Mercy Tree (Sturm)

Mercy Tree

For Music Monday today, I wanted to point out a song that’s been a blessing to me for my Christian walk: “Mercy Tree.” I’m familiar with Lacey Sturm’s rendition of it on the album “My Hope”. This song is a brief and straightforward proclamation of Christ’s death and resurrection – and the hope we have in this gospel. It’s also worth mentioning that as a teenager Lacey was a committed atheist. Her life was quite dark and full of pain to the point that she had planned to commit suicide. But God – through her grandma! – had other plans for her life. Long story short: now Lacey is sharing the hope of the gospel through music. Speaking of, here’s the song “Mercy Tree”:

On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree
Every broken weary soul
Find your rest and be made whole
Stripes of blood that stain its frame
Shed to wash away our shame
From the scars pure love released
Salvation by the mercy tree

In the spot between two thieves
Hung the blameless Prince of Peace
Bruised and battered, scarred and scorned
Sacred head pierced by our thorns
It is finished was His cry
The perfect lamb was crucified
His sacrifice, our victory
Our Savior chose the mercy tree

Hope went dark that violent day
The whole earth quaked at love’s display
Three days silent in the ground
This body born for heaven’s crown
On that bright and glorious day
When heaven opened up the grave
He’s alive and risen indeed!
Praise Him for the mercy tree!

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

One day soon, we’ll see His face
And every tear, He’ll wipe away
No more pain or suffering
Praise Him for the mercy tree

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

Death has died, love has won
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Jesus Christ has overcome
He has risen from the dead

On a hill called Calvary
Stands an endless mercy tree

Amen!

(Lacey Sturm, “Mercy Tree”)

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Hymn: Of A Rebel Made A Son (Newton)

The Works of John Newton (4 Volume Set)  Although this hymn by John Newton might have a few titles, one line in it would be my choice for a title: “…Of a rebel made a son.”  Whatever it is called, here’s Newton’s wonderful hymn that exalts the grace and love of Christ.  Say it out loud!

Saved by blood, I live to tell
What the love of Christ hath done;
He redeemed my soul from hell,
Of a rebel made a son:
Oh I tremble still to think
How secure I lived in sin,
Sporting on destruction’s brink
Yet preserved from falling in.

In his own appointed hour,
To my heart the Savior spoke;
Touched me by his Spirit’s power;
And my dangerous slumber broke.
Then I saw and owned my guilt:
Soon my gracious Lord replied,
‘Fear not, I my blood have spilt,
Twas for such as thee I died.’

Shame and wonder, joy and love;
All at once possessed my heart,
Can I hope thy grace to prove
After acting such a part?
‘Thou hast greatly sinned,’ said he,
‘But I freely all forgive,
I myself thy debt have paid,
Now I bid thee rise and live!’

Come my fellow sinners try;
Jesus’ heart is full of love
Oh that you, as well as I,
May his wonderous mercy prove!
He has sent me to declare,
All is ready, all is free:
Why should any soul despair,
When he saved a wretch like me?

John Newton, “Hear What He Has Done For My Soul”, Book III, Hymn 54.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

Noah, Moses, Judgment, Mercy (Wenham)

 In Genesis 8:20ff we read of Noah’s sacrifice that he offered soon after he, his family, and the animals exited the ark.  Here’s how the story goes after Noah’s sacrifice: And the Lord smelled the soothing aroma and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, even though the inclination of their minds is evil from childhood on. I will never again destroy everything that lives, as I have just done (NET).  Gordon Wenham has a helpful commentary on this part of the story.  Although Wenham doesn’t mention it here, this is another place in the Noah story that points us to Jesus:

There can be no doubt that man’s nature has not changed since before the flood. The milder language simply reflects his creator’s more lenient attitude after the flood. R. W. L. Moberly…has noted a similar example in Exod 33:3; 34:9 of a reason for divine judgment, “for you are a stiff-necked people,” being subsequently cited as a justification of his mercy.

“The striking similarity between the flood and Sinai, between Noah and Moses, is of great theological significance for the interpretation of each story.… The world, while still in its infancy, has sinned and brought upon itself Yahweh’s wrath and judgment. Israel has only just been constituted a people, God’s chosen people, yet directly it has sinned and incurred Yahweh’s wrath and judgment. Each time the same question is raised. How, before God, can a sinful world (in general) or a sinful people, even God’s chosen people (in particular), exist without being destroyed? Each time the answer is given that if the sin is answered solely by the judgment it deserves, then there is no hope. But in addition to the judgment there is also mercy, a mercy which depends entirely on the character of God and is given to an unchangingly sinful people” (Moberly).

Furthermore, in both narratives the role of the mediator is vital, whether it be Noah or Moses. “This mercy is shown through a man who is chosen by God and whose right response to God, whether through sacrifice or prayer, constitutes the necessary medium through which this mercy is shown” (Moberly, 92).

Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, vol. 1, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1987), 190–191.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Not My People; No Mercy! A Name Change (Green)

Two Horizons Commentary: 1 Peter In a brilliant and edifying way, the apostle Peter refers to Christians using numerous terms for Israel found in the Old Testament.  In 1 Peter 2, for example, he calls followers of Jesus “a holy priesthood” that offers up “spiritual sacrifices” (1:5 NASB).  He also says that believers are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” and “a people for God’s own possession” (1:9 NASB).  He then references the names of Hosea’s children in 2:10: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (NIV).  Here’s how Joel Green nicely comments on 2:10:

The consequence of God’s salvific work and choice is the creation of a people that previously did not exist (v. 10). In naming his children Loruhamah (“shown no mercy,” Hos 1:6) and Lo-ammi (“not my people,” Hos 1:9), Hosea had pronounced judgment on Israel, but also anticipated a reversal when his children would be renamed Ruhamah (“shown mercy,” 2:1, 23) and Ammi (“my people,” 2:1, 23). Borrowing these categories from Hosea, Peter deploys language used of the judgment and restoration of Israel to designate the significance of the conversion of his now-Christian audience—thus highlighting further the embeddedness of Christians in Israel’s story with the result that the Scriptures of Israel are seen more and more as the account of their heritage—and to celebrate the saving and generative mercy of God.

 Joel B. Green, 1 Peter, The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 63.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

Losing God’s Love? (Sibbes)

The Works of Richard Sibbes, vol. 7 There are times in the Christian life when, for various reasons, we don’t feel God’s love.  Sometimes the Christian doesn’t feel loved by God because of certain sins committed, because of a brutal affliction that weighs heavy, or because of something else.  Andrew Peterson put it this way in his song “Just As I Am”:

“All of my life I’ve held on to this fear / these thistles and vines ensnare and entwine / what flowers appear / it’s the fear that I’ll fall / one too many times / it’s the fear that His love / is no better than mine.”

In a sermon on Micah 7:18-20 Richard Sibbes (d. 1635) answered this fear as he reflected on God’s great mercy (the sermon is called “The Matchless Mercy”).  Below is the part of the sermon where Sibbes comments on the phrase in verse 19, “He will again have compassion on us”:

The use hereof is, first, reproof unto such who say, that if their peace be once lost, oh! they shall never have it again, they shall never have comfort, favour, or feeling of God’s love.

But mark our error: we in this case judge God to be like unto a man, who will say, Oh! I will never again love this man, who hath deceived me.

But let us remember that God did foresee all our errors and sins that ever we should commit, before we did commit the same. Now if these our sins, before our calling, which in the course of our life we were to commit, being all before God’s face, could not hinder his love unto us, what folly is it to think that now, after our effectual calling, our sins which he foresaw can stay his mercies from us.

This the apostle aimeth at, Rom. 5:10, ‘For if, whilst we were enemies, we were reconciled unto God by the death of his son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.’ So that most certain it is he will turn again and have compassion.

 Richard Sibbes, The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, vol. 7 (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1864), 161.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015