“But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” ESV
Whenever I see this phrase, “rich in mercy” in scripture, it reminds me of something my dad said. My father had friends he would refer to as being “rich in cotton”. Their river bottomland lay in the delta region of the Mississippi River. On a semi-regular basis the Mississippi would flood their farm and this would leave rich deposits of organic silt on their land. After a recent flooding their fertile soil would produce three times the amount of cotton as the ordinary cotton farm down the road.
After I married my husband, I learned that in Oklahoma many people are “rich in oil”. When translated this means oil has been found on their land even though just yesterday they were poor farmers.
The word “rich” can refer to quantity, but it also can reference quality. God is “rich in mercy”; he does not have to hoard his assistance. You don’t have to worry when you seek his blessings that Jesus will run low of loving, flawless compassion.
In Luke 8 we see a wonderful example of Jesus’ extravagant mercy. Jesus and his disciples are going to travel a lengthy distance and even encounter a deadly storm to help a miserable man suffering under demonic bondage.
This is an amazing story because the man Jesus frees isn’t even Jewish, nor a Christ follower. But, he is suffering and in a wretched state. In spite of the oppressive storm, which is recorded in the verses before this story, Jesus liberally reaches out to heal this tormented man. Look at Luke 8:26-28.
Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” ESV
A) The richness of God’s mercy allows him to go to great distances to relieve your suffering.
This region was culturally very different from Jewish Galilee. Here the people raised pigs for a meat source; no self-respecting Jew would herd pigs for a living, let alone eat them. The Jewish dietary laws forbid the eating of pork. Under the commandments they were considered an unclean animal. But Jesus can lavishly love those who are completely ignorant of God’s law. In Jesus, we see a Savior who doesn’t miserly withhold his deliverance.
The story continues in Luke 8:29-33.
For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. ESV
What evidence is found in these verses that this man was suffering?
He couldn’t live in a house, but was driven to reside in isolated places like a graveyard. He wore no clothes. Fearing he would hurt himself or others, someone had tried to guard and restrain him, but he broke these shackles with super demonic strength. People were afraid of him and he himself was probably terrified.
The demons afflicting him were named Legion. This title graphically describes the awful number of tormentors which were torturing this man. A Roman legion had 6,000 soldiers. Whether this is the exact count is not important as the name alone illustrates a vast number of demonic spirits were seeking his destruction.
B) The richness of God’s mercy allows him to heal and restore you completely.
Jesus doesn’t just ease this man’s misery. He completely delivers him and sets him in his right mind. Look at Luke 8:34-37.
When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had ben healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. ESV
What did the people fear?
Maybe they feared an economic collapse in their region. Someone lost a lot of money when those pigs went into the lake. Maybe they feared change, a revival or reformation, or even Jesus’ obvious holiness. They were not happy with Jesus’ presence or the manifestation of his power, so they asked him to leave.
But, the delivered man has a different attitude toward Jesus. Look at Luke 8:38-39
The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you. And he went away proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. ESV
Why does Jesus send the man home?
I think it was God’s kindness to let his family know this man was completely healed.
C) The richness of God’s mercy allows him to even bless your family when he restores you.
What joy it must have given his loved ones to see this man liberated. Think of how they had worried, fretted and cried over his condition. Were they tempted to give up hope? Jesus bestowed on this family an incredible gift. He gave them peace of mind when he gave them back their beloved.
It takes a special grace to watch someone you love suffer. It is not easy to trust God when one you care deeply about is wounded or isolated. You feel so helpless, and so it comforts to see Jesus’ tender mercy extended even to his family.
Jesus’ arduous mission would only rescue one man. Some might be tempted to judge this a waste. But, Jesus assigned great value in the saving of this one lost lamb.
If God is “rich in mercy”, you can trust that all perceived delays in help have an intentionality built into them. Jesus must have a unique purpose when it appears he is slow in responding to your prayer requests. When you struggle to believe God’s postponement is by design, you need to understand you will be more tempted to judge God’s goodness and/or his power. And, either attitude will be deadly to your spiritual growth.
How foundational is it for you to trust in the richness of God’s mercy? Why?
When God intentionally asks you to wait, what can you control?