The Law of Moses makes no provision for deliberate, intentional rebellion. Sins done out of weakness or by accident can be forgiven, but not sins of presumption, sins done in defiance of Gods laws. There was no sacrifice provided for this. A person who sinned with a high hand was left to helplessly wait for Gods judgment. Listen:
But the person who does anything defiantly
that one is blaspheming the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the Word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off, his guilt shall be on him (Nu 15:30).
If that were the extent of Gods mercy, many of us
no, most of us, would be left with no place to turn. Its no wonder people fled into the safety of rigid legalism. They were driven there by the fear that they might cross the line between intentional and unintentional sin and be left condemned. They concluded it would be better to live enslaved to rules, than to do something that might be unforgivable.
And then along came David who committed terrible sins, and did them deliberately. There was no atonement for adultery and murder, only justice. So what hope could there be for him? Yet God gave David a level of mercy deeper than anything the Law of Moses could offer. Instead of running away from God because of his shame, David ran to Him. He openly confessed his sins, he fully acknowledged the wicked motives in his heart, and he boldly asked that mercy be given to him because he trusted in Gods loving kindness (hesed: the mercy God promised to give His people). He stood before God and reminded Him that He had promised to love His people and be merciful to them (Dt 7:6-10). And God gave him mercy. He forgave him and created a clean heart in him, and did not take the Holy Spirit from him (Ps 51:10, 11).
The mercies of David
In that moment David laid hold of a level of Gods grace deeper than anything the Law could give. And in doing so, he showed us a new way to God. He gave hope to those enslaved to the failures of their past, those with no excuse for the terrible things they have done, those whove done things they knew were wrong but did them anyway.
When Paul was invited to address a synagogue in central Asia Minor, he stood up and told them that because God had raised Jesus from the dead, never to die again, the mercies of David were available to anyone who would believe in Jesus. When he said this he actually quoted from Isaiah 55:3, a passage most of them would have recognized instantly. Heres what they heard when he said these words:
By holding this promise before them Paul was saying God was inviting them to come to Him with words something like this:
If you will come to Me like David did, and confess your sins and call on Me for mercy, trusting in My promise to love you and be merciful to you, because I cut a covenant with you through the death and resurrection of My Son, then I will give you mercy like I gave David. Dont run away from Me and hide. Come to Me. Im not like you, Im far more merciful than youll ever comprehend.
The greatest promise (v32)
The promise that God will give the gift of righteousness to those who repent and believe is deeply connected to the promise of eternal life. One leads to the other. The ultimate goal of righteousness is the restoration of our access to the tree of life (Ge 3:22-24), eternal fellowship with God.
The hope that burned in the hearts of the fathers of Israel (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) wasnt that they would grow richer or more comfortable in this world. They longed for something far more precious than that. Like you and me they were drawing closer to death one day at a time, so the promise they treasured above all others was the promise that someday God would raise them up from the grave to live with Him forever. In other words, the promise they pursued most passionately was the promise of eternal life. Listen:
Hebrews 11:9, 10, 13-16
The greatest tragedy for Adam and Eve was that they were driven out of the garden of Eden so they couldnt take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever (Ge 3:22). God drove them out of the garden and stationed a cherubim with a flaming sword to guard the way to the tree of life. On that terrible day He handed them over to death.
No wonder Paul said he had good news to preach. He was announcing to this synagogue full of Jews and Gentiles that God had at last fulfilled His promise to the fathers that He would make a way back to that tree of life. He would raise them, and all who shared their faith, from the dead. This wonderful promise was no longer just a hope. It became reality the moment Jesus rose from the dead. The resurrection proved that He is the promised descendant of David, a man so holy He could not decay in the grave, the first person to overcome deaths grip, never to return.
In Psalm 2 David prophetically saw that day. He saw one of his own descendants begotten from the dead and become the eldest son of a new race of resurrected humans, men and women raised to such a level of glory and relationship they could be called sons of God (Ro 8:18-23). He heard Him say,
I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, You are My Son, today I have begotten you. (Ps 2:7)
Everyone who believes
Then in that synagogue in central Asia Minor, Paul gave an invitation to believe. He said, Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses (Ac 13:38, 39).
He was telling them that no matter what sins they had committed, because of Jesus Christ, God would give them mercy. Now, no sin was unforgiveable. God would give them the mercies of David. He proved this beyond the shadow of a doubt by raising Jesus to life. Jesus completely escaped death. He is the only human who did not remain in the grave and decay. And then Paul said those who believe will be given the greatest promise of all: the promise of eternal life. They too, along with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, will rise from the grave, never to return.
And finally, Paul closed his sermon with a warning. Quoting from Habakkuk, he reminded them that Israel didnt repent when the prophets spoke to them, and as a result they suffered greatly. In effect, he was saying Beware that you dont reject Gods Son and suffer the judgment that will come.
1) What do the mercies of David mean to you? Have you committed sins (intentional, rebellious) that the Law of Moses couldnt forgive?
2) Eternal life means we will be with God forever, but it also means we will be with all the people who believe in Him from Adam and Eve onward. Name someone you are looking forward to meeting. Tell us why.