Lesson 7 Class Preparation Material: Embracing the Justice, Mercy, and Love of God

“Lesson 7 Class Preparation Material: Embracing the Justice, Mercy, and Love of God,” Jesus Christ and His Everlasting Gospel Teacher Material (2023)

“Lesson 7 Class Preparation Material,” Jesus Christ and His Everlasting Gospel Teacher Material

His Hand Is Stretched Out Still, by Elizabeth Thayer

Lesson 7 Class Preparation Material

Embracing the Justice, Mercy, and Love of God

Moses taught that Jehovah is “just and right” (Deuteronomy 32:4). He also said the Lord is “merciful and gracious” (see Exodus 34:6). Have you ever wondered how Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ can be both just and merciful? These divine attributes not only teach of God’s love for you but they also provide an example of how you can show love for others.

Note: In the scriptures, the title God can refer to either Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ. Both perfectly embody all divine attributes. Whatever we learn about One is equally true about the Other (see John 14:9; 17:21).

Section 1

What can the justice of God teach me about His love?

Some people view the “God of the Old Testament” as behaving differently from the “God of the New Testament.” They see the God of the Old Testament, Jehovah, as vengeful, demanding, and harsh. And they see the God of the New Testament, Jesus Christ, as kind, forgiving, and merciful. But as you learned in a previous lesson, “[Jesus Christ] was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, [and] the Messiah of the New” (“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” How can the same God be both exacting and kind, angry and longsuffering, just and merciful?

These seemingly contrasting attributes are examples of the depth and breadth of God’s character. An understanding of how He embodies all these characteristics allows us to better trust Him. Think of the problems we might encounter in our lives if we take an either–or view of God’s divine attributes—that He is either fair and exact or compassionate and forgiving. As you study the scriptures, think about how all of God’s attributes relate to His perfect love.

Let’s start with the attribute of justice. What thoughts does this word bring to your mind? Sometimes in the scriptures God’s justice can sound harsh. Some accounts in the Old Testament use words like indignation and anger to describe God’s justice toward the disobedient and wicked (see Isaiah 1:4; Jeremiah 32:30; Topical Guide, “God, Indignation of”). For example, because of the people’s disobedience, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire from heaven (see Genesis 19:15–25), the house of Israel was scattered by Assyria (see 2 Kings 15:27–31), and the nation of Judah was taken captive by the Babylonians (see 2 Kings 24:10–16). In short, the wicked often experienced the weight of God’s justice.

Destruction of Jerusalem, by Gary L. Kapp

When we read about God’s anger, we should not assume that our feelings and expressions of anger, as fallen humans, are the same as God’s righteous anger. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).

President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency offered the following perspective:

President Dallin H. Oaks

We read again and again in the Bible and in modern scriptures of God’s anger with the wicked and of His acting in His wrath against those who violate His laws. How are anger and wrath evidence of His love? … God’s love is so perfect that He lovingly requires us to obey His commandments because He knows that only through obedience to His laws can we become perfect, as He is. For this reason, God’s anger and His wrath are not a contradiction of His love but an evidence of His love. (“Love and Law,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 27)

The timing of God’s justice is also a sign of His love for His children. Take the story of Noah and the Flood, for example. In Noah’s day the “earth was corrupt before God” (Moses 8:28). Violence was widespread and people were continually engaged in evil. For about 120 years Noah warned the people that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed by a flood (see Moses 8:17–30). They ignored God’s loving plea, and everyone except Noah and his family perished in the Flood (see Genesis 8:15–21).

ark on the sea

At first glance this event may simply appear to be the administration of stern and exacting justice. But from a vision the prophet Enoch received of Noah’s day, we gain remarkable insights into the relationship between God’s justice and His love.

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Study in Preparation for Class

Read Moses 7:28–29, 32–33, 37, and look for evidence of God’s deep love even for those who would not hearken to His commandments.

Of this moving scene, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

That single, riveting scene does more to teach the true nature of God than any theological treatise could ever convey. …

What an indelible image of God’s engagement in our lives! … How easy to love someone who so singularly loves us! (“The Grandeur of God,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2003, 72)

As you think about what God’s love means to you, think about the best way to describe it to others. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

Elder D. Todd Christofferson

There are many ways to describe and speak of divine love. One of the terms we hear often today is that God’s love is “unconditional.” While in one sense that is true, the descriptor unconditional appears nowhere in scripture. Rather, His love is described in scripture as “great and wonderful love” [Doctrine and Covenants 138:3], “perfect love” [1 John 4:18; Moroni 8:16], “redeeming love” [Alma 5:26], and “everlasting love” [Jeremiah 31:3]. These are better terms because the word unconditional can convey mistaken impressions about divine love, such as, God tolerates and excuses anything we do because His love is unconditional, or God makes no demands upon us because His love is unconditional, or all are saved in the heavenly kingdom of God because His love is unconditional. God’s love is infinite and it will endure forever, but what it means for each of us depends on how we respond to His love. (“Abide in My Love,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2016, 48)

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Ponder in Preparation for Class

How would you explain the connection between the justice of God and His love for His children?

Section 2

What can the Lord’s mercy teach me about His love?

It feels good to have God bless us when we obey. But it’s difficult to have to experience the consequences for our own poor choices. And when the consequences are serious, it can be terrifying. At such times, we might plead with the Lord for mercy.

In many other instances, however, those who sin do not realize the need for God’s mercy. Consider the case of Corianton, Alma the Younger’s son. After abandoning his mission and committing some serious sins, Corianton felt it was an “injustice” for a sinner to be punished and experience misery (see Alma 42:1).

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Study in Preparation for Class

Read Alma 42:15, 22, 24–25, and look for what Alma taught about justice, mercy, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. (Note: A penitent person is “one that repents of sin; one sorrowful on account of his [or her] transgressions” [Webster’s Dictionary (1828), “Penitent”].)

Christ in Gethsemane, by Harry Anderson

Jesus Christ, with deep personal love for you and everyone, stands between us and the justice that awaits us (see Mosiah 15:9). He already paid the excruciating price for our sins. And He wants to extend mercy to the penitent (see Doctrine and Covenants 19:16–18). President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, then a counselor in the First Presidency, taught:

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

We cannot earn our way into heaven; the demands of justice stand as a barrier, which we are powerless to overcome on our own.

But all is not lost. …

Our sins, though they may be as scarlet, can become white as snow. Because our beloved Savior “gave himself a ransom for all” [1 Timothy 2:6], an entrance into His everlasting kingdom is provided unto us. (“The Gift of Grace,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 108)

Think again about Enoch’s vision of the Flood. Enoch learned that in the spirit world, even the disobedient who died in the Flood can eventually come forth and stand “on the right hand of God” if they exercise faith in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins (Moses 7:57; see also Moses 7:38, 55–56; Doctrine and Covenants 138:6–8, 28–37).

Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy taught how the Lord’s grace provides us many chances to change:

Elder Lynn G. Robbins

We stand all amazed at the Savior’s grace in giving us second chances in overcoming sin, or failures of the heart.

No one is more on our side than the Savior. …

Knowing that the strait and narrow path would be strewn with trials and that failures would be a daily occurrence for us, the Savior paid an infinite price to give us as many chances as it would take to successfully pass our mortal probation. …

Because we don’t want to be through until we become as our Savior is, we need to continue getting up each time we fall, with a desire to keep growing and progressing despite our weaknesses. (“Until Seventy Times Seven,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 22, 23)

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Ponder in Preparation for Class

What are your thoughts or feelings for Jesus Christ, knowing He satisfied the demands of justice so you could repent and receive mercy? What can you do to show your gratitude for the atoning sacrifice He made on your behalf?