Mercy and truth have met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed. Psalm 85:10
Grasping the balance between God's mercy and justice gives me a brain cramp. How can we give the respect due Him if He doesn't enforce justice? How can He win our devotion if He doesn't cover us in mercy? How does an all-powerful, loving, good God strike the balance between being "mean" or being "weak"? Following is a simple yet wonderful description of mercy and justice in peaceful existence together.
Once upon a time there was a king who was strong, brave, and possessed of all other good qualities. He ruled his country justly, loved his people and was loved by them. Because of this there was no crime in his kingdom—until one day it was discovered that a thief was loose in the land.
Knowing that wrongful behavior would multiply unless he took a strong stand against it, the king decreed that when caught, the thief would receive twenty lashes. But the thefts continued. He raised the punishment to forty lashes in the hopes of deterring further crime, but to no avail. Finally, he announced that the criminal would be punished with sixty lashes, knowing that no one in the country could survive sixty lashes. At last the thief was caught, and it turned out to be—the king's own mother!
The king was faced with a dilemma. He loved his mother more than anyone in the world, but justice demanded that the punishment be carried out. Moreover, if his subjects were to see that it was possible to commit a crime and not be punished for it, social order would eventually be completely undermined. At the same time, he knew that if he were to subject his own mother to a punishment that would kill her, the people's love would turn to revulsion and hate toward a man so lacking in compassion and ordinary affection, and he would be unable to govern at all. The whole nation wondered what he would do.
The day arrived for administering the prescribed punishment. The king mounted a platform in the capital's central square, and the royal flogger took his place. Then the king's elderly mother was brought forward, fragile and trembling. On seeing her son the king, she burst into tears, "I'm…so sorry…for what I did!" she wailed, between sobs. Then, recovering, the bent, white-haired figure made her way toward the flogging harness. The people gasped as the flogger raised his muscled arm with the leather whip.
Just as it was about to crack down on the exposed back of the woman who had given him birth, the king cried, "Stop!" The arm poised in mid-air, the whip fell limp. The king rose from his seat, removed his robe, walked to the harness, embraced his mother, and, with his broad frame covering his mother and his bared back exposed to the flogger, commanded him, "Execute the sentence!" The sixty stripes fell on the back of the king.
Excerpt from "Jewish New Testament Commentary," by David H. Stern; Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. Pg. 350-351