And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.(Luke 9:51-56 )
Today we disciples of Christ show that we share the same spirit as did James and John by clambering for God to quickly destroy the world. (Only after he removes us from the world in the rapture, of course) What manner of spirit is that? It is the spirit that craves punishment for those who do not receive Christ as their Savior. It is the spirit that yearns for the Day of the Lord so that the wicked and unbelievers will get their just deserts. It is the spirit, whether in the Christian, Muslim, or Hindu, that would cast the unbelieving infidel into an eternal hell. Some of these would even go so far as to help kill the infidel in order to get him into hell a little faster. It is this spirit that believes that somehow God desires to punish the sinner for punishment’s sake rather than for righteousness’ sake. It is the spirit of antichrist. It is the spirit of justice without mercy.
Almost three thousand years have passed and we still have not understood Hosea’s words, “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) Hosea declared long ago that mercy triumphs over the Law, as good as that Law is. Jesus Himself quoted this verse twice. Is this to say, then, that Christ annulled the Law or that sins for breaking that Law should go unpunished? Of course not! God prescribes specific punishments for specific sins which still exist, and those punishments are just. How do we know the punishments are just? Because God is just and He defined the punishments. But, how can God justly exalt mercy over punishment as Hosea and Jesus seem to declare?
Scripture tells us that God is love. Does it ever tell us that God is punishment? No. Does it ever tell us that God is wrath? No. Does it ever tell us that God is jealous? Yes. Now, does the attribute of jealousness have anything to do with love, punishment, or wrath? Yes, with all three. God is jealous for us because he desires our love. Although God is not defined by the attributes of punishment and wrath, He does use punishment and wrath in order to achieve His goal for us. God would have each of us love Him with all of our hearts, souls, and minds.
We find that when we learn to love God, we learn to love the truth. When we love the truth, we will obey it and thus will obey God. When we obey God we walk without sin and there is no need for punishment. Then there is no need for wrath. God is jealous for us as a mother is jealous for her newborn baby. God is jealous for us as the bridegroom is jealous for the bride. In my 20 years as an attorney I have seen parents and grandparents spend thousands of dollars in attempts to keep their reprobate sons and grandsons out of prison. Why? Because they are jealous for their children. They love them, as mean and stupid and as addicted to drugs as they may be. Does God love his children, that is us, any less than this world’s parents love their children? Is God anxious then to cast down fire from heaven in order to destroy a wicked world? Is God hungrily waiting to throw the majority of mankind into eternal hell? Could it be that God has a better plan than that? Could it be that mercy is far more important in God’s conception of justice than we have yet realized?
Is God’s way a moral way with absolute standards of right and wrong? Of course. This is why he first taught us to obey Moses’s law. But, he taught an even higher truth than this, a truth that does not teach us to throw out and disobey God’s law, but a truth that provides grace to the lawbreaker. He taught the truth of mercy.
Jesus said, “Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy , and not sacrifice,’ for I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:13) No man yet, except Jesus, is totally righteous. But, the Pharisees and many pharisaical Christians since (not to mention the radical adherents of all the other world religions) have thought themselves righteous. Nevertheless Jesus is saying, “You who deem yourself righteous because you believe you obey God fully must learn to have mercy upon those who do not yet so obey God.” Why? Because God is calling them too. God is working in them just as he is working in you, and he has called you to bring his will to earth by allowing you a chance to show them mercy, even as He has shown you. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13) The mark of elohim is mercy!