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Be Gracious

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Too often we meet folks who are anything but kind and gracious. Unfortunately, such people have never come to grips with the biblical standard of graciousness. The Scriptures, however, point out that human beings should live in accordance with that standard. Indeed, God himself is gracious. For example, from early times he showed his graciousness to Sarah by giving to her the ability to conceive and give birth to a son, even when she was well along in years (Gen. 21:1-2).

The psalmists often mention graciousness as evidence of good manners. This is often seen in David’s psalms. Thus, as David mentions in his well-known prayer psalm, as he faced arrogant, godless men, he called out to the Lord:

You, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
Slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and have mercy on me;
Grant your strength to your servant
And save the son of your maid servant.
Give me a sign of your goodness,
That my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
For you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me. (Psalm 86:15-17)1

David counted on his gracious, compassionate Lord to deliver him from his oppressors. In another psalm declares the Lord’s righteous care for those needy who put their faith in Him:

The LORD works righteousness
And justice for the oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His deeds to the people of Israel.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
Nor will he harbor his anger forever. (Ps. 103:6-9)

As Van Gemeren remarks, “The Lord does not tolerate injustice in the world (cf. 33:4-5), His rule is characterized by “righteousness” as he rights what is wrong. 2

In another Psalm, the psalmist praises the Lord for his kindness to his people saying,

Great are the works of the Lord;
They are pondered by all who delight in them.
Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
And his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wonders to be remembered,
The Lord is gracious and compassionate. (Ps. 111:2-4)

Although the psalmist may have some particular divine workings in mind, his praise may include the source of his wonderful works, namely God himself. In another psalm of David (Ps. 145), we see David’s many proclamations of the Lord’s goodness and activities. Especially to be noted once again is his declaration that,

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger and rich in love.
The Lord is good to all;
He has compassion on all he has made (Ps. 145: 8-9).

God’s grace and compassion are cited as of great importance in the Minor Prophets. Thus Joel (Joel 2:12-13) instructs his people to have “a total recommitment on the part of the whole populace … is reassuring for the believer to understand something of God’s character so as to be able to rely on his perfect response to any situation. God is consistent in his character: he is gracious and merciful, not easily angered, and full of kindness.”3

Likewise, the prophet Jonah, having experienced God’s gracious forgiveness to the people of Ninevah remarks that, “when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.“ (Jonah 3:10) God’s prophet Jonah complains to the Lord that even before he went to Ninevah he was afraid that if the Ninevites repented, the Lord would forgive them (Jonah 4:2-3). As I have pointed out, “Because God is a gracious and merciful God, as Jonah knew him to be, Jonah should rather have considered his mission to have been highly successful, since the result was in keeping with what Jonah knew God to be.”4

In his distress a psalmist cries out, “O Lord save me.” He goes on to point out that, “The Lord is righteous; our God is full of compassion” (Ps. 116:4b-5). The psalmist knew that the Lord was his true source of help. But not only is God gracious and compassionate, he is also forgiving. Thus Nehemiah reminds his hearers that the Lord is a “forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Neh. 9:17; cf. v. 31)

Therefore, today’s believers may echo those of long ago even as the psalmist prayed,

May God be gracious to us and bless us
And make his face shine upon us,
That your ways may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations. (Ps. 67:1-2)

As Futato remarks, “Psalm 67 challenges us not to give up the pursuit of blessing, but to pursue blessings all the more earnestly with God’s own intended outcome.”5

May we, then, ourselves likewise follow the reassurance of Hosea’s charge to his people, “Say to him: ‘forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips’ ” (Hos. 14:2). Thus Israel “was to come into God’s presence with heartfelt confession on their lips” … and “having repented and come to God with proper intentions, they were to petition God for forgiveness of their sins and guilt.”6 Even deeper, this charge may follow Paul’s advice and admonition to the Colossians,

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonition one another with all wisdom. … Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:15-17).

In so doing, we also may sing songs with gratitude.

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in his justice, which is more than liberty.
If our lives were but more simple, we should take him at his Word,
And our lives would be all sunshine, in the sweetness of our Lord.7

John W. Petersen declares,

No other song have I but that of Jesus,
The Son of God who came to seek and save.
Who paid the price for pardon and redemption
When on the cross His life He freely gave.
No other song have I but that of Jesus
And even when I gain the other shore
I’ll join me in the great angelic anthem
And sing my Savior’s praise forevermore.8

1 All scriptural citations are taken from the NIV.

2 William A. Van Gemeren, “Psalms,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 653.

3 Richard D. Patterson, “Joel,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, (Carol Stream, Il, Tyndale House, 2008), 10, 125.

4 Patterson, “Jonah,” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, (Carol Stream, Il, Tyndale House, 2008), 10, 284.

5 Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms”, in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, (Carol Stream, Il, Tyndale House, 2009), 7, 223.

6 Richard D. Patterson, “Hosea” in Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, (Carol Stream, Il, Tyndale House, 2008), 10, 85-86.

7 Frederick W. Faver, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”.

8 John W. Petersen, “No Other Song”.

Related Topics: Christian Life

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