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To Ask For Mercy
A long time ago I got a speeding ticket, and in preparing to go to traffic court, I remembered something my dad had taught me. He said, “If you ever find yourself in court, and you’re guilty, ask to be tried by the judge; if you’re not guilty, ask for a jury trial.” He added, “If you are before the judge, guilty, say, ‘I plead guilty, your honor, and place myself at the mercy of the court.’ I thought this would be as good of a strategy as any, so I planned to say just those words. I mean, what did I have to lose? I was guilty of breaking the law.
My Day in Court
My day in court came, and I watched many people try to convince the judge that they were not guilty. I was guilty of speeding, so when the judge asked how I plead, I said, “Guilty, your honor; and I place myself at the mercy of the court.” Inside I smiled, thinking I may have won myself a lesser penalty by acting with humility – the key word, here, being “acting.” I thought I would stand out amongst the “common rabble,” that I would win mercy for my simple declaration of guilt and my feeble attempt to portray a “willing subject.” That is, until he asked me, “Is there any reason the court should grant you mercy?” I hadn’t planned on his retort. So, I began to nervously explain myself, immediately putting myself into the same category of those who had whined about their plight before my turn came. After listening to my rationale for a few minutes, he interrupted me with a brief summary of my defense, and I agreed with his extremely abridged version of my story, uttering a simple, “Yes, your honor.” He reduced my fine by one half.
Years Later
At that time, 30 some-odd years ago, I’m certain that I did not have the “big picture” about the nature of mercy and judgment, or that this issue is, in itself, an historical, Biblical … and eternal matter. I revisited that old faded scene recently, and I considered how I might otherwise have answered the judge’s question, “Is there any reason why I should grant you mercy?”
    I could have said the following:
    “Yes, your honor, there is. As you know, mercy, by definition, is not something that is deserved. On the other hand, a verdict of Not Guilty, based upon competent evidence, is not merciful, but simply, just. Mercy is the prerogative of the one who has the authority and duty to condemn in the light of evidence proving guilt; but, instead, exercises compassion upon the accused-found-guilty. Further, that prerogative cannot have anything to do with the depth or the nature of the crime having been committed. In fact, the greater the crime, the greater the depth of that authority’s mercy.”
Rather, mercy is a function of a judge’s ability to discern the depth of sincerity of the accused to genuinely repent of that unlawful action and make an oath in his heart that he will not violate that law again. Mercy is the ability to see into one’s heart.
    Ultimately, mercy is an act reserved for the Creator of the Universe; yet, we are commanded to imitate Him; therefore, there can be no guilt in a man appointed to authority who chooses to grant mercy, even if he is wrong in his judgment. Rather, the burden of the whole matter lies within the heart of the man who committed the infraction. It is what comes out of our own mouths that condemn us, not the verdict of other men. The accused takes on the burden of the court by asking for mercy.
    Also, I could have added:
    “Your honor, it would be much easier for me to pay the fine, have my infraction ‘concealed’ or ‘cleansed,’ and be free to continue in such illegal behavior, unburdened by an oath to ‘go and sin no more.’ By asking for mercy, I am saying to you that I will never violate this law again. I am aware of the consequences for having contempt for the court by bearing false witness. I am also aware that other consequences are well beyond the power of this court of this land. The consequences of my request for mercy are, in fact, eternal.
    “May I remind the court that it has been said, ‘We shall be judged – as we judge others?’ I understand the enormity of the responsibility that you have taken upon your shoulders, and I shall abide in your judgment whether merciful or harsh. It is said that enduring the punishment for a wrong-doing has no credit, but, that enduring punishment when one has committed no wrong is comparable to what the Savior did for us, and is therefore credible. I am guilty of wrong-doing, and there is therefore no honor for me even though I endure my punishment. But, consider how honorable it would be for a judge to grant mercy in the face of guilt! Certainly, this must be what is referred to as storing up treasures in Heaven. Thank you, your honor, for hearing my plea.”
The Burden of Asking for, and Granting, Mercy
Having written this defense, I found myself shaking in my boots at the thought of ever offering it, considering the consequences should I ever exceed the speed limit! I will have broken an oath that I made with my own mouth! How in the world could I actually do what I promised to do? If you were the accused in this scenario, would you make such a plea? Or, would you simply pay the fine? If you were the judge, how would you have ruled? Would you laugh at my presumption and grandiosity, recognizing the true condemnation found in the words, “Mercy granted! Case dismissed,” and thereby passing the matter to a Higher Court? Or, would you exercise true mercy by throwing my plea for mercy out the window, knowing that my inevitable failure at obeying the law would invoke a worse judgment upon me? Are you ready to be a judge in the Kingdom?
    I have to admit, writing this fantasy defense was fun. It was an exercise in attempting to “win in court,” a reflection of my hope in that real court battle. However, it served to point out to me the commitment that I am making to the Judge of all Judges, the King of all Kings and the Lawgiver of all Lawgivers, Yahweh, my Elohim, Savior and Shepherd. Having been immersed in the name of Yahshua, I have asked for His mercy to be applied to my sins. Have I not, in a sense, taken on His burden, in that I am vowing to abandon sinful behavior, in exchange for His forgiveness of my past sins?
    Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light, Matthew 11:28-30.
How Can a “Burden” be Light?
Thus says Yahweh, stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. But they said, “We will not walk in it.” And I set watchmen over you, saying, “Listen to the sound of the trumpet!” But they said, “We will not listen.” Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them. Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their plans, because they have not listened to My words, and as for My law, they have rejected it also, Jeremiah 6:16-19.
    When Yahshua invited us to take His yoke upon us, He was not just uttering poetic words, taken from the Book of Jeremiah [whose name in Hebrew, YermeYah, means “Yah Will Rise”]. Does Jeremiah’s name not point to the One Who Shall Rise [Who came in the name of Yah, Yahshua Ha Mashiach? HalleluYah!]. By referencing this verse in Jeremiah’s writings, Yahshua is encouraging us, the “Congregation” in the “Nations” of Earth, to “Ask for the ancient paths,” to “Listen to My words,” and to not “Reject My Law.”
    In essence, Yahweh is saying to us, “Look what I’ve done to My people who have disobeyed Me!” By pointing to the Israelites of old, He is proving that no one, on their own, can obey His Law. He sent His anointed Son, Yahshua, to prove that only a Perfect One can refrain from sin. In other words, we, in ourselves, are without hope for eternal life. Only Yahweh’s mercy can save us from eternal condemnation and death. And, again, it is by virtue of His mercy that He has shown us His lawful means in which we will obtain mercy. He has offered us a New Covenant, a one-way covenant that HE writes upon our minds and our hearts.
    The English name, John, is the Hebrew name, Yahchanan, which means the Mercy of Yah. It was the “Mercy of Yah” who cried in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of Yahweh; Make straight in the desert a highway for our Elohim!” John the Immerser thus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, whose name is YeshaYah and means “Yahweh Saves.”
    “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your Elohim. “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from Yahweh’s hand double for all her sins.” The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of Yahweh; make straight in the desert a highway for our Elohim. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth; the glory of Yahweh shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken,” Isaiah 40:1-5 NKJV.
The Revealing of the “Salvation of Yahweh”
Prepare for the Revealing, the Revelation, the Coming of the Salvation of Yahweh. All of mankind shall see Yahshua, the Anointed Redeemer from Yahweh.
    For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says Yahweh, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says Yahweh. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says Yahweh: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their Elohim, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know Yahweh,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more,” Hebrews 8:7-12 [This is a quote from Jeremiah 31:31- 34] NKJV.
    It is interesting to note that the author of the book of Hebrews, two chapters later, clarifies for us the depth of Yahweh’s will in the keeping of His Law.
    This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says Yahweh: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them, Hebrews 10:16 NKJV.
The Law of the New Covenant is the Same Law of the Old
The First Covenant was broken because Israel abandoned their oath to follow Yahweh. The New Covenant is made By Yahweh, who places the Law in our minds and writes the Law on our hearts by means of His Holy Spirit. It is the gift of His Holy Spirit that allows us to understand the importance of the Law of Yahweh and which empowers us to abide in it. The “burden” that Yahshua asks us to place upon our shoulders is “light” and “easy” to bear, not because it represents an easier, lighter burden, but because the burden is supported by the strength of Yahweh’s Spirit. How strong is His Spirit?
    I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you, Matthew 17:20 NIV.
    Yet, for all the strength that Yahweh’s Spirit affords to those who abide in Yahweh’s Law, the physical manifestation of that strength is literally nothing, compared to something much more powerful.
    If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing, 1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV.
    Is not the greatest strength that Yahweh manifests toward us, at least as far as our eternal salvation is concerned, His willingness to forgive us? He is full of Mercy; He is Longsuffering, and He is Lovingkindness itself.
A Higher Standard of the Law
Knowing this, how can it be said that keeping the Law of Yahweh is impossible? Scripture says that keeping the Law of Yahweh is easy. Ironically, Yahshua sets a higher standard on keeping the Law for those who receive the New Covenant signed in His blood! He is willing to grant mercy to those who are willing to ask for mercy and who know full well the obligations they are taking on.
    You have heard that the ancients were told, “You shall not commit murder” and “Whoever commits murder shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of judgment; and whoever says to his brother, “You good-for-nothing,” shall be guilty before the Sanhedrin; but whoever says, “[Shut up, you idiot!],” shall be guilty enough to go into the Gehenna [the Lake] of fire, Matthew 5:21-23.
Can One’s Salvation be Lost?
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Yahshua, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the House of Yahweh, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of Yahweh underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant - by which he was sanctified - a common thing and insulted the Spirit of Mercy? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says Yahweh. And again, “Yahweh will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living Elohim, Hebrews 10:19-31 NKJV.
    Now, what could be worse than being killed! How about being killed again? The “second death” is mentioned four times in the Book of the Revelation of Yahshua Ha Mashiach:
    Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire, Revelation 20:14-15 NASU.
Don’t Give Up!
Going back to the Book of Hebrews, starting at verse 32 in chapter 10, we read:
    But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven [the words “in heaven” are not found in the Greek manuscripts]. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. for you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of Elohim, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who draw back to destruction, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul, Hebrews 10:32-39
Trust Yahweh, and Also Honor the King
I began this discussion with reference to a court hearing, involving a speeding ticket. Our Assembly endured a court battle of immensely greater proportion for two years, not knowing the outcome. However, we kept strong by believing that Yahweh was working His will in this matter, and we determined long before its conclusion that no matter what happened, it would be for the betterment of our lives.
    Submit yourselves for Yahweh’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of Elohim that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bound slaves of Elohim. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear Yahweh, honor the king, 1 Peter 2:13-17.
    The last word in this verse, “king,” as far as our court case was concerned, was the Judge of the Kingdom of Callaway County. From our perspective, it is he to whom this verse is referring. We knew we must honor his decision. We determined that if we won the court case, we would exclaim, “HalleluYah!” and would praise Yahweh, realizing that He has, in His righteousness, divided our assembly according to His Truth, His will and in His wisdom, to accomplish His purposes.
    We also determined that if we lost the court case, we would exclaim, “HalleluYah!” and would praise Yahweh, realizing that He has, in His righteousness, divided our assembly according to His Truth, His will and in His wisdom, to accomplish His purposes.
    You who are slaves must accept the authority of your masters. Do whatever they tell you – not only if they are kind and reasonable, but even if they are harsh. For Elohim is pleased with you when, for the sake of your conscience, you patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing right and are patient beneath the blows, Elohim is pleased with you. This suffering is all part of what Elohim has called you to. The Messiah, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in His steps. He never sinned, and he never deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left His case in the hands of Him who judges righteously. He personally carried away our sins in His own body on the torture stake so we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. You have been healed by His wounds! Once you were wandering like lost sheep. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls, 1 Peter 2:18-25 NLT.
    His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire, Luke 3:17 NASU.
Punishment – or Blessing?
We knew that HIS barn was not necessarily our assembly hall. It mattered not whether we obtained the material possession of the building in which we once worshipped. It did not matter if the court made a judgment against us, against our will and against our protest. What WE wanted mattered NOT, in comparison to what Yahweh wanted. We believed that the outcome of the trial would be the outcome that He caused to happen. If we had chosen not to be of this mindset, then it could only be reasoned that we were against Yahweh.
    The question for us at that time was this, “Would losing the court case be Yahweh’s way of punishing us, or would it rather be His way of providing discipline for us?” If the former, then with Bible in hand, we would have needed to examine the sins that we had committed that had stirred His wrath against us. If this defeat were, instead, His way of taking us away from a place from which He has removed His name ... and His way of leading us to a new place where He would place His name, then we needed to gird the loins of our wisdom, strength and faith and follow His fire by night and His mist in the day to the destination that He would make for His flock.
Having emerged victorious in having our assembly building and all of our equipment redeemed to us, may we never forget that it was Yahweh’s will to continue His work through us, the members of the newly named Yahweh’s Assembly in Yahshua.
    YAHWEH is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the House of Yahweh for ever, Psalm 23 KJV.
-Elder John Fisher

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