Hebrews 4:14-16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
So what’s the difference? We talk about grace and we talk about mercy but do we understand what the difference is? It’s often we find both terms in scripture together as they are in Hebrews 4:16.
My husband loves Les Miserables. We have seen it about a gazillion times- plays, movies, every form possible. And I love that he loves it because it speaks of the heart of God. Jean Valjean is the protagonist and he is a lost man who has every right to be angry about all the injustice in his life. But instead of allowing God to soften him, he hardened. He hardened until he was confronted with the most amazing display of mercy and grace that he could have ever imagined and it forever changed him.
Jean Valjean encountered a kindness and he took advantage of it. He stole from the Priest who had taken him in, fed him and given him a place to sleep. Then he was caught. It was unimaginable, unthinkable for him to even contemplate returning to the prison he had just left. But there he was, a thief, caught red handed with the Priest’s silver. He was guilty.
And the Priest extended mercy. He released Jean Valjean from all debt owed to him due to the sin Jean Valjean had committed against him. Mercy- not receiving that which we deserve. We are released from payment for the sin we have committed. (Sound familiar?)
In Jean Valjean’s case, the act of mercy by the Priest crushed all of the stony parts of his heart and turned it once again into flesh.
And then what happened? The priest, having freed the thief from the debt of his sin, turns around and not only does not take back his silver, he goes and gets more silver and gives it to Jean Valjean to take on his way. Grace- receiving that which we don’t deserve.
Jean Valjean, being able to see clearly that the mercy and grace extended to him were both completely undeserved, was a transformed man for the rest of his days. He went forth and did good- took care of orphans and the poor.
He was confronted with mercy and grace and he chose to humble himself. He gained a new life, had a new name, and extended to others that which he had received.
And what of Javert, the man who believed justice excluded, by definition, mercy and grace? Do we all respond to mercy and grace in like fashion? No. The miserables- those who do not humble. There is a difference. There is a choice.
Jesus died for our sins so that we are set free from our own prison. He extends to us mercy and also grace. He has, by his choice, taken on Himself the burden of our sins. Be grateful- and be free.
Takeaway: Mercy means we don’t get what we do deserve. Grace means we get that which we don’t deserve. (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense) If we truly understand that what we deserve is death, then our joy will be immeasurable- infinitely changing us by the revelation of the enormity of the gift. We, too, will be out helping the poor, the orphaned, the downtrodden. It’s what He tells us to do.
Prayer: Lord, please cause me to understand and appreciate the incredible mercy that was extended to me on Calvary. Allow my days to be filled with the joy of my salvation. And God, thank you- more than any words can express- for the grace extended to me that my life is filled with your blessings. Help me to see them clearly- even to the air that I breathe. And Lord, cause me to share those blessings and who You are, with others along the way.