Some people may object to a strong emphasis on God’s mercy because they feel that God’s laws are important. If God is absolutely merciful, does that mean that he doesn’t mind if we obey the laws or not? If this is true of God, the implications are that the laws cease to have value.
In the scripture readings today we see a God who does care about whether we follow his laws or not. God does care about justice in this world. He tells his people in Hosea to come back to him, because their iniquity has been the cause of their downfall. If his people obey his laws and come back, Israel shall “bloom like the lily, and thrust out shoots like the poplar”. If Israel ceases their disobedience, Israel will have the “beauty of the olive and the fragrance of Lebanon”. Like a loving father who cares that his children are nurtured and thrive, growing strong and having life in abundance, so God watches over us. His laws are meant to lead us to this abundant living.
But still, what if we fail to keep the laws? What does God’s mercy mean?
It’s a bit like a magnetic field. If we can imagine a compass, we might wonder at how this invisible and intangible field influences the needle, drawing it back to north whenever it lost its way.
If we think of God’s laws like a “magnetic field”, which works on us whenever we lose our way, and which slowly and constantly draws us back to the right direction, we can get a glimpse of the God of mercy. When we lose our way and live life in a way that is self-destructive and not life giving, God does care. He doesn’t cut us off from his love, but leads us constantly back to life. His mercy, then, is expressed by always reaching out whenever we fall. Like the magnetic field that never stops pulling on the needle of the compass until it points to north, so God’s love draws us back to him and to abundant life.