We begin our journey through grace with the way God shows his grace—his love and favour—towards all he has made. David explicitly highlights this facet of God’s dealings with all his creatures in Psalm 145, captured in the words, ‘The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all he has made’ (145.9).
There is much more to grace than meets the eye. Indeed, to borrow and slightly tweak the title of a song made famous by Bing Crosby in 1955, ‘Grace is a many splendored thing’. Although we instinctively link it to the idea of God’s demerited favour towards sinners in salvation, when we begin to trace its contours throughout the Scriptures, we see facets that only make us appreciate its beauty and blessing more deeply. This kaleidoscope of beauty is worth exploring in its major component parts and my hope is to do this through a series of articles designed to unpack it. In some cases, the vocabulary of grace is used explicitly, in others the concept is present implicitly; but, nevertheless, is clearly grace-full.
We begin our journey through grace with the way God shows his grace—his love and favour—towards all he has made. David explicitly highlights this facet of God’s dealings with all his creatures in Psalm 145, captured in the words, ‘The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all he has made’ (145.9). The absence of the word ‘grace’ should not blind us to the concept of grace that is very much in view. The fact the previous verse states plainly, ‘The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love’ (145.8), indicates that there is an aspect of grace that benefits humanity as a whole – whether we realise it or not.
In a very real sense, the first human being to discover this aspect of the divine favour was Adam in the garden of Eden. Having been warned quite literally ‘on pain of death’ against eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Ge 2.17); when he did just that, he was not struck down on the spot. Immediate retribution in its fullest sense did not befall him. As the late Norman Shepherd used to teach in his Prolegomena class, ‘The fact Adam lived to draw another breath after the fall made him realise that God is a God of grace.’ He had not yet experienced God’s redeeming grace when the Lord would symbolically slay two animals to cover his and Eve’s guilt and shame in their sin; but he was nevertheless not dead. As another psalmist declares, ‘If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?’ (Ps 130).