Arthur Pink, 1952
God, as God, being all-sufficient — delights in Himself, in all His perfections and the manifestation of them before His creatures. But there is one of His attributes in which He takes especial delight, namely, His mercy. "Who is a God like unto you, that pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retains not his anger forever, because he delights in mercy" (Micah 7:18).
Those words express deep admiration of the Lord's incomparable goodness in His pardoning mercy. They emphasize the blessed contrast there is between His character and that which the heathen conceive of their gods, for they are . . .
regarded as objects of cruelty, and not of mercy,
known for their terrors, instead of their benefits, and
dreaded for their revenges, rather than loved for their excellencies.
Whereas, with the living and true God, judgment is "His strange work" (Isa 28:21). Acts of punishment are never performed by Him spontaneously, or of His own accord, but because they are provoked by us; but acts of mercy flow from Him freely, uncaused, unmoved by anything in their recipients.
Had God been unwilling to show us mercy, Christ would not have taught us to ask for pardon (Mat 6:12). So far from bestowing it grudgingly, He does so freely, for He delights therein, and this it is which causes His people to exclaim, "Who is a God like unto you?" Those words show us what should most move our hearts; not so much God's acts of power, as those of His grace — though the former be more obvious to our apprehensions, the latter should most fire our affections.
Everything about God is indeed marvelous, but particularly so His mercy. His very throne is designated "the mercy-seat" (Exodus 25:20; 1 Samuel 4:4), and His elect are denominated "vessels of mercy" (Rom 9:23). He is entitled "the Father of mercies" (2 Corinthians 1:3), for they issue from His very nature and are therefore both His offspring and His delights. God is "abundant in mercy" (1 Peter 1:3). It cannot be computed or measured. He bestows it not by halves, but fully, "You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Mic 7:19). "O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endures forever" (Psalm 136:1).
For this perfection of the divine character, which God has so much pleasure in exercising, He is greatly to be praised. Three times over in as many verses, the Psalmist called upon the saints to give thanks unto the Lord for this adoring attribute.
Considered as the God-man Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ is the Object of the Father's delight (Isa 42:1). Referring to the counsels of eternity, He declared, "Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him" (Pro 8:30). Those words tell us of the blessed union and communion which existed between the Father and the Son (not excluding the Holy Spirit) before He became incarnate, yet, in view thereof. From all eternity there was an inconceivable fellowship of bliss between them, and an interchanging of love. They tell us of the ineffable joy the Father had in His dear Son, that He was an Object of infinite satisfaction to Him. Such are His person, glory, perfections, fullness, that the heart of the Father has in Him an Object of absolute complacency, one which gratifies His vast mind forever. When Christ declared He was "in the bosom of the Father" (John 1:18), He used language of greatness, dearness and intimacy (John 13:23), signifying that He was the Darling of His heart.
His delight in the Mediator is seen in those remarkable words of Isaiah 49:1, "The LORD has called me from the womb; from the womb of my mother has he made mention of my name". Christ's name being continually in JEHOVAH's mouth shows it was His joy to be always thinking of and speaking about Him. Says the Father, "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; my elect, in whom my soul delights" (Isa 42:1). Those words express the most ardent love and evince that He was completely wrapped up in Him. He bore testimony thereto when He declared audibly from Heaven, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Mat 3:17). He was so because in Christ was found perfect holiness of heart, and because He did "always those things that please him" (John 8:29). Every faculty of His soul and body was constantly employed in the flawless performance of the whole will of God.
The Father's delight in His Son appeared in His appointing of Him to the office and work of mediatorship, anointing Him to be Prophet, Priest, and Potentate, saying, "I have laid help upon one that is mighty" (Psalm 89:19). The Father beheld the Son of His love with infinite delight while He hung suspended upon the cross of shame. Though divine justice was never more terribly incensed against sin than it was then, yet, the divine holiness was infinitely satisfied with the offering of Christ for sin, "It pleased the LORD to bruise him" (Isa 53:10).
The death of Christ, considered merely in itself, could not please the Lord, but, as it respected those ends and designs to be accomplished by it — the manifestation of God's love to the world, the magnifying of His Law, the redemption of His people, the bringing in of an everlasting righteousness for them — He was well pleased. And when the Son had completed His work upon earth, the Father gave full proof of His delight in Him by saying, "Sit at my right hand" (Psalm 110:1), where a state of mutual enjoyment ensues between Them which is altogether beyond our conception.
The next object of the divine complacency is the Church. Speaking by the language of prophecy, Christ referred to its favored members as "The saints that are in the earth, and the excellent, in whom is all my delight" (Psalm 16:3). What an amazing thing it is that creatures like ourselves can give the all-sufficient One delight! Yet, we are told that Enoch "pleased God" (Heb 11:6), and he was a man like unto ourselves. It is to be duly noted that in Psalm 16:3, Christ speaks thus of His people unto the Father Himself. There is none upon earth or in Heaven that He values like them.
He delights in them because they were chosen by the Father and bestowed upon Him as His love gift. He delights in them as the members of His mystical body. He delights in them as those in whom His glory shall yet be fully displayed, and who are to dwell with Him forever. Despite all their infirmities, He delights in them as His own children — the travail of His soul.
As Proverbs 8 reveals, the saints were on the heart of Christ and in His eye from before the foundation of the world (Pro 8:23-31). As He then viewed them in the glass of God's decrees, He declared, "My delights were with the sons of men." The renowned Hebraist, John Gill (1697-1771), tells us, "Delights not only in the plural number, but its first two letters are doubled, which, in the Hebrew language, increased the signification of the word, and so expressed the exceeding great delight and pleasure which Christ took in His people from everlasting."
His delights were not with the holy angels, but with those given to Him by the Father, whose cause He should espouse, whose nature He should assume, and for whom He should shed His blood. They were "the joy set before him" when He endured the cross (Heb 12:2). It was the strength of His love to the Father and to His saints, which brought Him down from Heaven's glory to earth's humiliation.
It is in the Song of Solomon that we have most fully revealed the high regard which Christ has for His spouse. There, we hear Him saying, "Behold, you are fair, my love: behold, you are fair; you have doves' eyes. Behold, you are fair, my beloved, yes, pleasant" (Song 1:15-16). What endearing titles are those! In what great esteem does He hold her! "How fair" — incomparably and inexpressibly so in His eyes.
Is Christ "fairer than the children of men" (Psalm 45:2)? So to Him is His bride "fairest among women" (Song 1:8). His estimate of them is the very opposite of theirs. They count themselves nobodies, but He makes much of them, and says, "I will rejoice over them to do them good" (Jer 32:41). "How fair and how pleasant are you, O love, for delights!" (Song 7:6). He exclaims — lovely in His esteem. He has made her so inherently by the new birth, and there is nothing so lovely in all the world to Him as grace in a believer. She is so judicially, because cleansed by His blood. She will be so experientially when He shall "present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Eph 5:27). Because He delights in her, He has gone to prepare a place for her (John 14:2), and when she enters the same, we are told, "He will rejoice over you with joy; he will rest in his love" (Zep 3:17).
Yes, "the LORD takes pleasure in his people" (Psalm 149:4). He does so because He has taken them into covenant relationship, accepted them in the Beloved, quickened them by His Spirit. So highly are they valued by Him, that He has numbered the very hairs of their heads (Mat 10:30), orders their steps (Psalm 37:23), and makes all things work together for their good.
Lack of space prevents us from making more than a bare comment on, "Such as are upright in their way are his delight" (Pro 11:20), because they sincerely desire and resolve to keep His commandments. "The prayer of the upright is his delight" (Pro 15:8), because it . . .
is inwrought by His Spirit,
comes out of sincere lips,
is the cry of the humble,
is perfumed with the incense of Christ's merits, and
because they ascribe all blessings unto divine grace and express thankfulness for mercies received.
Oh, that the Spirit may impress our minds with a real sense of the whole of the above, fill our souls with wonderment, and lead us to admire the Lord increasingly.