“Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the Lord your God? Joel 2:12-14 ESV
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalm 103:8-13 ESV
During the American Civil War, a Union soldier named Michael Delaney deserted his regiment. He regretted what he did, and actually joined the army again under a different name. It didn’t take long for him to be caught, though. He was put on trial by the army and found guilty, and the sentence was death. Michael Delaney had to wait in his jail cell, knowing that the day was coming when he would be shot to death by his fellow soldiers. There didn’t seem to be any hope for him, but then President Abraham Lincoln reviewed his case along with some other cases. The president wrote these seven words about Michael Delaney: “Let him fight instead of being shot.” President Lincoln had mercy on him, and he wasn’t put to death. He was set free to continue his service in the army, where he continued to serve and even re-enlisted before his time with the army was up.
Abraham Lincoln was a man of mercy who was known for pardoning many soldiers who deserted or behaved badly when they served in the army. Even more than that, God is a God of mercy. He is slow to become angry and quick to forgive. He spoke through the prophet Joel, who had been warning the people about the Day of the Lord, a time of God’s judgment over sin. The locusts had been a picture and a warning of God’s judgment. After words of warning, God gave his people hope. He urged them to return to him with broken hearts over their sins. Joel reminded God’s people that the Lord is gracious and merciful, and gave them hope that God would turn away the disaster and forgive them and give them a blessing.
God is truly a God of mercy, and he best showed that mercy when he sent Jesus to be our Savior. We turned away from God in sin and disobedience, and we deserved his punishment. But God sent his Son Jesus to the cross to take the punishment we deserve. Because of what Jesus did for us, God is always ready to forgive our sins. When we turn away from him, he sends us his Holy Spirit to help us turn back to him and to be sorry for our sins and want his forgiveness. He helps us follow him and live his ways.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for having mercy on us and forgiving our sins. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.