Something that we have seen repeatedly in our journey through the Minor Prophets is that God has committed himself to a course of action that depends on his extending mercy. From before time began, God set in motion a plan that would require his compassionate and sacrificial mercy towards those in willful rebellion towards him and his goodness.
We see this in many ways as God interacts with his people Israel in the Old Testament. Despite their faithlessness, God does not give up on them. Yes, he punishes them when they “make their hearts diamond-hard” (Zech. 7:12) against him: making them wander in the desert for 40 years; keeping them from finding satisfaction in their idols and lovers (Jer. 2:36-37); leading them into exile.
But he does not forsake them, but continues to invite them, even allure them, to return. And through the prophets, he makes many promises of the abundant blessings he has planed for them. God is committed to showing mercy to a wayward and rebellious people.
And this reveals something astounding about the heart of God: he is not interested in merely being feared and begrudgingly obeyed. He is not satisfied with cold, dispassionate justice, just giving people what they deserve.
No, he is interested in being loved, enjoyed, worshipped with full willingness and delight. This is what his grace does, by design: as we behold him to be not only abounding in power and righteousness and justice, but also abounding in compassion and mercy and kindness; as we see his heart to “rejoice…with gladness” and “exult…with loud singing” over all who would come to him; as we see his settled commitment to suffer and die a humiliating death and to bear the weight of sin and guilt on himself, we become convinced that he is ready to welcome us just as we are, and that in him is our greatest good.
Paul confirms this purpose to God’s grace in Ephesians one. He sums up the purpose of God’s salvation as being “to the praise of his glorious grace” (1:6). God great design is to reveal his glory to us, and specifically the glory of his surprising and overflowing grace. And this is not just so that we would see his grace or have a doctrinally category of grace, but so that we would “praise” him for it, i.e. rejoice and delight and love him for it.
John Piper, in commenting on this verse sums it up well: “…the constellation of excellencies that make up the glory of God reach their most beautiful overflow in the expression of grace for undeserving sinners like us…grace is the consummate expression of God’s glory.”
There is no end to beholding the glory of God’s grace. It is what we do regularly in the life of our church; it is what we will do for all eternity.