Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord, 1st Timothy 1:2.
The Apostle Paul is known for his salutations in which he blesses his recipients with the desire that they find grace and peace through Jesus Christ. A typical example of this is found in 1st Corinthians; Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, 1st Corinthians 1:3. What distinguishes Paul's letters to the individual churches is his stated desire that they find grace and peace. Even his general letter to the Hebrews ends with a desire that they find grace after having desired peace for them in the preceding verses.
What distinguishes his pastoral epistles is that he adds "mercy" to his salutation. To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour, Titus 1:4. To be called to serve God is to expose the wretchedness of our lives when we are contrasted with the holiness and righteousness of the call of God. When Paul writes to his two spiritual sons, Timothy and Titus, he desires that they find mercy before God.
To understand that, think of Joseph. When we think of Joseph in the Book of Genesis, we think of a man unfairly persecuted by his brothers and sold into slavery. We know that Joseph was chosen of God to deliver the Children of Israel from famine. We know that he escaped temptation in Potiphar's house but was falsely blamed. We know that he was sent to prison and that he excelled even in prison. By all the accounts that we have of him he appears blameless.
Nevertheless, when he went to prison the word of God states; But the LORD was with Joseph, and shewed him mercy, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison, Genesis 39:21. Why mercy? What has he done wrong that he needs mercy?
He is a son of Adam. He has the same fallen nature as all men. His heart is like all hearts. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9. Joseph needed mercy.
We serve the same God who after calling Moses to his service, and after Moses put his family onto asses to move them to Egypt, the word of God says; And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him, Exodus 4:24. It took Moses's wife to set things straight. Then Zipporah took a sharp stone, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet, and said, Surely a bloody husband art thou to me, Exodus 4:5.
I don't claim to know everything about those verses doctrinally. What I do see is the all too human scene of a man of God paying a price to obey God and still coming up short because he is all too human. I see a wife of whom there can be no doubt that her whole world is being turned upside down. All the belongings that she has been allowed to keep and her two children are packed on beasts of burden while she says goodby to the only life that she has ever known.
In the midst of that her husband failed God. He didn't fail God in the big things of surrender to the ministry, or in failing to go where he was told to go. He failed in a hidden thing. He failed in something that only he and his family would have known, and for this failure the Lord sought to kill him. Can we draw an analogy here? Can we not see through the mists of time and find pity for today's man of God?
It is no wonder that when the Apostle wrote to his two spiritual sons in the ministry, he besought mercy for them. We have a God who is capable of judging even the most remote and fleeting thoughts of our hearts. We have a God who is holy and demands that we be holy. And yet, we are but men. We can find grace in the eyes of this God because he finds mercy to be weightier than judgement. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone, Matthew 23:23.
For those of us who serve God, it is his mercy that will stand out front and center when we are judged. Regardless of what sacrifices we have made in following him, regardless of the sacrifices that we have asked from our families, we have a God that knows the wretchedness of our hearts. Let us thank God for his mercy.