I recently spent 2 Sundays at East Paris Baptist Church, in Paris. You know, Texas. One of the themes emerging from the texts of my 4 sermons there is that God’s mercy in this world is coextensive with His sovereignty. It’s an important idea in Scripture, and it can lend a bearing to our everyday interactions with people. To clarify:
Jonah (the book) has a powerful and poetic way of using stories to interlace the sovereignty of God with His mercy. Jonah’s use of land and sea, A Hebrew prophet and Gentile mariners, storm and calm, and a ship and a fish in the first story (not to mention the people of Nineveh, the cattle, the gourd, the worm, the wind, and the sun in the second) makes the case that God’s power and authority reach everywhere. But all of those images are present to guide us toward Jonah’s own unpleasant comeuppance that God has pursued him into the sea and sent him to Nineveh precisely to give mercy to the people Jonah and his readers believe deserve it least.
Similarly, the 146th Psalm identifies the weakness of the most powerful among us, reminding us that every human ends up returning to the ground; it then sets Yahweh in contrast, as the powerful One in whom real hope can be found. Yet the beauty of the Psalm lies in the contrast not between weakness and power, but between those who are perceived as powerful using what they have to oppress, and the One who actually is powerful using what He has to execute justice for the oppressed. That is, the relationship between mercy and sovereignty is neither coincidental nor accidental. Rather, for God, mercy is sovereignty’s chosen expression.
In that light, Jesus’ protection of and care for the oppressed and James’s rebuke of churches neglecting those in “vile raiment” make perfect sense.
To the extent God has blessed us He has given us power—freedom, advantage, opportunity, strength. But power in His economy—power in His family—is for the sake of those who don’t have it. As we convert freedom to obedience, advantage becomes kindness, opportunity sacrifice, and strength service. But most importantly, we become like our Father.