The Earth is Full of Thy Mercy

When I think of the modern world, it is easy to be pessimistic. Outside the western world – and even within it – there is trouble, poverty, and chaos.

Trouble in the World

The third world, and much of the second world, lives in grinding poverty. 2.7 billion people live on less than two dollars a day.[1] Nearly nine hundred million people live in slums.[2] 30 million people still live in slavery today.[3] These numbers are sobering to consider.

There are also millions who live without the basic freedoms that we enjoy. Christians are more persecuted today than at any previous time in history. 25 countries ‘severely persecute’ Christians.[4] Over a fifth of the world lives in China,[5] an openly communist country, without freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or freedom of religion.

Even in America, there is trouble and misery. The corrosion of Christian values has not created harmony, but trouble in society. ‘Race’ relations are still tense in many places. Years of the radical feminist movement has left a trail of broken families, broken relationships, and scarred emotions. Drug and alcohol abuse tears families up.

The Bible admits that there is misery throughout the world. King Solomon, famous for his wisdom, recognized the injustice inherent in the world. He said, “I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them” (Ecclesiastes 4:1). He was so moved by these troubles that, for a time, he counted death to be better than life. He said, “I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 4:2-3).

Mercy in the World

There is suffering the world – that is true. But recently I was challenged that such a pessimistic, one-sided perspective is not Biblical. As I read through Psalm 119, I came to verse 64. Years ago I memorized this verse – “The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes.”

I quoted this verse many times in the past, but never recognized the perspective that it contains. The Psalmist knows that there are wicked people, and afflictions, in the world. But when he surveys the world, one theme stands out: it is full of God’s mercy. His perspective is not ultimately pessimistic, but optimistic. Everywhere he looks, God’s mercy is at work.

There are many other verses that support this viewpoint. “The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” (Psalm 145:9). “He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD” (Psalm 33:5). “Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants” (Psalm 119:90-91).

God’s mercy in the world is clearly shown in Psalm 104. In that delightful poem, the Psalmist recounts God’s kindness to all his creation. He describes in vivid detail the majestic creation of the world. He points out that God sustains all creatures, providing water for the beasts of the field, grass for livestock, and plants for cultivation. He points out that God provides wine and oil for man’s benefit, and the heavenly bodies mark the seasons. Throughout the entire world, God’s wisdom is revealed. Everything that lives is sustained by his kindness.

In the New Testament, Jesus reminded us that God shows his mercy even to the wicked – “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). In fact, this kindness comes through Jesus Christ. Paul writes about Jesus, “all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17). It is through Jesus Christ that God’s mercy is shown to the world, ‘holding together’ the entire world system.

It is true that sin destroys and causes misery. But God’s mercy still exists in the world. It sustains not only mankind, but all creatures. Like the Psalmist, we should be able to look at the world, not with fear, but with gratefulness. We too should be able to say, from our hearts, “The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy!”

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