Psalm 78:38-40 Yet he, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity, and did not destroy them; often he restrained his anger, and did not stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and does not come again. How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert!
Philippians 2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Why is it that God can humble himself, but it is one the things we find most difficult? The only thing that is perhaps harder than not exalting ourselves [or boasting] is, perhaps, to be obedient. But God did both. We don’t often talk about it explicitly, but it is implicit every time we say the creed – that first part of the second article – conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried – all these are events in the humiliation of Jesus, the Son of God. Why was it humiliating – well, he already was eternal God, and played a part in creating everything – in the incarnation, he becomes part of that which he created. Imagine, if you became a baby again, - how strong is this? The worst punishment I ever say was when a teacher, tired of students who were acting like babies, sent them to the Kindergarten class for the day – it had such an impact, that not only were those students on good behavior for several years afterward – but everyone else behaved – because we didn’t want that to happen to us.
We were obedient out of fear – we saw the punishment and we saw it happen, and we genuinely wanted to avoid it happening to us. And while that is good, especially in this time when obedience of any sort is rare – what we have in Christ is so much more special – because in Christ we have an example of obedience, for from fear – but the obedience of Love. Now there is more to this as well – for that love is twofold – Christ is obedient to the father because he loves the father – but Christ is also obedient, because he loves us – and Christ knows that his obedience will bring us the one thing that we need the most – peace with God through the forgiveness of sins.
And that brings us to the great mystery – why should God love us? We haven’t done anything worthy, we haven’t done anything of merit, in fact, we have been just as wicked as the people of Israel, who although they had seen the mighty acts of God, although they had experienced God’s mighty deliverance – they continued to rebel against God. We confess that we sin much daily, and we confess that God daily and richly forgives us all our sins. Nothing great about that – but what is great is the magnitude of God’s mercy.
Think about our world, we imagine it is grace to give someone a second chance – and that’s as far as we will go, everyone knows its 3 strikes and you’re out. But God’s mercy is so much greater than what we can ever imagine – even though the wages of sin is death – even though we continue to sin much daily – God continues to show mercy to us. Why? Because he loves us! Why? I don’t know why God loves us, but I thank God that he does – otherwise where would we be?
You see, mercy is that God remembers that we are flesh –