January 25

Exodus 25-27, Psalm 25

When I was around 20 years old, before I was a Christian, I worked as a pharmacy intern in a small pharmacy in Brooklyn ( I was a pharmacist prior to becoming a physician). Around 4 o'clock in the afternoon 3 men entered the store, 2 of them with guns. During the next 10 minutes, they chose me among the workers to get them the drugs they wanted and retrieve the money. Twice during the robbery they placed the nozzle of the gun against my forehead and threatened to kill me. At one point it looked like they were going to rape one of our co-workers. At the conclusion, they had us all lie down with our faces to the floor and shot a single round into the floor, between our heads. The one who fired, just stood there for another few seconds as we on the floor didn't yet know if anyone was killed and whether he was about to kill us one at a time. They then fled. I still remember my thoughts afterwards. I was angry and felt I had every right to judge these individuals. I was living my life "right", I was already engaged to my wife, was doing well in school, was being responsible, etc. After the robbery, I would look for them on the streets, while on the trains, hoping to see one of them unarmed so that I could get back at them and revenge what they had done. I realize now that these thoughts were wrong and not Christian. I was thinking without mercy or any forgiveness in my heart. On 6/17/15, Dylan Roof walked into a prayer meeting in a church in North Carolina, a self proclaimed white supremacist, and opened fire killing 9 innocent and defenseless people. The mayor of Charleston described the shooter as a horrible, hateful person. The President of the United States talked about gun control and expressed his anger toward the event. Yet the family members in a show of mercy at the bond hearing of Dylan Roof openly chose to forgive him. On 10/2/06 Charles Carl Robert went into an Amish school and assassination style executed 5 Amish school girls before taking his own life. The immediate response from the Amish community was forgiveness and reconciliation, even reaching out to the family of the shooter in an act of forgiveness that same day.

In today's reading we read about the centerpiece of the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Testimony along with its covering, the Mercy Seat. The Ark was only around 4ft x 2ft x 2ft, and eventually contained 3 items: the two tablets of stone containing the 10 commandments, a jar of manna, and Aaron's rod. We read in Exodus 25:17, "You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width." We see God's purpose for this in 25:22, "And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel." God chose to meet His people at the mercy seat. God chose to meet them, though their love was unmerited, unearned, and undeserved based on His mercy. God is the only one who has the right to judge, yet He chooses to extend mercy to the one who seeks it. Likewise, Jesus, our sinless Savior, also in a position to judge, while on the cross in Luke 23:34, said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." Charles Spurgeon said, "God in His infinite mercy has devised a way by which justice can be satisfied, and yet mercy can be triumphed. Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, took upon Himself the form of a man, and offered unto Divine Justice that which was accepted as an equivalent for the punishment due to all His people."

We must never forget that our current standing is a result of what He did, and not what we do. Many would prefer to come before God at the seat of their good works rather than the mercy seat. Once we realize our correct standing with Him, we must then ask ourselves whether in our relationship with others we choose to act in judgment, engage in fact finding missions in our attempt to prove ourselves right. Or do we choose to extend the mercy seat to others in our judgment. In Matthew 5:7, Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy." In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus gives the Parable of the Unmerciful or Unforgiving Servant. It should be a very eye opening portion of Scripture as the servant is forgiven of a debt that can not possibly be repaid, then in turn chooses to not forgive his fellow servant of a small debt. C.S. Lewis said, "To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you." May we, as Christians, be overflowing with mercy towards others, and be forever in gratitude for all that our Father has chosen to forgive in us.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster