The “Severe Mercy” of God’s Judgment

Friday is for Heart Songs

“During this interval David was free to enjoy to the full that which he had acquired through his wrongdoing. The one obstacle which lay in the way of the free indulgence of his passion was removed; Bathsheba was now his.  Apparently, the king, in his palace, was secure and immune. So far there had been no intervention of God in judgment, and throughout those months David had remained impenitent for the fearful crimes he had committed. Alas, how dull the conscience of a saint may become. But if David was pleased with the consummation of his vile plans, there was One who was displeased. The eyes of God had marked his evil conduct, and the divine righteousness would not pass it by. `These things has thou done, and I kept silence,’ yet He adds `but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.’ (Psalm 50:21)”[1]

            God is a long-suffering God.  He was aware of every thought, every action David took, and yet He was merciful to David.  When I say that God was merciful to David, you might think I mean merciful in sparing David’s life.  You’re right of course; that is a great example of God’s mercy, but that is not the whole picture. 

            I have in mind the mercy of God‘s judgment.

            “Judgment?” you say.  “How can judgment be merciful?  I have read the rest of the book, and the judgment of God upon David is terrifying!  No wonder God has so few friends.” (See 2 Samuel 12 for God’s judgment and the rest of the book for its out-working.)

            All that is true. Nevertheless, it was a great mercy of God, displayed in judgment, which made it possible for David to experience renewed relationship with God.  C.S. Lewis, writing to Sheldon Vanauken,[2] a friend who had lost his wife to cancer, said that God had shown Vanauken a “severe mercy” in taking his wife from him.  Lewis went on to explain that sometimes our hearts are so closed to the next step in our spiritual pilgrimage that God’s mercy often looks and feels like God’s judgment.

            Is there anything in your life that will make God’s mercy toward you take on the character of judgment?  Why not confess it now and rejoice in the knowledge that “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.” (Heb. 12:10, NASB)

[1] Arthur W. Pink, The Life of David, Vol.2, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Book House, 1958), 38.

[2] Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, (New York, NY: Harper and Row Publishers, 1977).

One thought on “The “Severe Mercy” of God’s Judgment

  1. Brought over from Facebook.

    Christoph Koebel
    think less of nations and more of people

    Robert Criss
    got to pray for leadership AND people. Jer 29:7 – pray that things go well for the city that your lives may go well… 1 Tim. 2:1… – First, pray for civil authorities… now on a more precise note LOL toward Marty. Him, not real concerned about…me- pride of life…an incredibly real battle keeping God in front. The Criss heritage is not known for humbleness and prayerfulness. Regardless of what lies ahead I need to be on my knees a lot more…still no calluses on the knees. Also remembering I need to be concerned about Marty too. People that are active in their Christian faith get attacked hard by the evil one. Praying for Chris and Marty today…

    Robert Criss
    oh-and in Jeremiah – note the circumstances…


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