Optimism in a Falling World- Jonah 4:1-3

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
And he prayed unto the Lord, and said, I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.

COMMENTARY

In my last post I considered the people of Nineveh, whom God had been preparing to destroy, but then He spared them when they ended up repenting of their sins and returned back to Him.

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.
And he said, Was not this my saying, when in my country? Therefore I fled: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.
And Jonah couldn’t stand it! This is the first point in the story where it is explained why Jonah initially ran from the city of Nineveh. The natural assumption would be that he was afraid of the people, nervous that they would murder him for pronouncing doom upon them. But it turns out this wasn’t his concern at all. What he was afraid of was that God would show the people mercy!
Jonah wanted those people to die! He didn’t want to warn them about it and give them a chance to repent. He wanted them to stay wicked so that they would die.

Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live
Jonah is a miserable being. Throughout the rest of the book God patiently tries to get through to him, but we never do find out what became of the man in the end.
But my reason for bringing him up is because he is far from the only person to desire vengeance on the world. There are many who are excited to see our falling world burn. And I am not referring to people outside of religion, either. I have heard members of many churches who, like Jonah, were gleefully looking forward to the world getting what it deserved, intending to gloat over the suffering of the wicked.
Such may be surprised when the fiery brimstone falls from heaven and it is centered on their own home!

Influence and Persuasion- Matthew 23:37, Nehemiah 9:30-31 (NIV), Psalm 103:8

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples.
But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

COMMENTARY

O Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee
By your Spirit you warned them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention
Yesterday I looked at the example of how Satan tries to force certain behaviors from us, and the methods of fear and manipulation he uses when we resist him. Today I want to look at the example of how God influences and persuades His children when they resist the behavior He wants for them.
And as it turns out, the entire Old Testament is a lesson in exactly this! So many of its passages are focused around a chosen people who will not meet their better nature. God wants one thing, they want another, and we get to see how He deals with that conflict.

How often would I have gathered thy children, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
Yet they paid no attention, so you gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples
And the first of God’s methods I find is that of patience. We see that patience first in how he handles the rebelling of His children. He would gather them, but they refuse, and so He lets them go. He does not try to force them, He lets them choose, and then He lets them reap the natural consequence of those actions.
God cautioned Israel that their neighboring nations only meant them harm, but Israel still chose to make friends with them and adopt their philosophies and theologies. And rather than try to interject Himself, God just let things play out.

In your great mercy you did not put an end to them, for you are a gracious and merciful God
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy
And what is it that God is patiently waiting for? For His children to finally return. Even though they betrayed and abandoned Him, He still waits to give them love. Here we see His second and third principles: to be merciful and forgiving.
He lets us choose for ourselves, He lets us go when we choose to leave, but He’s still there for us when we return. In each step He waits for us to act under our own volition. There is none of the “forcing” we saw from Satan, only patience and mercy.

Justice and Mercy- Summary

I began this study with the thought that justice and mercy might simply be two sides of the same principle. As I worked through the scriptures, though, I’m starting to think I was wrong. Each is distinct from the other, but both work together for our good.
The way I would define them now is that justice is the principle of fairness by which sin is punished and virtue is rewarded. Mercy is the conduit by which the punishment of justice can be diverted to Jesus’s atoning sacrifice, and the blessing of justice can be received by us.
In any case, I’ve certainly gained a deeper appreciation for why both of these principles needs to exist. Without both, God’s plan for us could not be fulfilled.

Laws Provide Blessings When Followed, but Curses When Broken

Commandments are not given to restrict or condemn. They are given to enable our betterment. It is by receiving and following law that we receive blessings. Every blessing comes as the result of adhering to some law of God’s, and our spiritual maturity is developed by bending our will to His.
However a law cannot simply include a principle and a reward for when it is followed. A law must also detail a punishment for when that principle is defied. Once both consequences, one good and one bad, are affixed to the principle, then the demands of justice will swing one way or the other dependent upon our behavior.
Doctrine and Covenants 130:20-21- There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated. And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
2 Nephi 2:11- For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.

All of us Have Fallen Short of God’s Laws

This certainly seems like a straightforward plan to receiving all that is good, and avoiding all that is bad. All one has to do is keep the law perfectly. And it would be a simple path to perfection, if not for the fact that we are born with a tendency to sin. We are imperfect beings, with imperfect minds and bodies, susceptible to coercion, deception, and misunderstanding.
We all have our particular strengths, areas by which Satan always seems to fail in his efforts to sway us. But also have our weaknesses. And Satan does find them, exploit them, and sooner or later each one of us tastes of forbidden fruit and now stand condemned by the law that was supposed to have liberated us.
With all of the human race failing to attain perfection, we would be doomed as a whole to eternal damnation.
Romans 3:23- For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God
Moses 6:55- And the Lord spake unto Adam, saying: Inasmuch as thy children are conceived in sin, even so when they begin to grow up, sin conceiveth in their hearts, and they taste the bitter

Jesus’s Sacrifice Restores us to the Benefits of Justice Via Mercy

Except there was one man who didn’t break a single one of God’s laws. Jesus of Nazareth was the only human ever to walk a perfect life. I do not know how much of that was due to the extra dose of divinity that ran through his veins, or whether it was simply due to his personal nature. In either case, the fact is he was born a human, was therefore put under the same law of perfection, and he actually managed to fill that measure in its entirety.
While I do not know the reasons why, one requirement for being able to replace one law with another seems to be fulfilling the first. As the only one to manage that particular feat, Jesus was free to take the punishment for all of our failings on himself, supplant the demands of perfection, and grant us mercy instead.
Alma 34:14, 16- And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.
And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice.


Justice and Mercy- Matthew 7:2, 12

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

COMMENTARY

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law

We have discussed how the intervention of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice allows the demands of justice to be satiated in regards to our failures to follow’s God law. Which of course means we can be shown mercy, forgiveness, and all other blessings God has to bestow.
And that includes enjoying all of the positive sides of justice. Once we are no longer under fear of its punishment, then we see really it is a principle given for our own empowerment.
Following the golden rule is the right way to treat others, it is what God wants of us and it cultivates the best qualities in our soul. But even after all that, it also allows for justice to tip the scales in our favor. If we do unto others as we would wish to receive, then sooner or later we will receive that which we wish. We will knock and it will be answered, we will seek and we will find. If we forgive freely, then justice demands we be forgiven freely. If we look for the good in others, we will find the good in our selves as well. This is the side of justice God always meant to show to us. The justice of His mercy.

Justice and Mercy- Galatians 3:7, 2 Nephi 2:7, Alma 42:22

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.

But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.

COMMENTARY

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law
Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law

But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth
Because of our imperfections, each of us must face the punishment which justice demands for breaking God’s laws. At least so it would be if God had not already foreseen this dilemma and provided an escape from it. His plan was always to introduce a Savior that could intercede between us and the law, pay the penalty of our sins, and thus grant us mercy instead.
As Christ was able to perfectly fulfill the demands of God’s law, he was able to author for us a new law to follow, one that each of us is actually capable of fulfilling. This law is the law of repentance.
Christ’s mercy is freely available, but only to those that subscribe to this new law. To those that do, they do not only receive the reward tied to that law (forgiveness), they also receive the reward of God’s higher law of perfection as well (salvation).
Whereas before we could only ever see the curse of the law and never the blessing, now we have the opportunity to enjoy only the benefits of justice and never the penalties.

Justice and Mercy- Galatians 3:11, Romans 3:23, 2 Nephi 2:5

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. Yea, by the temporal law they were cut off; and also, by the spiritual law they perish from that which is good, and become miserable forever.

COMMENTARY

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God
And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off
I mentioned yesterday that the gospel is given as God’s highest law, one for which the promised blessing is salvation, the greatest of all His gifts. But given the facts that this law demands perfection and that we are all incapable of perfection, the only logical conclusion is that one would be better off avoiding this gift entirely! Who cares what the reward is if you have a 0% chance of obtaining it? Better that you don’t make any promises to God and therefore never break them. Right?
But even those that reject this higher law still are culpable for their inability to keep even the basic law of their own conscience, a law which is inescapable. As the above scriptures make abundantly clear: if salvation is the reward for obeying the laws, then damnation must be the punishment for breaking them. And we have all broken them, and so we are all damned.

Now obviously I am pausing for dramatic effect. You know and I know that this isn’t the end of the story. Each of these doom-and-gloom verses are immediately followed by declarations of hope. Tomorrow we’ll examine how mercy enters the scene, and does so in a way that still preserves the sanctity of justice. Before we do that, though, I think it is worthwhile to pause and consider the sober realities of what life without a Savior would be like.

Justice and Mercy- Question

If there’s one principle in the gospel we love, it is mercy. And if there is one that we fear, it is justice. Yet both of these principles are of God, and so we must assume that both of them are good. Though Satan has many creations in this world, Justice is not one of them.

In fact, the more I think about these two principles, the more I start to think that they are far more similar to one another than they first appear. Honestly I think they might just be two sides of the exact same coin. Distinct from one another, yes, but rooted in the exact same law.

Throughout this study we will take a closer look at each, the systems by which they operate, the opportunities to use both for our advantage, and the way that each intersects at the moment of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. In the meanwhile I’d love to hear your take on Justice and Mercy. What are ways you have been blessed by each? Are there times where you have seen that Justice to one person appears as Mercy to another?