Pray for justice, mercy and peace
When a maternity hospital is bombed; when a 55 year old woman with multiple sclerosis has to be carried from her home to escape shelling; when a 5 week old baby is shot dead with his family as they try to drive to safety… What words are there?
Whatever our political views, whatever our beliefs or our circumstances, in all of us something cries out in protest against the horror of the vulnerable and innocent people of Ukraine suffering. (more…)
Nineveh experienced God’s mercy and justice
The ancient city of Nineveh was located on the east bank of the Tigris River near the site of the modern city of Mosul in northern Iraq. Nineveh was an important junction for commercial routes crossing the Tigris on the great highway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, thus uniting the East and the West. It received wealth from many sources, so that it became one of the greatest of all the region’s ancient cities, and the capital of the Assyrian Empire.
According to the Bible, Nineveh was established in about 2000 BC (a round number) by Nimrod, a great-grandson of Noah (Gen. 10:11). It or Assyria are mentioned in the Bible books of Psalms 83 (~980BC), Jonah (~750BC), Hosea (~720BC), 2 Kings 19 (~700BC), Isaiah (~700BC), Micah (~700BC), Zephaniah (~630BC) and Nahum (~620BC). The Assyrian kings mentioned in the Bible reigned between 745BC and 627BC. (more…)
God’s mercy is bigger
If you look in a newspaper or history book you won’t find the real history of the world. You see our version of history is so different from what matters to God. When we think of great battles in history we probably think of the Napoleonic Wars or World Wars I & II.
But to God, the great battles of history are those waged each day inside a person. The struggle we have to either resist or give in to temptation. God notices when we’re not kind to others or we boast or steal or slander or decide to acknowledge Him as our creator and sustainer… or not. These decisions are, by far, the most significant battles in history.
In the Bible, one of the first Christian leaders, Paul of Tarsus, spoke of his own personal battle with temptation. He said this in a letter he wrote to the church in Rome,
I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway (Romans 7:18-19).
We can all identify with these words. So, can there be any hope when the catalogue of our mistakes is so long and when the cost of our bad decisions to others, ourselves and the honor of God – is so great? The answer is ‘Yes – because God’s mercy is bigger than our mistakes!’ He is willing to forgive.
There’s another way in which our version of history is different to God’s. We keep thinking certain people are more valuable than others. Perhaps those of a particular race, or class or those with wealth, fame, power or good looks. But God cares about every person equally. And He’s prepared to forgive the sin of anyone – no matter how much baggage is in their life.
In a letter to Christians on the island of Crete, Paul spoke with wonder about why Jesus’s death on the cross was such good news. He explained that it means that we can be forgiven by God. He wrote,
… When God our Savior revealed His kindness and love, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.
So, no matter how many your mistakes, take them to Jesus and the cross where He is willing and able to deal with them.
Bible verse: Titus 3:4-5, “… When God our Savior revealed His kindness and love, He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit”.
Prayer: Dear God, please help me to trust that your mercy really is big enough to deal with all my mistakes.
Acknowledgement: This article was sourced from Outreach Media, Sydney, Australia.
Images and text © Outreach Media 2018
Lessons from Sodom
Often someone with a brain injury has no outward physical signs of injury, and may have trouble convincing others that they do have a disability. It’s common for family, employers and friends to not understand there are problems when they can’t see any physical evidence. They don’t believe that there is a brain injury and think it’s a weak excuse for inappropriate behavior. Some people also doubt God’s judgment. They don’t believe that it will ever happen and think that hell is an imaginary place. But an incident in the Bible shows that God does indeed judge the ungodly.
Lot’s bad decision
Lot was Abram’s nephew who travelled with him to live in Canaan about 3,900 years ago (Gen. 12:4-5). After there was conflict between their herders, Abram suggested that they live in separate places and he let Lot choose first. Lot decided to live near the city of Sodom on the well-watered plain near the Dead Sea, while Abram lived as a nomad in the hills of Canaan (Gen. 13:10-13).
This turned out to be a bad choice by Lot. We have a foretaste of this as we are told “Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord” (Gen. 13:13NIV).
Temptation from Sodom
Later there was a war and Lot and his possessions were captured and taken northwards towards Damascus (Gen. 14:1-24). When Abram heard about this he took a band of men and rescued Lot and his possessions. When they returned the king of Sodom said that Abram could keep the possessions he had recovered as a reward. But Abram resisted this temptation.
Abram pleads for Sodom
When Abraham was told that God was going to destroy Sodom because of their wickedness and sinfulness, Abraham negotiated with God, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are 50 righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the 50 righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:23-25). God responded, “If I find 50 righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake”. Then Abram said what about 45 righteous people? Then he progressively reduced the number to 40, 30, 20, and finally 10. And God said, “For the sake of 10 (righteous people), I will not destroy it (Sodom)” (Gen. 18:26-32).
But the next morning, Abram looked down from the hills towards Sodom “and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace” (Gen. 19:27-28). This means that there had been less than ten righteous people in the city of Sodom.
Destruction of Sodom
When Lot was told to escape from Sodom with his family because God was going to destroy the city, he told his sons in law, but they thought he was joking. So they perished in the disaster. Only Lot and his two daughters reached safety in Zoar. Like in the global flood, only one family escaped the disaster. And the town of Zoar was spared from the disaster because of Lot’s request to God.
“So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, He remembered Abraham, and He brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived” (Gen. 19:29). God remembered Abram’s plea for Sodom. God destroyed it because there were less than 10 righteous people. But He answered Abraham’s prayer by rescuing Lot. Only three people escaped from Sodom.
The destruction was so complete that there is considerable doubt today as to the exact location of the ancient city of Sodom.
When God gave the reasons for His judgement of Jerusalem, He said that they were worse than those living in Sodom who “were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me” (Ezek. 16:49-50). The Sodomites were guilty of social injustice and sexual immorality, such as practicing homosexuality (Jude 7). And they were proud of their behavior (Isa. 3:9)! These actions were the results of their rejection of God.
The sins of Sodom are still prevalent today. This shows that human nature hasn’t changed over the past 3,900 years! We’re not evolving into better people even though we have improved technology! And their sins were more serious than a lack of hospitality, which is the interpretation often given today.
Lessons for us
What can we learn from what happened at Sodom?
First, God judges the ungodly. This is a solemn lesson. The Bible says that Sodom is “an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly” (2 Pt. 2:6). It’s “an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7). Sodom was burnt to ashes. It shows how the Lord “holds the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment” (2 Pt. 2:9). As judgment day came for Sodom, it will come to all who reject God’s revelation to them. The wicked will be punished in hell. Few people believe this message from the Bible. Few people will read or “Like” this blogpost.
It also shows that God is a fair judge. He told Abram about His plan. And He was willing to mitigate the judgement based on Abram’s request. God is a just judge. The wickedness of Sodom had become so great that it would have been unjust of God not to judge it. And God is a merciful judge. He rescued three people from the judgment. He discriminated between the guilty and the innocent.
Jesus said that His second coming to judge unbelievers will be like what happened at Sodom, “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all” (Lk. 17:28-29). So the destruction of Sodom is a foretaste of a day when all rebellion against God will be judged and destroyed.
What kind of people deserve to be destroyed like this? When Jesus sent out His disciples to announce the kingdom of God, if a town rejected this message then “it will be more bearable on that day (of judgment) for Sodom than for that town” (Lk. 10:12). They will be judged more severely than the city of Sodom. What kind of people deserve to be destroyed in this way? Those who have rejected God. Those who have rejected the message about Jesus in the Bible. Until we trust in what God did through Jesus Christ, we all deserve to be judged.
If you don’t trust in Jesus, then you are like those who lived in Sodom. The Bible says, “how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).
Second, the godly receive God’s mercy. As God rescued Lot from Sodom, He “knows how to rescue the godly from trials” (2 Pt. 2:9). For those who love and trust Him, no matter how undeserving they are, God will do everything necessary to spare them from judgement. Believers can look forward to the inheritance of heaven (1 Pt. 1:4-5).
Third, our choices have consequences. Lot was a believer who wouldn’t separate from the sinful world (2 Pt. 2:7-8). He was a backslider who adjusted to the evils of Sodom and compromised his morals. Even his sons in law didn’t believe him. Consequently, he lost his wife, his sons-in-law, his friends, and his possessions.
Fourth, God answers our prayers. Abram was a believer who prayed for Lot. God answered this prayer by rescuing Lot before the city was destroyed. Do we pray for others? Do we realize that Jesus intercedes (prays) for us (Heb. 7:25)?
Fifth, God has revealed Himself to humanity. Abraham learnt about what God was like because God choose to reveal Himself to Abraham. We might have some ideas about what God is like, but the only way we can truly know Him is if He reveals Himself to us. Only in the Bible can we find out what God is really like.
Don’t be like Lot’s sons-in-law and his wife who didn’t escape from Sodom. Lot’s sons-in-law didn’t believe that were accountable to God. And Lot’s wife was too attached to the sinful world.
Lot did escape from Sodom although he was reluctant. Don’t leave it too late to trust in God’s salvation through Jesus.
Let’s be like Abraham and pray for our communities, because God answers our prayers.
Appendix: How was Sodom destroyed?
It is clear that the Biblical account of Sodom in Genesis is derived from sources that pre-date the destruction of Sodom. It says that “the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah)” (Gen. 13:10). At that time the valley was fertile and supported a large population. But after the disaster, it became a barren place.
The Bible says, “Then the Lord rained down fire and burning sulfur from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah” (Gen 19:24NLT). And Moses “looked out across the plain toward Sodom and Gomorrah and watched as columns of smoke rose from the cities like smoke from a furnace” (Gen. 19:28NLT).
As Sodom was located near the Dead Sea in the Jordan Rift Valley, it may have been destroyed by an earthquake that unleashed showers of streaming tar. The Bible says that at that time the Dead Sea Valley “was full of tar pits” (Gen. 14:10). This bitumen contains a high percentage of sulfur. It has been suggested that pressure from an earthquake could have caused the bitumen deposits to be forced out of the earth through a fault line. As it gushed out of the earth it could have been ignited by a spark or surface fire. It would then fall to Earth as a burning, fiery mass.
Written, March 2018
Also see other articles on places in the Bible:
Bethlehem, God’s solution to our crises
Gehenna – Where’s hell?
Babylon, center of humanism and materialism
Lessons from Egypt
Massacres and miracles in Jericho
Rebellion and deception at Samaria
Nineveh experienced God’s mercy and justice
Worshipping God and idols at Bethel
Many battles at Megiddo
I heard a preacher say that grace and mercy are two sides of the same coin. What did he mean? And was he right?
The mercy rule used in sports such as baseball is an act of mercy to cease a game when one team has a huge lead. One of the acts of mercy in the Bible is when an offender or enemy is forgiven or pardoned by withholding punishment.
According to the Bible, because we have all sinned, we deserve to die and face eternal judgment in the lake of fire (Rom. 3:23; 6:23; Rev. 20:12-15). Without God we are spiritually dead and doomed to eternal punishment (Eph. 2:1-3). But that is not the end of the story. God had a rescue plan!
The greatest example of mercy in the Bible is God’s act of mercy in forgiving and pardoning the sins of humanity: “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Ps. 32:1NIV); “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:34; Heb. 11:10).
We see God’s mercy in His plan to rescue us from the death and judgement that we deserve. Our sins can be forgiven because Jesus took the death penalty on our behalf. This is an example of mercy – delivering someone from a penalty. So we have a God who is rich in mercy (Eph.2:4).
What prompted God to be merciful? He chose to act this way – it was entirely voluntary (Ex. 34:6; Jas. 1:18). It was an example of grace, which is an undeserved favor.
But that is not the end. God has done more than this for us. Christians are not only rescued, they will also be rewarded. Usually only the rescuer is rewarded, but in this case those who are rescued are rewarded! The believer’s reward is to be resurrected to have bodies that will not die and to be with God eternally in a world without sin (Eph. 2:6). They are now children of God and co-heirs with Christ (Jn. 1:12; 1; Rom. 8:17; Jn. 3:1). This is an example of grace – receiving a gift beyond our wildest expectations.
What are “two sides of the same coin”? The two sides of a coin are different with respect to their inscription and image, but they are similar in sharing the metal that comprises the coin. So they share a difference and a similarity.
Are mercy and grace “two sides of the same coin”? They are different because mercy is God not punishing us as our sins deserve, and grace is God rewarding us although we do not deserve it. Mercy is deliverance from judgment. Grace is favor to the unworthy.
How are mercy and grace similar? Clearly mercy and grace are two essential components of God’s plan of salvation. They are both gifts that cannot be earnt, but are received by faith in Jesus Christ. In this way, mercy and grace are two sides of the same coin.
However, a sandwich may be a better illustration of mercy and grace than a coin. As God’s great act of mercy was preceded and followed by God’s grace, God’s mercy is sandwiched between two examples of God’s grace. For example, in Psalm 103, God’s mercy is described as “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (v.10), and is preceded and followed by references to God’s grace, compassion and love (v.4, 8, 11, 13).
Jesus can also supply the mercy and grace we need for daily life: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
Written, December 2012