Graham Snow

Matthew 9:13,  “But go ye and learn what that meanest, 'I will have mercy, and not sacrifice for I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.'” "Learn what that meaneth," we heard in the meeting this afternoon that mercy and truth go together, where we hear what Jesus said in John's gospel about mercy and grace, grace covers a far bigger field, mercy is the undeserved forgiveness of God for all our failings and sins. The grace of God is where we can find help and strength and courage to face up to life. As Paul said to God to remove the thorn in his flesh and God said, "My grace is sufficient for thee." He did not say, "My mercy is sufficient for thee but My grace is sufficient for thee." In grace, it contains mercy and forgiveness and compassion and more than that; in grace, there is help and strength and power to face up to life and bear the burdens of life.


This verse spoke to me on Thursday when I thought of the meeting this afternoon. We need to learn what this verse means, it doesn’t mean how to judge others to criticise and run others down, that comes naturally it is human nature. Someone told us there in Germany in the special meeting. This brother said, “It is very strange that I am very good at criticising things I don’t know very much about.“ That is very very true, we need to have the facts sometimes and need to understand matters and we really don’t. We're very quick to speak a word of criticism, a word of judgement. It doesn’t have to be learned; it comes naturally. It’s there in the human heart. Even these words that Jesus said, we have to go and learn what that meanest - “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.”  


It is very true that without sacrifice, there is no salvation, there is no hope. Sacrifice plays a vital part in our salvation - we know that and possibly we can say that sacrifice has produced mercy. There is in the Old Testament the story of the mercy seat. I don’t wish to go into the complicated details of the story of the tabernacle and the furnishing of the tabernacle and what was there but entering into the court yard of the tabernacle, we find the alter of sacrifice that was made of wood and covered in brass. Further into the tabernacle, you go into the holiest of all. We find two things there if not more. We find the Ark of the Covenant. Then we find in that box, the Ark was the Law of God. There was the truth, where the wood was it was covered with gold but the mercy seat was inlaid with pure gold. Let's never ever forget that mercy is like pure gold, the most precious thing for ourselves then to others who need mercy. 


In the New Testament, there was a blind man who heard Jesus going by and he cried out, “Thou son of David, have mercy on me.” He threw himself on the full mercy of Jesus. He felt full well, "I don’t merit it. I don’t deserve it. I’ve done nothing to obtain it, haven’t earned it, but am just a beggar. I’m just poverty stricken, have no parents and in this sense and my only hope is to throw myself on the mercy of Jesus and the mercy of God." That is our only hope, the mercy of God. 


My early years in Switzerland a number of years now, I sat at the death bed of an elderly woman. She was dying of cancer, a wonderful soul the best, a mother in Israel, a very respected soul in the fellowship in those early days. She said to me that day, “You know I think of the future. I think of eternity of passing into eternity and am afraid because I know I do not deserve it. I do not merit it, when I look over my life I see so many mistakes, so many failures. I haven’t done enough to merit salvation to be with God for ever and ever.” In my opinion, if there was anyone that would be saved was this person. What to encourage her? What to tell her? Then a thought struck me and I said, “If you could say, 'I have earned salvation. I have merited it. I deserve it,' then you would not need the grace of God.” Without Grace, we are not saved the Bible tells us, we need the mercy of God. From the very beginning, we are conscious of sin, we throw ourselves on the mercy of God. For our final stretch-hour last time here, our only hope is the grace and mercy of God. 


Jesus said, “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice.'” There is someone thinking of us here today who is in Germany and that is Bart. Some have asked about him at this convention and he is doing fine. He told us something in the meeting in Germany. There was a certain man who came to the mission and at the end of the mission, he said, “No it’s not for me.” That man would come again the following year. One year coming to the mission, the workers said, "The next meeting, you will be given a chance to make your choice. The meeting will be tested." That man said, “I am not coming again.” You know, one of the friends (I won’t mention names ) for 5 or 6 or maybe 7 years, he invited that man to come to the mission. He came for a period and would listen and appreciate the gospel message and would say every time, “No it’s not for me I won’t make my choice.” After a number of years, he was invited by a particular friend and Bart thought, “What a waste of time to invite that person again to that mission.” That man was outside the fold for 35 years. Then he made his choice at the age of 95 years old. That man was my father. Don’t quench the smoking flax, don’t break the bruised reed. I think Bart was so good to admit that he was wrong to think that way.  Jesus said, "But go ye and learn what that meanest, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice.'” If there was anyone who was glad for the mercy of God was my old father who passed away just over a year ago. I am so glad for that one particular friend that took the time and the effort, it looked so hopeless, why bother? He said, “No,“ every time. Finally, he made his way back unto salvation.  “Go and know what that meanest, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice.'” Don’t quench the smoking flax, don’t quench the bruised reed. It may seem hopeless a waste of time but mercy is pure, pure gold. Without the mercy of God, none of us will be here with hope for the future.


To show mercy to others is the most wonderful thing. There in the tabernacle, the mercy seat was made of pure, pure gold. It was over the ark of the covenant. It was higher than the Ark of the Covenant. The Bible tells us that God spoke between the two cherubims. On each end of the cherubims, God spoke to the people in that position. His voice, his message was influenced by the mercy seat, by mercy. God speaks to us today in mercy. The mercy seat was higher than the Ark of the Covenant, higher than the Law or the commandments in that Ark. A verse in the Bible says, “Thy righteousness is unto the clouds but mercy unto the heavens." There is nothing that is higher than that. It reaches unto the Heavens. We cannot measure the distance to Heaven. It tells us His mercy reaches unto Heaven, so great is His mercy.


A verse says in the Bible, "Lord, show the greatness of Thy mercy." This morning before the meeting, I came downstairs to come to the meeting and there was someone playing the piano in the sitting room. It was 10 to 10 a.m. I looked into the lounge and saw who was playing. I thought to myself, "It is nice to be able to play nice music, it is a gift to be musical." I don’t have that gift. I can’t even sing without the help of others. Others have the gift of painting wonderful scenes. You stand in awe admiring the painting. I don’t have that gift. There is so many gifts in life we can have and enjoy, it is very true. We have our strong sides and our weak sides as human beings. Some are strong this way and others are strong that side, but I want to just mention that God's strong side is mercy.


It says, “Show forth by the greatness of Thy mercy;” it mentions in the Old Testament. There’s a few verses in the Bible I would like to mention this afternoon, but before I go further, I underline and agree fully with what Beverly told us this afternoon about mercy and truth. We cannot compromise truth by being over merciful and using mercy in the wrong way. They do go together in the Old Testament. It says that mercy and truth have kissed each other, they are the very best of friends they are not enemies. Mercy and truth, we need to understand what this means to Him to find the right balance in these two things.


Let's go back to the Ark of the Covenant, let's go back to the mercy seat. Let's go and see what it was like there in the tabernacle. We read in the Bible that the Ark of the Covenant had a certain length and a certain width and a certain depth, just a box with a length a width and a depth. We read of the mercy seat who had the very same length as the Ark of the Covenant, the very same dimensions, no difference in the length, no overlapping the same size as the Ark of the Covenant of the word of God and the truth of God. There is no mention whatsoever of the depth or the height of the mercy seat, no mention of it there. How deep and how high can the mercy of God reach poor sinners who are down there in the pit down there in sin? There is no measure how deep His mercy goes or how low His mercy goes but the length is limited and the breadth is limited of the mercy of God in the Old Testament times. This shows me that the depth covers an immeasurable mercy and the height covers the immeasurable mercy in the word of God. What am I trying to say - we just can’t throw mercy around like confetti. For example, it can’t be used haphazardly. It can only be used when it is in conjunction with the word of God. With every soul who comes in the boarders of mercy of the word of God, there is mercy.


We heard at this convention that the very first message of John the Baptist, also of Jesus and the apostles after the resurrection the message was “Repent.” Repentance is the word of God, the very first step of repentance brings us into the boarders of the word of God and then we are covered by mercy, by the height and depth of mercy. If we bring ourselves into the boarders of the word of God, there will be mercy. There will be failings, there will be shortcomings. We will fall, we will make mistakes all along the way but if we just come to the place of repentance every time, there is mercy and forgiveness for every sinner even after we made our choice to serve God. We can have the depth and height of the mercy of God. 


We heard in the meeting today about the prodigal son and that young son before he left for that distant country. If we asked him, “Do you know your father?” He would say, “For sure, I know my father. When he is in the next room, I know my father's voice. It’s not my brothers voice or my uncle's voice. When father speaks in the next room, I know his voice when he walks down the passage. I know his walk. For sure, I know my father." When you asked him, he knew his father before he left for that far off country. Later when he came back, we know the welcome he received from his father - the kindness and the love and the mercy and goodness he received from his father. What would have been his testimony? “I never knew that my father was like this. I never knew my father was so good and so kind and so gentle, so merciful. I never knew that.” It took serious mistakes, it took desperation, it took the feeling of hopelessness. He got to the place where he knew his father better than he ever knew him before. He could say, "Now I know my father now like I never knew him in the past." He might of thought, "My father was hard," or he ruled the house. After coming back and saying, “I’m not worthy to be thy son. Make me as one of the hired servants,” his attitude of repentance, that was repentance, he didn’t try and defend himself. He didn’t try and justify himself. He didn’t try and put a good side of himself to his father he came back with the attitude, “I am not worthy at all to be called your son“ because he came in true repentance. He knew the mercy of God, the mercy of his father. The further on we go, the better we get to know our Father in Heaven. Yes, our Father has a way a narrow way. Yes, our Father has a strong voice. Yes, there is a severity and a seriousness within the way of God. The further on we go, we understand the mercy of God. One who understands us if there’s repentance there’s mercy and hope for us, thinking of the prodigal son way down in that distant land there with the swine and he wished to eat what the swine were feeding upon and no one gave it to him. He was dying of hunger, starving. He thought he was going to die there. What would have happened in the meantime to that son, if the father had died while he was in that land, in his need and desperation, in his hopelessness? He was starving to death, nothing to eat. What to do? Where to go? For sure, he could have starved to death. He knew full well, "I can’t go back to my brother." We know his attitude. We know what he said with his self righteous spirit. There would be no welcome home if his father would have died. He would have perished in a far off land. If we did not have a merciful Father, one who understands us, who accepts us when we have fallen and made mistakes is full of mercy, we can thank God our father for ever and ever. He got to know his father as never ever before. 


There is a story, I tell it sometimes. It concerns my father. When I was a boy, life was tough. My father came home from the war penniless to start life again with nothing with my mother, with my brother, with myself. Life was hard. He had to work long hours. He worked very hard to try and start right at the beginning after those war years. My impression was, "Father was so hard. Father doesn’t love. He has no time for us. Father doesn’t play with us. All father does is complain about us when we do wrong, punishes us." That was the impression I had of my father in my early boyhood years.  One day, something happened. He working in a foundry. There he had to deal with molten iron, molten metal. One day, that molten metal fell onto his foot and burnt him right to the bone. He spent weeks in hospital having skin grafts and all the rest of it. He came home after a number of weeks with life-long scars on his foot. When he came home, I asked him, “Dad, when that happened, did you cry?” I might have been 10 years-old, I forget now. He said, “No, I never cried.” When it happened, he ran to a barrel of water and plunged his foot into the water to quench the burning fire on his foot. That molten iron so hot, so burning, he bore all that without shedding one tear.  Sometime later, maybe one year three years I’ve forgotten, I did something wrong and father punished me severely. He was right. He sent me to bed that night without any tea, sent me to bed hungry. The next morning, my mother said to me, “Last night when you went to bed, your father wept over you. He shed tears over you.” That man who could bear the pain of molten iron burning into his foot, the searing pain of molten iron burning to the bone without shedding a tear. When his own son did something wrong, he shed tears. That was my father. I thought he was severe, thought he was hard, thought he was there to just punish me when I did wrong. From that day on, I had a different picture of my father. The prodigal son who went away from his father to the distant land, when he came back his testimony would be, “I never knew my father was like this - so kind, full of goodness, so gentle such a merciful father.” Jesus said, "Go and learneth what that meanest, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice.'" 


Mercy is our only hope for the future.  There’s a verse I like it is in Psalm 23, the last verse says, “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." I like that verse. I will tell you why - once I was visiting a convention in a different country. I didn’t understand the language. In those days, there was no translation for us. You just sit there for 2 hours and not understand a word of what is being said in a foreign language. I sat there that day. The longer I sat, the more I became depressed. I thought about the past and my weaknesses, about my shortcomings. The more I thought, the deeper I sank into depression. I became a hopeless case, "There’s no hope for me, there’s no future for me to have made those silly mistakes in the past." I thought all this in that foreign country until suddenly this verse burst into my mind, “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Sometimes we think our past will catch up with us. Our past will follow us all the days of our life until we reach our grave, but it is good to know that this verse is a promise given to the sheep to avail themselves.


“Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” I am so glad for this promise of God but this promise was only given to the sheep from the shepherd. All those wonderful promises in this Psalm - a paradise for the sheep, so much to enjoy and to experience, to have where the sheep were concerned, all the provision there was only for the sheep from the shepherd. If we follow the shepherd, then we will be sure Goodness and Mercy will follow us. There in the Old Testament, the children of Israel - they camped there on the shores of the red sea with Egypt. Behind, they saw the red sea, no way to cross over to the other side no bridge, no ships. The way seemed to be shut. They saw the Egyptians in the distance. Did they hear the cries of the soldiers? Did they hear the noise of the horses, see the chariots, see the clouds of dust? I do not know but I know they knew they were coming closer and closer and thought, "Our past is catching up with us. The slavery, the hard years, the blows from the whip, the hard work, it is catching up with us." Have you ever thought that my past will catch up with me one day? But God let the cloud that was before them now go behind them and provided a wall between them the Israelites and the Egyptians. There was no way through, in that sense. On that day, on that night, God took care of the past. So nice to know that Goodness and Mercy followeth us all the days of our life. If we are prepared to follow the shepherd, there is conditions for us and a price we have to pay, we are so dependant on the mercy of God. Debbie told us about that woman taken in adultery and then Jesus writing of the ground and Jesus saying, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.” There was mercy and truth. Mercy - “I do not condemn thee.” Truth - “Go and sin no more.” 

 

Ten days ago, I read in Mathew’s gospel the sermon on the mount. It spoke there about the beam in your own eye and the splinter in your brother's eye. Before you can take out the splinter out of your brother's eye, we need to take out the beam out of our own eye.  We see the splinter in our brother’s eye, we see his weakness and failings and we fail to see the beam in our own eye. Then we see the Pharisees bringing this woman to Jesus. They were very conscious that she had made a mistake. She committed adultery and the Bible says she must be stoned but what did God say? They brought her with that sin and made it clear to Jesus they saw the splinter in her eye but didn’t see the beam in their own eye. You say adultery is more than a splinter, that’s a beam. Yes, she did do wrong. It is completely wrong to commit adultery, but the spirit of the Pharisees was worse than the sin of that woman, their spirit of condemnation, their spirits of judging, their spirit of self righteousness, the spirit that they had was worse than what the woman did.

 

A story of a certain man who wasn’t professing. I do believe his wife was professing. I do believe he came to a lot of meetings especially the gospel meetings. Yes, he smoked and smoked a box of cigarettes every day we know. When a person smokes, there  is a certain smell. It gets onto the hands of the smoker, the breath of the smoker, the clothes, but there were some of our good friends - I won’t say self-righteous friends - who knew a little better. Sometimes they see the splinter in others' eyes. They went up to him and said, "You should give up that smoking, you stink of smoke." That man said, “Your spirit stinks more than my smoking.”


Those Pharisees said, "Stone her," but the sins in the spirit are worse than the sins in the flesh. There was lack of mercy on their part and they missed everything. They left the presence of Jesus, didn’t receive Mercy, didn’t receive forgiveness they went away. As they were self-righteous Pharisees, they missed the whole thing. They missed Salvation as far as God was concerned. What did Jesus write on the ground? I like to think of it in this line in the Old Testament times, "Go to the market place and buy an animal." You might buy a goat or different things. In the market place, they would write your goods in the sand - one goat, and the price, one bushel of wheat then the price, you will buy something else and something else and the price was written next to the item. Then the stall owner will tally up the total and you would pay the price. Once the buyer paid for the articles, the seller would rub it out with his hand or foot. The bill was paid. What did Jesus write? Jesus couldn’t say, "It is now the New Testament, it’s now different." He couldn’t say that. He came from God. He was the word of God. He was the law of God. He couldn’t change it and say, “In this case, it doesn’t matter.” What did he write? “One Woman. Adultery, price is death. I will pay the price.” He went to Calvary’s cross and He died for that woman and He died for me and He died for you. He paid the price. The price was sin, He paid the price. As John says, the law came by Moses by punishment but by Jesus Christ, there came grace and truth. It's still true, it’s still the law of God but it is wonderful to know that when we do make mistakes, when we do fail, when the price has to be paid and there had to be punishment that Jesus paid the price. This is mercy. I need mercy but I need to learn how to be more merciful towards others.