In our current series we’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in 1648. This week I want to continue answering the question, ‘What is God?’ Previously we’ve seen ten things about God: He is a spirit, infinite, glorious, blessed, perfect, all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, everywhere, knowledgeable, wise, holy and just.
This week we see that God is also merciful, gracious and patient – attributes that are all closely related to one another. In Nehemiah we read how these attributes of God were displayed in his relationship to the sinful Israelites: ‘They sinned against your ordinances, by which a man will live if he obeys them. Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples. But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God’ (Nehemiah 9:29-31).
And God is still merciful, gracious and patient with sinners today. The author of Hebrews gives us this advice: ‘Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16). Humans are in a desperate time of need. They have sinned repeatedly against the almighty God and need his mercy and grace. And thankfully we can approach him for grace and mercy. But how? If God is a just God then as we have already seen in previous weeks, he cannot show us grace and mercy and still be just. The author of Hebrews explains to us that our sin is dealt with in the sacrifice of Christ: ‘But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself’ (Hebrews 9:26). In Jesus the justice of God was met for our sin and so God can graciously and mercifully let us into heaven.
And thankfully God is patient today too, waiting for you to believe in his son’s sacrifice for your sin. We read in 1 Peter: ‘He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9). So do you acknowledge that God is merciful and gracious toward your sins, forgiving them through Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross? Or will you try his patience?