When I lived in Fredericton I liked to run. My problem was I thought I could run faster and further than I actually could. Ruth constantly reminded me that I was going to hurt myself because I wasn’t in good enough physical shape to run the distances I attempted. Being a typical husband I agreed with her wisdom in the house, but once out the door I forgot everything she said. Then one day while running a long way from home my knee let go. There I stood on the side of the road with a knee that didn’t work and agonizing pain shooting through my knee. Having no cell phone I limped to a near by house and called home. As I hobbled along the road I longed for Ruth to arrive and give me a ride, but I dreaded the “I told you so” that was so well deserved. She never said a word about my unbelievable arrogance in thinking I could run such distances, instead showered me with concern as she drove me to the hospital. She gave compassion when I deserved a lecture.
God is like that. He gives us direction and advice then we totally ignore it and go our own way never giving Him a second thought. Next thing we know we run into trouble and we’re stranded. So this is it. This is when God climbs all over us and gives us an ear full. He’s so angry at our foolishness that He doesn’t even listen to our pleadings for help. Maybe that’s what we deserve but that’s not what we get. Instead of a tirade we receive compassion. During the Babylonian captivity Jerusalem and the Temple lay in ruins. Daniel in fervent prayer asks God to return His people to Jerusalem and allow them to restore the alter. Notice how Daniel frames the request. “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” Daniel 9:18b What comfort and assurance are in those words. God brings compassion and hope into our lives, not because we deserve it, but because of His love and mercy. Paul tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But Paul doesn’t leave us there; he completes his thought in the next verse,” and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Romans 3:24 Paul tells us that we all have sinned but God doesn’t condemn us for those sins. He redeems us through the sacrifice of Christ.
Think about this for a moment. Jesus is hanging on the cross and the representatives of humanity hang on either side in the form of two thieves. One mocks Jesus and throws away his opportunity for mercy and salvation. “But the other criminal rebuked him, ‘don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same punishment justly for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Luke 23:40, 41 Jesus didn’t leave this poor man wondering and hoping that maybe he will be remembered. Instead Jesus, while hanging on the cross, gives assurance, hope and mercy to the man. Jesus answers, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43 The thief realized Jesus could save him so he called out in his pain and desperation and Jesus answered.
We can’t stray so far from God that He doesn’t seek us out. Paul quoting Isaiah writes, “I was found by those who did not seek me, I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” Romans 10:20 The thief may have thought the cross would surely separate him from God, but Jesus found him there, forgave him and invited him into the kingdom of God. “Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow.” Isaiah 1:18 There is no “I told you so”, just compassion and mercy. Jesus leaves no one limping along the road.