In Exodus 34:6, the Lord proclaimed to Moses, “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth….” In Psalm 103:8, David recalled this awesome proclamation. Jesus, Who is Himself God, explained, “Your Father also is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort….” (2 Corinthians 1:13) (emphasis mine)
Mercy is a Divine attribute. Jesus taught us that since God is merciful, we also should be merciful. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
We live in an age when the majority of people are not generally or naturally motivated by mercy. In fact, it seems that many people do not even entertain serious thoughts about the subject. Having spent so many years preaching the good news, I should have a firm grasp on what Jesus meant when He said, “Blessed are the merciful,” but I find that it has become necessary for me to search my own heart, the Scriptures, and what others are saying about it to better understand the depths of its meaning.
“We know it has pleased the Lord to show us mercy, although we all deserve judgment inasmuch as we have sinned and rebelled against Him. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” says Paul, in Romans 3:23. Moreover, he reminds us, “But according to His mercy, He saved us….” (Titus 3:5) These excerpts from the letters from the Apostle to the Church at Rome and to Titus concisely express the beautiful character of the merciful act of redemption through Jesus Christ.
Mercy is a many-faceted attribute. It implies goodness (moral excellence), kindness (warm-heartedness and consideration), patience (Good-natured tolerance), compassion (pity, and a desire and willingness to relieve the suffering of others), forgiveness (excusing offenses), charity (a kindly and lenient attitude towards others), and grace (undeserved favor).
But how could one articulate it better than eighteenth-century English churchman, theologian, and Bible commentator, Thomas Scott, in his Commentary On The Whole Bible? The following, with some minor changes in punctuation and formatting, etc., are his comments on Matthew 5:7:
“Mercy, is compassion, tenderness, and love, an aversion to every thing harsh, cruel, oppressive, or injurious; a propensity to pity, alleviate, or remove the miseries of mankind; an unwillingness to increase personal emolument or indulgence by rendering others uneasy; a willingness to forego personal ease, interest, or gratification, to make others comfortable and happy. This seems the general meaning of the word merciful.
“There is, however, a natural propensity of this kind which should be carefully distinguished from the gracious disposition. This is not expansive, habitual, general. It is profuse to some and cruel to others. It does not spring from proper motives. It is not directed to proper ends, nor governed by any regard to the divine law. It is often joined with impiety, injustice, excessive indulgence, and even tyranny, in other parts of a man’s conduct. In short, it is a sort of instinct, which is stronger in some men than others, and has no connection with true religion.
“But the mercy to which the blessing is attached has respect to the authority, law, and glory of God, and to the grace of the gospel. It is learned by looking to the cross of Christ and the mercy of God to sinners through him. It is uniform in its exercise and seeks the good both of men’s bodies and souls. It extends to the vile, the injurious, the mean, and obscure, and to every one of the human species, however distinguished, as far as he falls under its sphere of action.
“It is connected with humility, faith, self-denial, equity, piety, and universal conscientiousness, and it induces a man, from love to God and hope in his mercy, to love, compassionately, and do good to all men as he hath time and opportunity, not allowing himself to injure any but wishing and praying for the happiness of those whom he cannot reach or help. —Such persons are happy, for they shall obtain mercy.
“All are sinners, and need mercy, but these are penitent believing sinners and are interested in the mercy and grace of the covenant. The Lord will be compassionate and be kind to them according to their conduct towards their brethren. They shall be pardoned, supported, and comforted, through life and in death, and then shall enjoy “the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
But on the contrary, “Judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.” (Jas 2:13) Even in this world, the exercise of mercy and beneficence constitutes one of the most delightful employments of which our nature is capable as they best know who have the most decidedly made the experiment.”
Most of us have noticed to some degree that humans are not generally inclined to a merciful disposition? We have a tendency toward revenge or getting even when we are offended. We hold grudges and are not inclined to forgive. This disposition is the source of much unhappiness. It can even affect one’s health.
An article by the Mayo Clinic Staff says, “If you don’t practice forgiveness, you might be the one who pays most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude, and joy. Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.”
So, where do we look for help? Most of us are familiar with the Old Testament story of Job’s incredible patience in suffering. Job’s so-called friends did not understand the sovereignty and grace of God and leveled grievous accusations against him. The Bible tells us that God relieved Job’s suffering “when he prayed for his friends….” (Job 42:10)
Rather than hold grudges against his accusers, Job prayed for them. He showed mercy to them and the Lord rewarded him in abundance. He showed mercy; he received mercy!
An inclination to show mercy is of great value in our relationships with each other, yielding great reward now and in the future. God has shown great mercy to us, and provided that we as His followers should also be merciful as He is merciful. If we want to be blessed, it is only appropriate that we be a blessing ourselves. Amen!
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