READ: Deuteronomy 16-17
THINK: How would you define justice? How would you describe mercy? Justice could be defined as getting exactly what one deserves, whether reward or punishment. Mercy, on the other hand, is being spared from the consequences or punishment one deserves. So are these traits compatible? They almost seem contradictory, yet both exist perfectly balanced in God's character. God's perfect justice means that He must judge all evil and wrongdoing, because the penalty for defiance against Him must be paid. That fact is illustrated over and over in God's law. Yet God is also merciful-willing to spare us from the ultimate consequences of sin. Through a perfectly crafted plan, God satisfied His own justice and paid sin's penalty through the willing sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. Because of Jesus, the Father offers mercy and forgiveness to all who entrust their lives to Him. This not only spares us from the punishment we deserve, it provides the ultimate reward we do not deserve-and that's the definition of grace.
RESPOND: What great event in Israel's history does the Passover commemorate? (See article on The Passover, p. 114 in the FBSE.) What kinds of offerings were the people to bring to God during the Feast of Weeks (16:10), and how did individuals determine the amount of their offerings? In what way do leaders pervert justice when they discriminate or accept bribes (16:19-20)? Why did sacrifices to God have to be "without defect (17:1)"? In Old Testament times, why was God's law so strict against tolerating evil behavior in the community? (See 17:7 note.) Do you think God still feels the same about evil among His people? Why or why not? In New Testament churches, why doesn't God require the same immediate penalty for defying Him and worshiping other things? What will ultimately happen to those who do such things? When the Israelites eventually had a king, why was he to refrain from accumulating great wealth (17:17)? What was a king supposed to do to guard against his own disobedience and selfish pride (17:18-20)?
PRAY: Praise God for His justice and His mercy. Pray for His help in being humble and compassionate toward others.
ACT: If God has blessed you with ample resources and material things, give back to ministry accordingly to help advance God's work through your church or its missions efforts. Be careful not to alienate or discriminate against anyone today. Instead, treat everyone you encounter with fairness, kindness, compassion and encouragement.
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