If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared. (Psa 130:3-4 NKJ)
All the other attributes of God make God worthy of our praise. Only the mercy of God, however, makes it possible for us to truly praise Him. Without God’s mercy, every other truth about God would make Him a terror to me. If someone is my enemy, then it is no comfort or joy to me to think about how great he is. Without God’s mercy, His justice makes Him our enemy.
But He is merciful. He is longsuffering and patient. Even to those that don’t know Him, He is gracious, giving good gifts to them to testify of His grace and to call them to repentance. To those who do know Him and put their trust in Him, His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting. He forgives us a thousand thousand times over. He continually calls us back to Himself when we stray, and He receives us back with open arms, every time.
His mercy is always perfectly concordant with His justice. His mercy is never a simple overlooking or ignoring of sin, for this He cannot do, as a faithful judge. It is rather that He, at great cost to Himself, provides a substitute, an alternative. Jesus, at the behest of the Father, took upon Himself the wrath of God on the cross and overcame it. He satisfied the wrath of the Father against sin, and extends the benefit of that satisfaction to us, through faith in Him, worked by the Spirit of God. Jesus was under no obligation to provide this satisfaction, and the Father was under no obligation to decree it or to accept such a satisfaction. The only obligation that can bind God is the obligation to be true to Himself; and this He was, true both to His justice and to His mercy. As Psalm 85:10 says, “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed.”
The satisfaction of Christ clears away the obstacle of God’s great wrath against sin, so that we are free to glory in Him, to know Him, to bask in the glow of God’s greatness in full. We no longer need to live in fear of His wrath, no longer need to distort the truth of God, to make up pretend gods to worship because the real one scares us too much. We can enter into the brightness of His glory, the pureness of His light, the awesome infinite majesty of His perfection, all because He was merciful to us in condescending to us poor, weak, miserable sinners, and showing us grace. He sent His own Son to willingly suffer the wrath of God against sin, to satisfy justice and to provide for us a substitute sacrifice, so that we could live. Now God’s people earnestly pray for the Spirit of God to give us greater knowledge and understanding so that we might begin to worship His mercy and majesty in some small fraction of the way that He deserves.