As an American, I find the timing of this week’s lesson on Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 1 providential. Our nation, not unlike nations around the world, is grappling with social unrest that includes the question of Justice and Mercy. How justice is meted out and how mercy is applied leaves a lot to be desired.
As the church of today wrestles with the controversial and many times explosive issues of our generation, we know one thing – we should be different. The church should be the salt that seasons with love, kindness, forbearance and tolerance all who come within the sphere of its influence. Unfortunately, in too many cases what we should be is not what we actually are.The church, made up of individuals of our communities, finds itself hard-pressed to offer any meaningful solutions to the questions of the day. Do we the church serve as the light out of the darkness around us or have we become silent observers?
I’m convinced that the answers for the church and society at large are found in the written Word of God. We all have our opinions and although well meaning, we often take up ways of thinking that are contrary to God’s will for our lives. We need divine guidance for our journey through this life.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105
This week we take a look back at the instructions given to a new nation that was to hold God as its supreme ruler. Details for everyday living were given and the principles outlined so long ago still have application for today.
One line in just one of the many texts for this week’s study contained a profound principle that we must govern our lives by. It is spelled out in this text but the same sentiments can be found throughout the Bible.
Moses had gone before God to receive instructions for the people. All aspects of life are covered, everything from how to deal with servants, violence, gossip and so much more. Tucked inside one of the verses is a principle we will focus on today.
“Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 23:9
Did you see it? It’s that part that begins with for you know the heart of a stranger, because... “Because you were” moves the instructions from just rules and regulations. It gives a human reason to frame our actions. It’s called empathy: the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.
Moses was to remind the people that they were to remember how difficult it was for them when they were in a disadvantaged position in life. That memory should lead them to treat the stranger as they would have wanted to be treated. It is one of the secrets to the church of today being effective.
Many of us, through the principles of living we’ve learned as Christians, have been able to make significant improvements and advancements in our lives. Bad habits that once controlled us have been replaced by healthier ways of living. Our priorities in life have changed. Our values in life have changed. We have become new creatures.
That newness in life is not an escape from the care and concern of our fellow man. It is a joining of Christ in serving humanity. That service is more heartfelt when we remember how God had been merciful to us. With that knowledge we must be merciful to others.
I love the story of Jesus giving deliverance to the man controlled by the demons known as Legion. The man had such a strong love for the One who set him free that he begged to accompany Jesus as He prepared to leave. Jesus refused the man’s request but in turn gave him the mission of a lifetime.
“Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you.” Luke 8:39
Just remember what I did for you and tell that story. Remember how bound you were and how hopeless your life was before you met Me and use that to bring healing and deliverance to others. Remember you too were a stranger in the land of Egypt.
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does the word justice mean to you?
- Is getting what one deserves the purpose of justice? Explain your answer
- Should one of the church’s goals be to insure that justice is served to all guilty parties? Why yes or no?
- In the church, what if anything, should govern our use of justice for offending parties?
- What does the word mercy mean to you?
- What should be the goal of applying mercy?
- In Jesus’s condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:23), He told them that they neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. What did He mean by that?
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: The church should take an active position in the world insuring that there is justice and mercy for all. Explain your answer.
We close this week’s lesson with a descriptive text from David about God’s kingdom. It is worth our study to learn more about what this means:
“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Mercy and truth go before Your face.” Psalm 89:14
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!