s the wrong response, isn’t it? No. It’s just God’s blessing that we’re here, and may God be merciful to them because maybe if God would call them… Remember what God said of Israel in Jeremiah 2. He said, “If I would have gone to the heathen they would have kept My laws and statutes to this day.” You know, so we don’t need to get all uppity, uppity and brag about this or that or the other thing, we just need to be thankful for God’s mercy and that He has done it and He is allowing it.
Let’s go on and see some more of God’s graciousness and mercy and goodness. Let’s go to 1 Samuel. There are many other places we can go in the Old Testament, some of them I’ve covered in the past so when I get to that point I will just mention it so you can go and study them. And that’s the sections in Deuteronomy where God said, “I love the fathers therefore I have chosen you. You’re not the greatest, the biggest, and the best, but you’re the least and the smallest”, and so forth. Those all have to do with God’s mercy.
Let’s go to 1 Samuel 1 and see how God works out through circumstances in people’s lives. Samuel and his calling and the whole situation concerning Samuel was because of mercy and grace. And it was because of the attitude of Samuel’s mother. Strictly because of her attitude. And look how all of Israel was blessed because of Samuel. You can go back and read the whole history of it. Just to summarize: they came year to year and Elkanah said, “Why are you weeping?” And that’s because Hannah didn’t have any children.
So let’s come to verse 9. “So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD.” Now we can also understand something here that’s important. What happens when you come into contact with someone who’s supposed to be God’s representative but is corrupt? Was Eli corrupt? Yes, he was. Were his sons corrupt? Yes, they were. God executed them all three on the same day. Now she trusted in God, not the man. And he was the high priest. So she went there and Eli was the priest, “And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore” (1 Sam. 1:9-10). Now she was not angry. Bitterness means from overmuch sorrow in this particular case. Overmuch grief because of the trying circumstances of not having any children.
So she vowed a vow. Now here’s part of this reasoning with God within the realm of His grace. “And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if Thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of Thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget Thine handmaid, but wilt give unto Thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him into the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no rasor come upon his head” (vs. 11). Now you can imagine the older that Samuel got… It didn’t say no scissors but it did say no razor. So that’s not saying that his hair was always long, you know. He would not be shaved. No razor come upon his head.
“And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth.” So here’s Eli, sinful man but he’s still a priest. “Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard…” You can imagine she was probably there, you know like you see at the Wailing Wall. You see the Jews rocking back and forth and you know, you see their lips moving and she was crying and tears streaming down and rocking back and forth. “…Therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? Put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD” (vs. 12-15). Now notice the whole attitude here. Pour out your soul before God.
“Count not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial…” Yet his sons were called the sons of Belial (1 Sam 2:12). “…For out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto. Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace…” Now did God honor Eli’s command? Yes, He did. Not because Eli was good. Partly because she was pleading with God, but I imagine there were others who pleaded with God and wept and went through all these things and God never granted them children. But because God chose to do so and Eli affirmed it. So, “Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of Him. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad” (vs. 16-18). And of course then you know the account. She became pregnant. Her first child was Samuel and he became one who kept the word of God going, and was a great prophet of God, and hence a tremendous amount of grace came to Israel because of that one thing. So there’s an excellent example of it.
Let’s go to Psalm 78 and see how God deals with those who are even just sinners. How He dealt with Israel. And I think this helps give us an insight into the tremendous wickedness of human beings. I think if we understand that and if we all understand that the wickedness in the human being differs not one wit from human being to human being, save or with the exception of those who are demon or Satan-possessed, that will obviously be multiplied in wickedness. But here is the whole account of God calling Israel, how they went through the Sinai. How they sinned and their lust and everything just coming all the way through.
And let’s pick it up here in verse 32. “For all this they sinned still, and believed not for His wondrous works.” You know, they had the fire by night, the pillar by day. They had the manna, they had all the things that God had done. The killing of the wicked, the fighting of the enemy, etc., “Therefore their days did He consume in vanity, and their years in trouble. When He slew them, then they sought Him: and they returned and inquired early after God” (Psa. 78:32-34). And isn’t that true with all human beings. When the going gets rough there is not an atheist one anywhere. Just not one.
You know how you know and atheist is really not an atheist? By the very fact that he swears and takes God’s name in vain. Because if he didn’t believe in God why would he have to use curse words all the time. Because when you use curse words all the time you’re trying to prove, you’re trying to reinforce that God doesn’t exist. And you’re tempting and challenging God. So if there were really an atheist, and one of these days I hope I meet an atheist, and if I hear him swear and curse I’m going to ask him this question: “Why do you use God’s name then if you don’t believe in Him? You believe in all the other words you speak, don’t you? Then if you use His name you must believe in Him.” That will sort of twist them up in a knot. But anyway this is true. When the going gets tough… And they’ve even portrayed this in movies, and it is true, going gets tough and they cry out to God.
“And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer. Nevertheless they did flatter Him with their mouth, and they lied unto Him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with Him, neither were they stedfast in His covenant. But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not…” (vs. 35-38). Now that’s going right back to the time that we just covered there in Exodus 32 and 33. You know, that’s quite a thing, that God is that merciful and gracious and here this is talking about just in the Old Testament, isn’t it? We haven’t come to the New Testament.
Now this will help you understand why God called Paul who was Saul, who was a destroyer of the Church. That’s why Paul said that he was called to show a pattern. And he considered himself to be the sinner. And I still, every time I think of that I cannot help but think how relatives of the deceased that Paul, who when he was Saul caused to be killed, how they felt when they were in the Church and then here comes Paul who was known, he’s the one who persecuted the Church. You wouldn’t feel like running up and putting your arms around him, hug him and say, “Oh, Paul I’m so glad to see you. By the way you killed my son.” Or, “You killed my daughter.” It’s an incongruity in human standards but that shows you how fantastic the grace of God is.
Look at it here. It’s says they flattered Him with their tongues, verse 36. Yeah, they mouthed it, “Oh great God of heaven and earth.” They didn’t mean it. They lied to Him with their tongues. “Oh God we will never do this again.” Their heart was not right with Him because they had their heart set on what they wanted to do. “…Neither were they stedfast in His covenant. But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity and destroyed them not…” Now you can see why it is so ludicrous for us to say, you know as Americans, that we are great Americans because of the great American spirit and the great American ingenuity. We’re only here because of God’s mercy to us, that’s all, I mean even as a nation and as a country. We’re here by God’s grace.
“…Yea, many a time turned He His anger away, and did not stir up all His wrath” (vs. 38). Sometimes I do this quite a bit in my own minds eye. What would it be like just to be stationary and let the earth turn and what would happen everytime I came to San Francisco? You know, you can just feel the anger well up in you, you see all these fruitcakes going around up there and all the things taking place, you know. And how would you feel every day, well God remembers that they’re but flesh. He knows that their day of salvation is going to come. He’s already set the laws in motion which will take care of their activities and so let it be. And be merciful to the rest.
“For He remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again. How oft did they provoke Him in the wilderness, and grieve Him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel” (vs. 39-41). And so it goes through showing here that how God just keeps taking it and taking it and then it reaches a certain point. I don’t know what God’s level is of how He judges all these things and where it comes to. But I’m just thankful that He’s merciful and we ought to look to His mercy and His graciousness and not look to His wrath and His power and His destructive ability, but look to God’s creative ability and His goodness and that will help us in our relation with Him.
Psalm 84:8, “O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of Thine anointed. For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand.” That is a thousand days in the court of the wicked. “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Now I have seen this scripture perverted. Now I’ll tell you how I’ve seen this perverted. And that is to use as leverage in humility to force people into a fearful, humble stance to where then, “Well, look at, he wasn’t seeking in anything better than to just be a doorkeeper, so who are you?” You know, “Oh that’s right”, you know. And to use it as leverage in fear against people. “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory [God is the one Who gives grace and glory]: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” You know and that’s something to keep in mind. That’s why Paul rejoiced in his afflictions. That’s why he rejoiced when God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Cause He’s withholding no good thing from us and He will give it to us, especially in due time at the resurrection. “O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee” (Psa. 84:8-12).
Let’s go to Psalm 86:15. Now the next time you sin and you think, “Oh, how can I go repent of this.” Especially if it’s one of your lifelong problems. There are certain things that God has allowed everyone to have as a lifelong problem. He did Paul, didn’t He? He didn’t heal him. Alright, everyone of us has some kind of life long problem or thing that is always a stumblingblock for us, and every time we lose our temper, or whatever it is we think, “Oh, terrible. How can I repent again.” Remember this. This will help you. Psalm 86:1, “Bow down Thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy.” When you sin you sure are needy. Even when you don’t sin you are needy. I mean even when you’re the very best you can be you’re still needy. That is true. “Preserve my soul; for I am holy…” And we are. We’re called the holy people of God, aren’t we? Aren’t we sanctified with God’s truth? That’s true.
“Thou my God, save Thy servant that trusteth in Thee. Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto Thee daily. Rejoice the soul of Thy servant: for unto Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive…” That’s all part of God’s grace. He is ready to forgive. Now what if we thought we don’t have to go back to 1 John 1 because we’ve been there several times where that He will forgive all of our sins, all of our unrighteousness. He is faithful to forgive them. Here it is He is also ready to forgive. “…and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon [Him] Thee” (vs. 2-5). So don’t hesitate to repent of any sins that you find yourself doing. I mean even if it’s one of those things that dog you all your life, cause you do need it forgiven. He’s ready to forgive for those who call upon Him. So sure enough if you don’t call upon God He won’t forgive them. If you think that it’s too much that God can’t forgive remember He’s going to forgive the sins of the whole world. Now are your sins greater than the sins of the whole world? No. That’s all a part of God’s graciousness.
Now remember what it says that they limited the Holy One of Israel. We limit God when we don’t trust in His mercy. How is it that we don’t trust in His mercy? When we do not acknowledge His goodness, His mercifulness, His graciousness, and we are afraid to go to God and tell Him that we really need Him. We really, really need Him. So that’s all a part of the relationship of the graciousness of God.
Verse 6, “Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon Thee…” Don’t wait until the week after. You may not get out of your trouble. In the day of your trouble call upon Him, “…for thou wilt answer me. Among the gods there is none like unto Thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto Thy works. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord; and shall glorify Thy name. For Thou art great, and doest wondrous things: Thou art God alone. Teach me Thy way, O LORD; I will walk in Thy truth: unite my heart to fear Thy name. I will praise Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify Thy name for evermore. For great is Thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell” (vs. 6-13). Tremendous isn’t it? This is why we are to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
I think this year, I think I asked the question last year or the year before. I forget which. Lot’s of times when I ask a question out loud I keep it back there and I remember it and I keep working on it. And one of the questions that I asked was: why can’t we have the joy of God’s salvation? And I think we will answer the question. Yes I think we can have the joy of God’s salvation when we understand about God’s grace. Because you know, too many people who should have the joy of the Lord are in the misery of Church. And that should not be. Why can’t we feel good, not because we look upon ourselves as good and do as the world. Psyche yourself up. Self-hypnotize how good you are, how wonderful you are, how much you can do. No. But why can’t we feel good because we understand God’s goodness. Why can’t we feel happy because of what God has done for us. I mean in spite of all of our circumstances. You know, when Paul said there in Romans 8, it doesn’t matter what comes against us - life or death, or height, or anything. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. And I really think we’re really on the verge of beginning to understand that. And let’s hope that going through this part of the grace of God we can understand more how we can have the joy of God and His salvation, and His goodness, and His mercy.
You know there is nothing wrong with that. Is it a sin for Christians to be happy because of God? Of course not. That’s an incongruous question. Well then why should we as Christians have to go around and carry God as a burden? Now that’s a silly statement isn’t it? But how many times did we make it so? And why did we make it so? Because we didn’t understand about God’s graciousness and God’s mercy.
Psalm 103. Here’s another Psalm having to do with God’s mercy. We covered this a couple of weeks ago so let’s just go to verse 8. “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will He keep His anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him” (Psa. 103:8-11). “But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting…” (vs. 17).
Psalm 111:1, “Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation. The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. His work is honourable and glorious: and His righteousness edureth for ever. He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion” (Psa. 111:1-4).
Now I defy anyone to hold the doctrine that the God of the Old Testament was a God of wrath, and a God of anger. God is a God of love and mercy and compassion for those who what? Call upon Him, that seek Him, that repent, that draw close to God. The Old Testament, the New Testament. God is a God of wrath and a God of anger and a God of power against sinners and the rebellious and the devil worshippers in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. There’s no difference because God, as we saw in the beginning, is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Ok?
Let’s go to Psalm 112:4. “Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness…” That ties right back in with our series in John, doesn’t it? “…Heis gracious, and full of compassion and righteous.” That’s what God is. And the book of John is that which exemplifies, is that which brings the understanding of God’s grace and love like no other book. And I think it is absolutely true that we cannot understand the gospel of the New Testament, the gospel of Christ unless we fully understand the book of John. That it’s spiritually understood.
Psalm 116:5. Let’s pick it up here in verse 1 because it gives the full situation here. “I LOVE the LORD, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications.” Have you ever had a prayer answered that you just muttered kind of as a though one time? You know, maybe who knows how long before it was fulfilled. I’ve experienced that. And I know that in the moment that I understood that that prayer was answered there was a special thrill and exhilaration that even that little thought, God heard. “…Heard my voice and my supplications. Because He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call upon Him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow” (Psa. 116:1-3). Well, lest any of us think that that is true, I know sometimes with the pains and difficulties of our own physical existence and the circumstances we are in, sometimes we feel that way.
“Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech Thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and He helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee” (vs. 4-7). I’ve often wondered what is going to be like at the resurrection when all these things really come together. Whatever that song of Moses is going to be when we’re on the sea of glass, that is going to be absolutely stunning.
Let’s go on. Psalm 145:1. Here again, you have to follow through the thought. “I will extol Thee, my God, O king; and I will bless Thy name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless Thee; and I will praise Thy name for ever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable.” Well, we can sure say that about God’s love. “One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts. I will speak of the glorious honour of Thy majesty, and of Thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of Thy terrible acts: and I will declare Thy greatness. They shall abundantly utter the memory of Thy great goodness, and shall sing of Thy righteousness. The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” You know this could almost be the theme song of the second resurrection. You just think of it for a minute. Can you imagine what those people are going to think when they come to the conscious realization that they have been resurrected. When they come to the conscious realization that God is going to give them salvation. They’re going to say God is gracious and full of compassion. Slow to anger, and of great mercy. “The LORD is good to all: and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psa. 145:1-9). Boy that’s a tremendous Psalm, isn’t it?
Let’s go to the book of Proverbs and we’ll see a couple things here in the book of Proverbs concerning our part in using God’s grace in relationship to God’s laws. Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…” And that’s basically true. And if it comes down to where you don’t sin because of the fear of sin, that’s better than not sinning. And I’ve found this: that when you come to that point and you resist that temptation, that what does God always do? He always provides a way out. He’ll always provide a way out. It’s the beginning of knowledge. “…But fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: for they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head…” In other words of grace and favor just in life and living like it was with Joseph. “…And chains about thy neck” (Pro. 1:7-9). That is chains of decoration and beauty.
Proverbs 3:21-22, “My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: so shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.” Apparently that had to do with some of the symbolism having to do with the priest ornamentation. I know across the forehead of the priest they had “Holiness unto the Lord”, and then the two shoulder things. I forget right now exactly what they were.
Proverbs 4:9. This talks about wisdom and what it will do. “She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.” Now we can spiritualize this and project it into what it’s going to be at the resurrection. That will be because of God’s grace and then we will have a crown of glory, which won’t fade away, etc.
Let’s go to Isaiah 30:18, “And therefore will the LORD wait, that He may be gracious unto you…” This is talking about how God is going to bring back all the Israelites. Bring them out of captivity and restore them. “…That He may be gracious unto you, and therefore will He be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for Him” (Isa. 30:18-19).
Let me add to your reading list these things that you need to go back and read in the book of Deuteronomy. I’m only reading these because we’ve covered these here recently and I don’t like to have sermons where I’m just repeating the same thing so quickly it kind of gets in a little rut. So I don’t want to do that. Deuteronomy 4:6-8, 37. Deuteronomy 6:16-18, 24-25. Deuteronomy 7:6-9, 12-15. Deuteronomy 10:12-22. Let’s go to that one section and we’ll pretty well end the grace of God in the Old Testament.
This is showing our part. “And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul. To keep the commandments of the LORD, and His statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the LORD hath a delight in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day” (Deut. 10:12-15).
And then it says, verse 19, “Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” And it talks about fearing God, serving God. Verse 21, “He is thy praise, and He is thy God, that hath done for thee these terrible things, which thine eyes have seen. Thy fathers went down into Egypt with threescore and ten persons; and now the LORD thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude” (vs. 21-22). And then you can add to that chapter 11 about loving God and so forth.
Now, let’s just cover just a couple things in ending. First of all, some of these prophecies here in the book of Isaiah. Let’s go to Isaiah 53. And here it’s showing part of the grace of God. Remember it says in Hebrews 2:9 that by the grace of God Jesus tasted death for every man. Well here is a prophecy of it. This doesn’t talk about the grace of God in this Isaiah 53, but it shows the grace of God.
Let’s pick it up in verse 2. This is a prophecy of Christ. “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men…” Now imagine, He came to His own creation. He came to His own people. “…Despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted” (Isa. 53:2-4). And that’s virtually what they said, “If you be the Christ come down off the cross.” That’s tantamount to saying you are there because you are not of God. And if you’re not of God you’re there because God is striking you down.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” And we always used to say that’s just physical healing. But I tell you, there’s a whole lot more to spiritual healing than there is to physical healing. A whole lot more. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken” (vs. 5-8). And so it shows God’s graciousness and mercy even in the death of Christ.
And we’re going to see even more profoundly, as we get down to the Passover time, and I’m still brooding on this and thinking about it, the tremendous sacrifice of Christ and in particularly in relationship to the fact of the power of Satan the devil’s hand in His crucifixion. And I hope we can get that in a real bright light this time, because it manifests the humility and the love and the mercy and the graciousness of God like nothing else ever does. So we’ll continue next time the grace of God in the New Testament.