Lord Have Mercy! Christ Have Mercy!

We worship God because He is merciful.  Every Sunday during our worship service we recite our corporate confession.  In our prayer we address God as “Most Merciful God.”  As the merciful One we believe he is able to help us in our need.  It is easy to think of mercy only as showing compassion to someone in need.  It is that—and so much more.  The definition given in the New Oxford American Dictionary captures the Biblical idea of mercy particularly as it is shown by God to humans.  It defines mercy as, “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm.”  So, mercy shown by God also implies goodness shown to those who are undeserving.

Christians are as sickened as anyone by the dereliction and depravity that we see in our world daily.  We know too that our own hearts are not immune from such wickedness.   A contrite heart is also one that cries, “But by the grace of God, there go I.”  When we reflect upon the attributes of our Triune God, and as we measure ourselves against His holy law, we realize that we too are prone to dereliction and depravity.  When Isaiah the prophet saw himself standing before a Holy God he cried, “Woe is me, for I am undone.”  Paul the apostle was also crushed by the reminder of the sinfulness that yet dwells in our earthly bodies.  In concert with Isaiah he cried, “Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Acknowledging ones sinfulness is not morose or simple melancholy.  It is the sign of a broken heart, yet one that remains receptive and hopeful before God.   The Christian Rite of Confession captures this experience in two liturgical movements.  First we confess our sins.  Then we receive absolution.  Though we are saddened and troubled by our sin, we confess them and hear the joyous words of absolution:  “Almighty God have mercy on you and forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

When we stand before God we do not want Him to treat us as we deserve.  There is no Good News in that scenario.  Instead we want Him, though He has good reason to treat us otherwise, to show us compassion.   And that is exactly His intention as understood through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Therefore we worship God because He is merciful!