“In Wrath, Remember Mercy”
If we desire to seek
God for His mercy and
grace, we must first
submit to His
dealings with us
In a previous Note we considered how we should never ask God for salvation from the cross; rather, we should seek Him for His salvation through the cross. (See “The Two Thieves & the Way of Salvation.”)
The Old Testament shows us a principle that is very much related to this, especially in regards to how we come to God in prayer. The prophet Habakkuk prayed:
O LORD, I have heard Your speech
and was afraid;
O LORD, revive Your work
in the midst of the years!
In the midst of the years
make it known;
In wrath remember mercy.
— Habakkuk 3:2
As Habakkuk asked the Lord for revival, he did not seek to set aside God’s judgment on the Nation of Israel. Rather, because He knew the Lord, he prayed:
In wrath remember mercy.
Here then is the principle: When God has determined to judge a certain matter, we must not seek to turn back that judgment. Rather, we must we must submit ourselves to Him in that matter, but at the same time seek Him for His mercy even as He carries out His judgment.
This is always the way to come before the throne and receive God’s grace, whether He is dealing with us due to our sins, or in regards to a relationship, a job, our schooling, some way we have chosen for ourselves, or in any other way.
Both Daniel and Nehemiah, in their intercession on behalf of the Nation of Israel, prayed in this same way; they confessed the great sins of the nation as though they were their own, but asked God to nonetheless act on behalf of the nation for His own sake (Dan. 9:3-19, Neh. 1:3-11).
Moses also prayed in this way. After Israel sinned by worshipping the golden calf, and Moses interceded on behalf of the nation, the Lord showed him His glory. So…
…Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. Then he said, “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.”
— Exodus 34:8-9
God then answered his prayer.
Watchman Nee comments on this in his booklet, “Worshipping the Ways of God”:
How often our prayers amount to requesting God to change His ways! Without considering His ways we just open our lips and ask Him to remove the pressure here, the sickness there, and the domestic problems elsewhere. To pray after this fashion is seeking grace and ignoring the ways of God. We are making ourselves too big; we are not in our proper place before God; we are not bowing before Him.
Moses was not like that. Before he prayed he first acknowledged God’s sovereignty and accepted His ways.… He did pray for grace, but not until he had unreservedly accepted God’s ways.
May we also learn this lesson, that we must first accept God’s ways with us, and even His judgment upon us, and only then ask Him for His grace. Then we will pray in a way that enables us to obtain His mercy and grace for ourselves, on behalf of others, and for the church as well.
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— 21 January 2023 —