Theme: When Mercy and Justice Meet
This week’s lessons instruct us of the need to put our trust in God throughout our lives, because he alone will never let us down.
Scripture: Psalm 25:1-22
Here are the things David has learned about God as he has studied the revelation God has given: 1) God is faithful, because “no one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame” (v. 3); 2) God is characterized by truth, because his paths are paths of truth (vv. 4, 5); 3) God is his Savior (v. 5); 4) God is merciful and loving and has been “from of old” (v. 6); 5) God is good and upright (v. 8); 6) Again, God is loving and faithful in all his ways (v. 10); 7) God is forgiving (v. 11); 8) God is open with his people and freely confides in them (v. 14); 9) God is gracious (v. 16); and 10) God is powerful to rescue his people; therefore he is one in whom they can take refuge (vv. 15, 20).
Two of these characteristics deserve special mention, since they are brought together strikingly in verse 8. They are “goodness” and “uprightness” or, as we would more naturally say, “mercy” and “justice.” It is a significant combination, because without God’s special revelation to us in this area we cannot see how God can be both good and upright at the same time, at least for us. We can understand how God can be good or merciful and therefore want to save us from our sins. That is why we can be bold to appeal to him. But how can God be just while doing it? Doesn’t justice require that he condemn us for our transgressions?
The only adequate answer to this dilemma is Jesus Christ, who satisfied the justice of God by bearing our punishment in our place on the cross. His death satisfied the justice of God completely, allowing him to forget about our sins and thus reach out to save us graciously.
In his commentary on the psalms Harry Ironside tells of visiting a very old Christian. The man was about ninety years old and he had lived a godly life. However, in his last days he sent for Ironside because, as he expressed it, “Everything seems so dark.”
“Whatever do you mean?” asked Ironside. “You have known the Lord for nearly seventy years. You have lived for him a long, long time. You have helped others. Whatever do you mean ‘dark’?”
The man replied, “In my illness, since I have been lying here so weak, my memory keeps bringing up the sins of my youth, and I cannot get them out of my mind. They keep crowding in upon me, and I cannot help thinking of them. They make me feel miserable and wretched.”
Ironside turned to this psalm and read the verse in which David prays, “Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.”
He read the words and said, “When you came to God seventy years ago you confessed your sin and put your trust in Jesus Christ. Do you remember what happened then?” The old man couldn’t remember. Ironside said, “Don’t you remember that when you confessed your sins God said, ‘Your sins and iniquities I will remember no more.’ If God has forgotten them, why should you think about them?”
The man relaxed and replied, “I am an old fool remembering what God has forgotten.”
He found peace because he had been instructed in the nature of God and God’s ways.5
List and define all the characteristics David learns about God in this psalm.
How can God be both merciful and just?
Application: Has Satan ever tried to bring up past sins that God has forgiven you in the Lord Jesus Christ? How does this psalm help to defeat that temptation?
For Further Study: To see an example of God’s faithfulness from the New Testament, download for free and listen to James Boice’s message from Romans 9:25-26, “Children of the Living God.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
5H. A. Ironside, Studies on Book One of the Psalms (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, 1952), pp. 157, 158.