Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Tonight I watched a girl sign the song, “The Mercy Seat”. The sign she made for mercy was rolling both hands over and over. It struck me as so appropriate when being compared to God’s mercy---it extends to us over and over as we are so needing of it. It also reminded me of a Bible story.

The church leaders found her in the very act of adultery. Probably she was of such character, that they knew she would be an easy target. What an embarrassing position to be caught in by the holier than-thou-church leaders of the day—possibly unclothed and with someone that was indeed not her husband! She tried to pass it off like she didn’t care with them, yet she did. She really did want to be accepted, but her lot in life had been hard, she had fallen on hard times, and somehow had found herself trapped in a lifestyle that no one would personally desire. Now at this stage in her life, she knew even if she changed, no one would forget, no one would ever again think good of her, so why try to change? Yet in her inmost soul, she felt her dirtiness and shame as they dragged her along. What was the purpose of this intrusion on her life? If they had been going to put her to death as the law demanded, why had they not done it years before? Perhaps, because some of them in the dark of night had also visited her? She was not worried of death, but felt a sense of foreboding, and knew they would not drag her out in the daylight for anything good. She looked up and realized she was at the door of the temple—why, oh, why, would they bring her to such a holy place? She had not been near the doors since she was very young. This was not good.
In though the doors, and up toward the front where a young man stood teaching. Her cheeks burned at being here in her condition, and grabbed at her hastily put on robes, arranging them to cover her more thoroughly as she heard the voice of one of her captors speak,
"Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. In his teachings, Moses ordered us to stone women like this to death. What do you say?"
Fear struck her heart then. So they were trying to put her to death! Yet, with the fear, came anger. She knew the man that spoke, she knew him intimately, and how was it that the law would only judge her? It was so unfair! What would this supposed Teacher say? Bravely, she lifted her eyes as the man turned toward her. His eyes fastened on hers. She had never seen such eyes. She knew men, and she knew their leering looks, their admiring looks, their lustful looks, but this woman had never had someone look at her like this. She began to tremble violently—perhaps she should look down--yet she could not!! Was he reading her heart? Could he see her soul? Yet, it almost seemed that there was compassion and love in that intense gaze.
When she felt as if she could bear his searching eyes no longer, he turned without looking at her captors, and knelt in the dirt and began to write with his finger. The temple was very quiet as the men around her began to jostle forward. She was moved along with them with the viselike grip that one had on her arm. In spite of herself, she craned her neck forward that she might see too. He was writing the Ten Commandments in the dirt! When the church leaders realized what he was writing, a clamor of voices rose again in the air,
“Answer us, Master. We know these commandments, and we know what was inscribed on the tablets, but do you agree with what Moses said we were to do about the violation of the 7th commandment?”
Then he looked up, and the room immediately grew quiet as he looked at each of them face by face. When he at last spoke, it was a firm, gentle, but an oh-so-knowing voice.
"He, who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." And he knelt and continued writing on the ground.
The words were like a bombshell in the room. She realized they were testing this man in someway that she did not understand, and that it had never really been about her personally, yet even she knew how ungodly they were underneath their façade. Before them were the commandments written by God originally, and not a man among them was completely innocent of that list. There was rustling as they began to turn and the leave the temple with heads down, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest. There was no good answer with which to defend themselves. Finally, they were all gone, and all that was left in the room, was the Master and the woman.
She knew of her own sins. She knew this man was really holy, quite unlike the self-proclaimed, holy men that had just left the room. What would he do with her? Tears began to stream down her cheeks.
"Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?"
She looked up. He was looking at her with kind, gentle questioning eyes. Who was he? She could tell in those eyes that somehow He knew her, and yet he loved her! How could this be?! Her voice cracked as she spoke,
“No man, Lord.”
Somehow she was not frightened to look in His face anymore. A hint of a smile touched His lips as He spoke,
“Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.”
How could it be? He didn’t care what she had done in her life. He did not condemn her. He was forgiving her—he only cared that she sinned no more!! The woman knew in her heart of hearts that she had looked into the face of God in the moment, and she knew He was nothing like she had ever imagined him to be in the past. She knew Mercy. Maybe, just maybe, she could be different.

When I think of mercy, I think of this story, and know it to be true. He does not care about all the awful sins that you and I have committed, He, the truly pure and sinless One, cares only that we quit sinning. Each time we mess up, we bring it to Him, and find forgiveness and love, and here Him say,
“Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.”
Mercy, over and over, again. What a lovely word. Mercy.