The judge may be full of pity for a man whom he must sentence; but he may not in any way and to any degree minimize the sentence that the law of the land requires. If he does, he is breaking the law and deserves to be punished. There is then only one explanation for the seeming contradiction which David wrote in Psalm 103:6-8. He wrote that God executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. And now in verse eight he adds, "the Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy."
Bear in mind that although the Israelites were taken from underneath the bondage and oppression of the Egyptians, these Israelites soon showed all manner of sins and deserved to be cast into the greater oppression of hell fire. How then could the psalmist speak of the God of righteousness and judgment being gracious and plenteous in His mercy toward them?
Really there is no contradiction here. The cross of Christ stands between those two facts and truths. Yea, the cross stands between God and these sinners of Israel who are dealt with in tender mercy and in abundant grace.
Because Christ was our covenant Head, God poured out upon Him all the punishment that we deserve. Seeing us in Him God, in strictest righteousness and judgment, declared that all the punishment which we deserve was fully suffered. Not the slightest fraction of the punishment the law required was withheld. Because of this God can in righteous judgment deal with us graciously and mercifully. It is so very true that:
The Lord is ever merciful
And unto anger slow;
His loving-kindness and His grace
In rich abundance flow.
We can and must say that God's mercy and grace are upon us, not in spite of His righteousness and judgment, or contrary to them, but due to that righteousness and judgment.
Bless His name then for that cross of Christ, in whom mercy and truth are met together and righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Read: Psalm 85
Psalter versification: 277:6
(Words and Music of the Psalter)
Meditations on the Heidelberg Catechism
Song for Meditation: Psalter number 28
Why not sing along??
Through the Bible in One Year
Isaiah 45:11-25; Isaiah 46; Isaiah 47; Isaiah 48:1-11
Proverbs 24:3-4 Quote for Reflection:
“It is well, therefore, that we never forget the proper place of the law in Reformed preaching. I always must serve only as a rule for a life of thankfulness to God for the great salvation which He has sovereignly wrought in Christ Jesus, and equally sovereignly bestowed upon His people. The effect of the preaching of the law may never be that the people of God attempt to add to the righteousness which they have in Christ, and that they begin to imagine that their own good works have anything to do with their salvation, except as a fruit of thankfulness wrought by the grace of God in their hearts. The righteousness of Christ is perfect. No one can ever add to it. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall be saved. Such is the truth. No preaching of the law can or ever may detract from that truth. ...The fruit of such preaching is rather, in the first place, a deepening of the knowledge of sin and a more earnest appreciation by faith of the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord, in Whom we have reconciliation and the forgiveness of sin and perfect righteousness. ...Secondly, the proper preaching of the law has through the grace of God a sanctifying influence upon the Christian.” -- Herman Hoeksema