A number of years ago I remember reading something that forever changed the way I viewed God and touched me personally, affecting my life and ministry. The writer said that for about 13 years his ministry was “to heal the image of God”. He wanted to people to know who God really was and what God was really like. The name of the book was, “The Tenderness of Jesus”.
There is a story in Genesis 19:15-19 that reveals the heart of God so we might behold His beauty and also allow what is revealed about Him to become part of the revelation of Him through us to others. The story takes place just before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha when God sent two angels to Sodom to warn Lot and his family to flee the coming destruction. We read in verse 12 how the angels said to Lot
“Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place!
For we will destroy this place…..”
Lot went out and spoke to his sons in law, who had married his daughters and said “Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!” But to his sons in law he seemed to be joking.
So there was Lot being warned to get out by the angels and the next morning the angels “urged Lot to hurry”. You would think that Lot would see the seriousness of the situation and respond to the urgency of the angels to preserve his life and his wife and two daughters. That is not what happened.
Verse 16 says this; “And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.”
Lot did not make the right choice, he did not obey, he did not see the urgency to live in such a way to save his life and the lives of his wife and daughters The bible says “he lingered”. That word means he waited, he delayed, he refused, he wanted to turn back. But God did not leave him to his own choice to sabotage his life and destiny and that of his family. No, the angels “laid hold” of his hand. They gripped his hand with strength and literally pulled them out of the city, away from the coming destruction. Why? “The LORD being merciful to him”.
That word “merciful” means to pity, to spare and also gentle, longsuffering and softness. This is a revelation of the heart of God. God looks at people differently than the way people look at people most of the time. He is soft hearted, tender hearted, gentle in disposition and longsuffering. David speaks of God’s gentleness making him great. It was also David that said, “Is there any left of the house of Saul that I might show the kindness of God to?” It was Paul who said “the kindness of God leadeth to repentance”. God is love. God saw that Lot, who was a righteous man, making poor choices that would actually cost him his life and chose to literally drag him away from doing just that.
God yearns out of His love to do all He can to show mercy. God poured out His wrath on Jesus Christ and satisfied His anger towards sin in doing so, that He might show forth His lovingkindness not His wrath on us. The renewed mind knows that now the goodness of God can be released in fulness towards mankind now that sin was punished in Christ. This story is just a glimpse of His mercy and Lot did not deserve it. We get what Jesus deserves, Jesus received what we deserved and the heart of a child understands this. The name Lot means “veil” or “covering”. Lot could not see the implications of his choice, there was a covering due to his senses being dulled by the wickedness around him and maybe other things in his life. Yet God in His mercy sent His angels to warn and then to deliver him when he refused to respond, simply because of mercy.
When Lot realized that his life was spared, we read….
“thou has magnified thy mercy in saving my life”
Saved from the judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrha, the veil was removed and he saw clearly what had happened. You have made your mercy conspicuous, great and large enough for all to see forever. He was stunned by the mercy of God and we should be astonished also. The revelation of God’s heart causes one to simply exalt His mercy, His goodness, His love and that sight of God will bring about a softness within our own hearts when we look upon others, especially when they have a veil over their eyes and do not see the obvious about areas of their own heart. When they also linger and do not make the right choices, when they refuse to obey God in some situation, when they seem to hesitate, draw back and turn away from what will bless their lives and others. His heart and disposition must become ours. We become like Him when we see Him as He is.
A lot can be learned about who God is by looking at the passage when Moses cried out to God, “Shew me thy glory” in Exodus 33:18. And what was God’s response? “I will cause all my goodness pass before you”. All my goodness is my glory. His glory is demonstrated by revealing ALL His goodness and that word has many meanings including, pleasantness, beauty, favor, prosperity, delightfulness, goodness. Jesus Christ was the one who passed before mankinds eyes and “we beheld His glory, the glory of as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus Christ came to earth “through the tender mercy of our God” it says in Luke. And when God did pass before Moses;
“And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long suffering and abounding in goodness and truth Keeping mercy for thousands…..”
I just wanted to emphasise the first thing God says about Himself and proclaims as to His character and intent……Merciful…..this word is so beautiful in the Hebrew. While it means bowels indicating depth of feeling, tender love, and pity, it also means “the womb as cherishing the fetus”. While it means to fondle and to compassionate, not just have compassion but to compassionate,it also means to be soft, hence to love. The whole idea is cherishing,soothing and gentle emotion of the mind, the depth of love that is characterized by how a fetus is treated in the womb of a mother. The baby in the womb is formed in the most cherishing and protective way. This is the way God is to us, this is why He rescued Lot, this is His character. One way this word merciful is explained is “to behold with tenderest affection”. Imagine that! God beholds you and me with tenderest affection. That is the way He truly looks at us and that is not the way He has been portrayed to us, even through those who are positioned to declare Him among us and mankind. King David wanted to see if there was any one left of the house of Saul, the King who tried to kill him for 13 years or so. And why? To show kindness, stoop in kindness to an inferior, show favor, to incline and bend down to do good to the family of his enemy. His heart had become like God’s, the one who keeps mercy, has in storage so to speak, for thousands. And what was the name of the man who was left of Sauls house? Mephibosheth who was lame on both his feet. Mephibosheth had been dropped by the one caring for him while she was fleeing with him upon hearing the news of Sauls death, knowing that usually the new king had the old kings family killed. He had become lame on both his feet. David was a different kind of a king. He was a man of compassion and Godlike mercy to the underserving. Mephibosheth means “to wipe away the shame” and that is what mercy does, wipe away the shame.
When Lot said that God had magnified His mercy in saving his life, the word “saving his life” can also meant to restore to health and life, to make alive, to quicken and revive from discouragement, faintness, death and sickness and that I what mercy does. It is a release of His presence and power to revive again. God does not bash people but rather reveals Himself as good so we can receive His aid and transforming love to be restored and made whole. To see God this way causes ones heart to run into Him not away from Him. He is soothing and knowing that allows us to be formed through cherishing love, as the baby in a womb. This is so different than the performance and striving believers are locked into trying to earn what has already been purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, which is the favor and kindness of God. Jesus earned it for us, we do not earn it ourselves, we believe the gospel, we receive the truth, we access it by childlike faith.
The way He is to us, we will be to others. To know Him as the one who rescues the lingering causes us to do the same for those who also linger. He is soft hearted so we live out of a soft heart to be the womb of God to others. He is gentle towards us so we are not hard hearted, demanding, legalistic towards others. We also begin to behold others with tenderest affection, even those who hurt us and cause us pain because we have become like Him because we have seen Him as He is. It is time for the body of Christ to heal the image of God that other members of the body have so that the world can behold our God as He is through our lives, His kindness leading them to change the way they think about Him so they can come to Him and be saved from the Sodom and Gomorrhas of their own lives. May we rise to the challenge be merciful to all in Jesus name!