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When the Lord began to lay out the theme for this year, He led Chrissy to a YouTube video teaching by Pastor John Kilpatrick called, Storm Warning. In this teaching, Pastor Kilpatrick shared four anchors the Lord highlighted to him from Acts 27—Whoa! That’s the same chapter we'd been studying! In this chapter, Paul is on a ship, in the middle of a storm so severe that death is likely. After anchoring our past months’ topics to The Immutability of God's Word, it's time to throw out anchor two: Lay hold of God’s mercy. And what a merciful God He is.

Evidence of this is seen throughout the history of the Bible every time He relents from following through with a consequence to mankind’s missteps and rebellion. How humbled we become at the recognition of this undeserving gift of mercy in our own lives. The deeper our understanding, the more immeasurable is our ability to offer mercy to others.

It's not always as simple to give, or receive, mercy though, is it? Poor decisions often lead to shame, and then shame takes us by the hand and throws us down in the dust. It's in this place we may find it impossible to accept God’s mercy for ourselves. Or, perhaps we freely accept God’s mercy for ourselves, but refuse to believe it is for everyone. When we view life through a lens of right and wrong we are quick to point out the need for justice. This certainly makes it difficult for anyone—self or others—to rise from the dust.

Oh, how quickly the rule followers unite to see the lawbreakers receive their due reward. This was the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day. The Jewish nation had been formed by God and their laws came from God, given to Moses. For hundreds of years the Law of Moses was the standard by which they lived. The Pharisees were sold out to the Law and they honored God by their adherence to it. They often just lacked the motivation of God’s love behind the intent of the Law. What we see that they couldn't is how Jesus was here to show them how to do both. Love others well while living by God's standard of the Law of Love.

But, when Jesus had inflicted enough embarrassment upon the leaders, they began to push back and pursue methods of entrapment. When they could take no more, they became vindictive. Displaying hearts of vindictiveness from their desire to see the proper discipline because justice demanded it and they used people as pawns to strike.

It was the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles when Jesus stood up and invited any who are thirsty to come to him for living water. To Him? This statement sent the religious leaders, and some within the crowd, into a rage (John 7). When it was time to disperse for the night, Jesus didn't go to a Marriott, He went to the Mount of Olives, while others returned home for a good night's sleep. But there were some who spent the night in turmoil—of the inner kind. Conflicting viewpoints. Is He or isn’t He? If He were the Messiah wouldn’t He be a Law-abiding one? That happens to the best of us, doesn't it? It's hard to sleep in the midst of friction. At some point during the night a plan had been crafted and a woman had been caught.

We only know her as "The Adulterous Woman" and she became a pawn in the honor and shame game between Jesus and the religious leaders. Justice demanded payment for the penalty and the trap was set. Jesus would break either the Law of Moses or Roman law by His indictment. Unfortunately, we can lose sight of mercy when our focus becomes self-righteousness.

Those who snatched the woman from her bed were blind to their double standard, however, because the Jewish Law actually held both the man and the woman accountable to adultery (Deuteronomy 22:22, NET). If she was caught “in the very act” well, the man was missing. Pressed for a response, Jesus instead bends down and begins to write on the ground with his finger. "When they persisted in asking him, he stood up straight and replied, 'Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her.' Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground" (John 8:6-8, NET). The silence was so deafening you could hear a pin drop; only this time it wasn't a pin; it was the thump of stones falling from every stone-thrower's tightly gripped hand.

When I read this part of her story, it's perfectly clear for me to see how they devalued this woman, because of their own contempt for Jesus and a need to put an end to this "kingdom" He spoke of. She was an easy target. Her sin was public. Awful, I say. She was guilty. No question about it. She was a lawbreaker, but Jesus offered the same mercy that His father offered the Israelites throughout their history, even when justice demanded death. To this woman, He made no accusation nor did He defend her actions. He saved her by pointing out that if the demand of justice was to be met—all would need to live by that standard. He did not tell her that her action did not matter, nor did He dismiss the sin altogether. He said go and sin no more. He did not condemn her, but he did correct her. Based upon the Truth of God’s Word, but the correction was from His love for her and the mercy of God.

I began to consider my own response or attitude toward someone based on what I know about them. Do I see them through the sin that I’m aware of in their life or can I—like Jesus—allow mercy to change my point of view? Or am I always pulling people before Jesus in an attempt to expose their sin, but living according to my own double standard. Mercy for me but not for thee. If all I see is the sin of others, I’ll always be a stone thrower.

Jesus shows us how mercy triumphs over judgment through the life of an adulterous woman. He helped her #Arise that day when:

  • The Pharisees used her in an attempt to judge Jesus, He used her to confront the Pharisees' actual motive.

  • She received a new identity that day when Jesus acted on her behalf. It was through His act of compassion that mercy was extended.

  • She experienced compassionate treatment in her distress. It’s important to note that before addressing her sin he took care of her immediate need.

Our verse for this month is “Therefore let us [with privilege] approach the throne of grace [that is, the throne of God’s gracious favor] with confidence and without fear, so that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find [His amazing] grace to help in time of need [an appropriate blessing, coming just at the right moment]” (Hebrews 4:16 AMP).

We can #AriseConfident that God’s mercy is for me and for you. We can be confident that God’s mercy will triumph over judgment for each one of us. We can be confident in our ability to offer mercy because of who we are in Christ. As followers of Jesus, how can we not offer that same mercy to those who are as undeserving as we are of God's mercy?

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