The Tender Mercy of God Changes How We Live

Reading: Luke 1

A lot turns on God’s merciful compassion. In Luke 1:76-79, the merciful compassion of our God is the hinge upon which the forgiveness of our sins and the transformation of how we live turn.

76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79 NIV, emphasis added)

This text is at the end of a prophecy which Zechariah, having been filled with the Holy Spirit, gives concerning his son John, at his birth. John will give the Lord’s people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins because of the tender mercy of our God. The glorious truth of salvation through the forgiveness of our sins is made possible because of the tender mercy, the merciful compassion, of our God. But there is more.

Not only does the merciful compassion of our God bring salvation through the forgiveness of our sins, this text goes on to say that is is through this same merciful compassion of our God shines light into our darkness in order to guide our feet into the path of peace. The same mercy that forgives our sins guides our steps into a new way of living that produces peace!

This aspect of mercies work is spoken of with a different twist earlier in the same chapter in the angel’s message to Zechariah when he first appeared to him and told him that Elizabeth would bear a son.

And he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people. (Luke 1:17 CSB)

John will, through his ministry, turn the hearts of the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous. Wisdom is a common and perfectly good translation of this word for understanding. The word (phronesis) refers to our way of thinking. The disobedient are all of us prior to salvation. Once our sins are forgiven, our way of thinking must change, and we must take on the way of thinking of the righteous.

There is no one more righteous than Jesus, and certainly no greater way of thinking than His. Paul tells us that we are to think (phroneo) like Christ (Philippians 2:5). And this thinking, the thinking of the righteous, is further described in the context of Philippians as the humility of Christ. The righteous and the humble are terms that are often used interchangeably in reference to the true people of God.

What is the path that leads us in the way of peace? It is that path of Christ, that path that leads downward in our estimation of ourselves, and upward in our estimation of others. It is that path that trusts God to be our reward and is willing to die to self (Philippians 2:5-10). In that path is found true righteousness, and in that path is found true peace. The merciful compassion of our God forgives our sins and sets us on that path! The merciful compassion of our God changes how we live by changing how we think.

Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,

Jerry

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  • Ann Mansfield says:

    Hi Jerry,
    You use the terms “tender mercy” and “merciful compassion”. Are we then to consider that there might be a sort of “mercy” which is not tender, and/or a type of compassion which is not “merciful”? For example, when God took Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, could that have been a sort of mercy that was not tender in that Pharaoh finally admitted that the God of the Israelites is in fact God, yet left him vulnerable to losing his kingdom as well? And again, when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, that it was a compassion which was not merciful in that it met the needs of the living, but caused Lazarus to experience death in the flesh a second time?
    Your sister in the Kingdom,
    Ann

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