Mercy in Judgment
Jan 31, 2014
After laying down the foundational principle of love and how Christ has given us the example of true love, Jesus then builds upon this. He shows how genuine love leads to being merciful toward others. Luke 6:36 says,
36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Mercy is needed only when someone is guilty. If no one offended anyone, mercy would be irrelevant. Just as divine love is proven by the fact that Christ died for the ungodly before they were deserving of such love, so also are we instructed to be merciful to those who have victimized us in some way.
Who among us has not experienced the mercy of God? I myself am grateful that God is merciful. Because He is merciful, so also is the divine law, which is the expression of His mind and His will. The law of Jubilee gives both grace and mercy to debtors, and because all sin is reckoned as a debt, He therein shows His mercy to sinners by limiting the time of judgment to a maximum of 49 years.
In His “sermon,” Jesus may have brought in many laws to illustrate and apply the mercy of God. But the one that both Matthew and Luke record is the law of equal weights and measures. Luke 6:37 says,
37 And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.
Matthew 7:1, 2 records other words that explain further what Jesus taught:
1 Do not judge, lest you be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
This makes it clear that Jesus gave a commentary on the law found in Deuteronomy 25:13-16 and in Leviticus 19:35, 36. In Leviticus 19, it sets forth this principle in the context of treating strangers (aliens, or foreigners) equally. The full context reads:
33 When a stranger [ger, “alien”] resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 The stranger [ger] who resides with you shall be to you as a native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens [ger] in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. 35 You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. 36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and just hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt.
It was common in those days (as it is even today) to treat people with a lesser standard of love if they were from outside of their own race, nation, religion, or denomination. But God forbids this in the law, reminding Israel that they too were mistreated when they were “aliens in the land of Egypt.” The balances of justice must be the same for all men, for all should be treated equally and impartially by the same standard of measure.
This is love, as defined by the law of God.
In Deuteronomy 25:13-16 we see the same law restated in the context of God’s condemnation of Amalek for refusing to follow this law. Here Amalek is set forth as the example of how NOT to act in regard to the law of equal weights and measures:
13 You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. 14 You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and small. 15 You shall have a full and just weight; you have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. 16 For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly, is an abomination to the Lord your God.
Amalek is then held up as the negative example:
17 Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt, 18 how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God.
To defeat Amalek, Moses had to stand on a nearby hill and hold out his arms to form a cross (Exodus 17:11). The connection to the cross of Christ has been recognized by most people, but many have not understood that the cross is the place where the sin of the world was “balanced” on the scales of justice. In the case of Amalek, they treated the foreigners (Israelites) with injustice. If they had been fellow Amalekites, they would have been welcomed, fed, and housed. In other words, they had two sets of weights and measures in their house, by which they judged Amalekites and Israelites differently.
So Moses was led to counter their attack through spiritual warfare by balancing the scales of justice in the form of a cross. God then judged Amalek according to their own standard of measure. Since they had not shown mercy to Israel, neither would they be shown mercy. Because they had thought to destroy Israel and steal the wealth that they were bringing out of Egypt, so also would Amalek be destroyed in the end (Exodus 17:14).
These are the laws and examples which formed the foundation of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:2 and in Luke 6:37. If we, as individuals, want to benefit from the mercy of God, we ourselves must be merciful as well. God will judge us according to the standard of our own measure.
The biggest problem is that those who are self-righteous and those who are blind to the condition of their own hearts do not feel the need for God’s mercy. Hence, they tend to be unmerciful to others. In Jesus’ day the Jews despised non-Jews as unclean “dogs.” If any non-Jew converted to their religion, they were still treated unequally. When such converts came to the temple, they were restricted to the outer court with the women. The sign at the door of the inner court read:
“No Gentile may enter beyond the dividing wall into the court around the Holy Place; whoever is caught will be to blame for his subsequent death.”
In 1871 M. Ganneau discovered the original sign while digging in the ruins of the temple in Jerusalem. Paul wrote of this dividing wall in Ephesians 2:14-18, telling us that Jesus came to abolish it and to unify all men into “one new man,” giving equality to all.
Yet this was not only a Jewish problem. It was not long before the Christian Church began to standardize its creed. It then judged dissenters as “heretics” in the attempt to conform everyone’s viewpoint to those creeds. Ultimately, this failed.
When the Church later fragmented into many denominations, some of them treated others badly and often referred to them as “gentiles.” America’s homegrown religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), had its own policy in its early years (1800’s) of “stealing from the gentiles.” Their treatment of “gentiles” formed a large part of the resentment and conflict between them and others throughout the 1800’s.
In more recent years they have reversed this policy and now pretend it never happened. Yet they still draw a sharp distinction between “saints” and “gentiles.”
Other ministries specialize in exposing sinners and ranting against those who do not believe the same way. These all believe that they have a right to condemn the blind and deaf for not hearing their “truth.” They do not seem to understand the law of God, which protects the deaf and blind in Leviticus 19:14,
14 You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the Lord.
These laws, if understood by revelation, guide us toward the way in which God wants to be revered. We revere Him by loving the ungodly and by showing mercy to the guilty and to the “heretics.” And when we are merciful, we obtain mercy according to the same standard by which we have treated others. God uses our own measuring stick upon us.
This legal principle was used when David sinned against Uriah, the Hittite, first by committing adultery with his wife (Bathsheba) and later causing his death in battle to cover up the crime. God sent Nathan the prophet to render the judgment of God in this case. But before the verdict was issued, God first had to determine David’s own measure of mercy.
So Nathan presented him with the story of a rich man stealing a lamb from his poor neighbor in order to give a feast to his guest. Nathan asked David for his judgment, and David quickly responded in 2 Samuel 12:5, 6,
5 …As the Lord lives, surely this man who has done this deserves to die. 6 And he must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.
Nathan then told him, “You are the man!” David was then judged according to his own standard of measure. Four of his sons died as a result in order to make fourfold restitution for stealing sheep according to the law in Exodus 22:1. The first to die was the son who had been conceived through this adulterous affair (2 Samuel 12:19). The second was Amnon (2 Samuel 13:28, 29). The third was Absalom (2 Samuel 18:15). The last was Adonijah (1 Kings 2:24, 25).
It is not wrong to judge. If it were wrong, then how could Jesus be the Judge of the world (John 5:26, 27)? Likewise, the overcomers are being trained to judge the world with Him. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:2, “do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” The main problem is that we tend to judge before we know all of the facts. It is easy to hear a few facts and then pass judgment on what we have heard or seen. But Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4:5,
5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.
In other words, no one can judge righteously until the Lord “comes” to him with the revelation of the hidden facts in the case. Neither can we determine the measure of justice without knowing “the motive of men’s hearts,” including their own standard of mercy, as we see in the case of David. The bottom line is that righteous judgment is not possible apart from divine revelation.
A deeper problem, which is actually what Jesus was addressing in Matthew 7:2 and in Luke 6:37, is that we do not see the love and mercy that is inherent in the law. And so, by misunderstanding the law, we render judgment that is harsh and merciless. And so even Christians tend to judge partially or without mercy or without knowing all of the facts.
There are many reasons why Christians do not understand the law, but the biggest reason is that they have been taught that Jesus abolished the law by His death on the cross. Hence, they no longer study it, for it has become irrelevant in their eyes. Those who reject the law are blinded to its revelation of the nature of God Himself. They seem to be locked into a mindset that the law is merciless, that it excludes grace and love, when the very opposite is true.
The same God who gave the law to Moses and the Old Covenant also inspired the writings of the New Covenant. Yet some argue that these are two different gods—one vengeful and the other loving. Such a view gives God two sets of weights and measures in His “house,” thus making Him violate His own law.
Many external forms of the law changed with the coming of the New Covenant, but the basic revelation of the character of this God of Love remains unchanged. If we do not understand how this can be true, then the problem is our own misunderstanding of the law. The problem is not God Himself, but our own dim comprehension of God.
This is part 26 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones