I just finished an incredible book that’s quite out of the ordinary.
It’s called Manna  and Mercy by Daniel Erlander.

In a nutshell, this book briefly describes the major events of the Bible and their correlation with God’s desire to “mend the universe” by establishing a lasting relationship with us and all creation. I know it looks like a children’s book but it fits the style of writing completely. Basically, this story comes down to 2 things: Manna and Mercy… (aka Righteousness and Compassion!)

Manna or Righteousness also refers to justice with the understanding that justice doesn’t necessarily mean “criminals get punished!” but that equality is reached and there is ENOUGH for everyone. The writer gets this from the Old Testament story (Exodus 16:1-36) where God’s people were roaming the desert starved and beginning to doubt that God actually cared for them. God provided them with manna each day to sustain them and show his care for their well-being. But there was fine print involved… they were to collect only what they needed for that day. Nothing more! Some learned the hard way and awoke to rotten food that reeked! This book shows that the “manna mentality” isn’t just about food but life in general. What we have isn’t ours but gifts from God and gifts are meant to be shared/given–not hoarded/hidden. That’s true justice: where we recognize God’s gifts and blessings and strive for all to have enough.

Mercy and Compassion are also important in that we must care for all those around us including the most vulnerable (widows, orphans and those in need). This book emphasizes that we are serving God appropriately when we show compassion to all our neighbors (and yes that means our enemies, those that annoy us and especially those that hurt us)… Mercy also means a deep concern and tender openness towards the excluded within our society. THIS is a gift that ANYone can offer others!!!

But Daniel warns us about living a life focused on just one or the other. Here’s what he had to say about that:

“Yahweh understood that righteousness without mercy leads to grumpy legalism. On the other hand, mercy without righteousness leads to wishy-washy sentimentalism.”

This balance is important to keep as we seek to honestly and regularly serve God. We don’t need to spout out rules at people to show them God’s love. Nor do we need to tell them that all they need is to walk hand-in-hand with God as we continue to live our own lives and all will be well. We must show love with wisdom, compassion with understanding so together we will grow in acknowledging how much God loves us and what that mean for our lives once we begin that relationship with God. Similar to relationships, ones that are swamped with do’s and don’ts or smothered with shallow talk and actions are not able to endure or have much meaning. Hence the title “Manna and Mercy”… our (yes all of us) calling to work together to provide enough food AND compassion for everyone in this world.

This leads me into another interesting re-definition I stumbled across… Salvation!

“Salvation is abundant life in a renewed Israel where forgiveness and mercy abound and where manna [food] is released and shared. How far this is from the popular definition of the word–accepting Jesus so your soul will go to heaven when you die.”

Yes, salvation is accepting Jesus and living a renewed life with God but how selfish of us to think that our salvation is solely to get US into heaven. To me, salvation is the establishment of that personal relationship with God that affects our lives so much that we want to exude God’s attributes of forgiveness, love, mercy, service to all those around us. When we enter the presence of God in heaven, AWESOME! but for now…there’s work to do! If our life is truly transformed with the unconditional love of God, how can we just sit back and let injustice flourish?  I like the term “abundant life” because when I think of abundance I think of over-flowing… (my cup runneth over…sound familiar? Thanks King James!) God’s abundant love fills us and flows into the lives of others. Then, people are revived in both body and spirit and can truly taste and see that the Lord is good.

Another term this story takes time to reflect upon is the Hebrew word, “Shalom!”

“Shalom, translated ‘peace’ in the NRSV, is God’s gift of wholeness-in-community, a social reality where all have enough, forgiveness abounds, and all live in harmony. Note how shalom means much more than normal definitions of ‘peace’– the absence of war or inner tranquility.”

I know some of you are thinking this is a fairly “hippy”-sounding answer but I particularly enjoyed the depth taken from the word. That, in community, we find true peace when justice (all have enough), forgiveness (mercy and compassion are offered to all) and unification are gathered together. In fact, he defines a faithful community as the intersection of righteousness, compassion and worship (single-hearted devotion to Yahweh, the righteous and compassionate God).

The first several of chapters in the book focus on the exodus out of Egypt as the “primal story” of the Old Testament. It’s the defining moment for the Israelites for being portrayed as God’s people and it’s our first historical context of God reaching out to humanity in justice and mercy.

The book continues onward to focus on the “primal story” of the New Testament… any guesses? Yep! The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because without that, where would we be today as Christians? Again, this shows God’s relentless pursuit offering us undeserving grace and compassion.

For more about this unique book, you’ll have to take a look yourself!

Consider these concepts though… righteousness… mercy… salvation… peace… are these evident in your life?
Do these definition provided differ from your own? How so?

All in all, this book was a much-needed reminder to give the credit to God (aka stop patting my own back) and truly seek to live a life filled (in fact, overflowing!) with:

Righteousness and Compassion    …aka…    Manna and Mercy!