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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.



There is a wideness in God’s mercy.

 Having pried myself out of bed before dawn at our Corolla, N.C., rental, I stand at the edge of the surf watching the sunrise. There is a very distant cloud bank the sun must climb above before throwing its liquid gold upon the mild waves, so I have time to contemplate the mercy of God.

I saved this attribute of God for our beach vacation, knowing that the ocean is a wonderful visual for the concept. As the hymn says, “There is a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea.”

Psalm 103 beautifully adds to this idea of expansiveness:

“For as the heaven is high above the earth,
so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:11-12)

But we cannot access his mercy on our own. Here at the Outer Banks, there is an impressive dune that requires sets of stairs to cross over. It reminds me that mercy is such a structure – I can’t approach God in my sinful state without his action on my behalf.

John Tillotson, a 17th century Archbishop of Canterbury, makes this point powerfully:

God is merciful to us… when we have deserved all the misery that is upon us, and have with violent hands pulled it upon our own heads, and have been the authors and procurers of it to ourselves.

Augustine says that the start of our spiritual transformation comes with the “unbought and gratuitous” mercy of God. Standing before the vastness of the sea this morning, it’s easy for one to feel the unworthiness of such a gift.

This, however, is just one facet of God’s mercy. Tillotson, in the same sermon, enumerates other forms it can take:

  1. Preventing mercy: God turns away “many evils and miseries which we are liable to.”
  2. Forbearing mercy: God delays our deserved punishment.
  3. Comforting mercy: “supporting those that are afflicted and cast down”
  4. Relieving mercy: after using troubles to “throw men upon their backs, to make them look up to heaven,” God is “very ready to remove them.”
  5. Pardoning mercy: “And here the greatness and fulness of God’s mercy appears, because our sins are great.

How large is the sum of his mercy! As I get older, I seem to become more aware of my own sins and shortcomings. But God’s mercy forces me to take my eyes off myself and onto his glorious gift of redemption.

Like the enormity of the ocean, the grandness of that gift is worth contemplating.

It is great mercy. There is nothing little in God; his mercy is like himself—it is infinite. You cannot measure it. His mercy is so great that it forgives great sins to great sinners, after great lengths of time, and then gives great favours and great privileges, and raises us up to great enjoyments in the great heaven of the great God.      Charles Spurgeon

Like the wideness of the sea.

When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view I’m lost
In wonder, love, and praise.

Reader: What reminds you of the greatness of God’s mercy?

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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