When I was a child, my parents maintained a good disposition but from time to time, like most parents, like most people, they’d get shocked or disappointed or miffed by various things life would throw their way and my dad’s reaction in particular was always the same.  One word.  “Mercy.”  Or if the situation was of a more extreme nature, “Mercy!”  (I think he got that from a Roy Orbison song.)  It was far more statement than plea.

That memory returned as I contemplated this post.  Like the previous one, there’s going to be some GREAT NEWS, which will be followed by a loving word of warning from the ever-loving God via His Word, the Bible.  Like my parents also used to say per the previous post, “where there’s privilege, there’s also responsibility.”  (That’s also the perspective of our heavenly  Father as you’re about to read.)

First, the privilege/receiving.

God is merciful.  He abounds in mercy.  It’s part of His very nature.

2 Corinthians 1:3 calls Him “the Father of mercies.”

In Exodus 34:6, when Moses went back up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments for a second time due to his anger over the people’s sinful conduct including worshiping the golden calf which Aaron had made (32:35), the English Standard Version (ESV) translates God’s testimony about Himself like this:  “The Lord, the Lord God, MERCIFUL and gracious…”  And Micah 7:18 goes a bit further and says that God “DELIGHTS in mercy” (New King James Version, NKJV).  And Ephesians 2:4 goes even further in a sense in declaring that God is “RICH in mercy.”  And David – the man after God’s own heart, asserts in Psalm 25:10, “ALL the paths of the Lord are MERCY and truth” (King James Version, KJV).  And in Psalm 145:8-9 he says “The Lord is gracious and merciful … and His mercies are over ALL his works” then echoes that in Psalm 86:15 – “But Thou, O Lord, art a God MERCIFUL and gracious.”  I love the explanation of the difference between mercy and grace I learned as a child:  grace is getting what we do not deserve; mercy is NOT getting what we DO deserve.  Mercy goes hand-in-hand with compassion [and indeed is actually translated as such here by the New American Standard Version (NASB)] and forbearance and patience and lovingkindness.  Indeed, this is not just attributed to God in the Old Testament but equally so in the New:  James 5:11 assures us that “the Lord is FULL of compassion, as is MERCIFUL.”

It’s part of His very nature.  So totally unsurprisingly, they NEVER run out.  Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV) – “His mercies NEVER come to an end; they are new EVERY morning.”  Just like that song many of us have sung in church.

Second, the responsibility/giving.

The bar is set very high, my friend, by the Lord Jesus Himself; in Luke 6:36 He commands us to “Be merciful, JUST AS your [heavenly] Father is merciful.”  Wow.  High standard indeed.  The highest.

In fact, for anyone who desires to be wise, to receive wisdom from God, he or she must be “FULL of mercy” (James 3:17; and also pure and peaceful among other things).

And speaking of the link between mercy and wisdom, Proverbs 14 gives us a double-dose on the topic:  verse 21 says that “he who has mercy  on the poor, happy  is he” and verse 31 says “he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.” (NKJV)  And Micah 6:8 is among the most familiar Old Testament verses and says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  And Zechariah 7:9 commands us to “show mercy and compassion everyone  to his brother.”

From a biblical perspective, there are many things about current society which concern me.  Near the very top of that list is an ever-increasing and tangible, palpable lack of mercy, particularly in recent years.  Especially online but even in person (just watch the news on any given day and you’ll likely see multiple examples), people more and more are choosing cruelty and meanness and unkindness over mercy.

My friend, while this certainly isn’t great for the object of said lack of mercy, it’s even far worse for the subject, for the one(s) being unmerciful.

Here’s a GREAT verse on this matter.  Proverbs 11:17 – “The merciful man does HIMSELF good…”  But it doesn’t stop there:  “… but the cruel man does HIMSELF harm.”  Wow, what a timely verse for the time in which we currently live!

But once again (I LOVE this!) that which couldn’t be stated any more clearly in the Old Testament is reiterated in the New:  James 2:12-13 is equally clear and provides the perfect conclusion for this post:  “So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.  For JUDGMENT WILL BE MERCILESS TO ONE WHO HAS SHOWN NO MERCY.”  Yikes!  What a stern warning each of us would be wise to not lose sight of ever, to keep firmly in mind all day every day.  But like Proverbs 11:17, James 2:13 doesn’t stop there; isn’t it just like the Lord  to end on an encouraging, uplifting, motivational note of positive reinforcement:  “MERCY TRIUMPHS OVER JUDGMENT.”  And 2 Samuel 22:26 says the same thing:  “With the merciful, You will show Yourself merciful.” (KJV/ESV)  And in Matthew 5:7, right at the start of the “Sermon on the Mount” – unparalleled in oration and preaching and evangelism history – Jesus simply said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive  mercy.”

So starting today and for the rest of our lives, let’s actively look for and search out  opportunities to show MERCY to others.  The highest motivation for anything  is always God’s pleasure but even if we can’t always maintain that perspective, even if one isn’t motivated by that, then do it for YOURSELF, for your own  well-being.  Not only in the life to come, but also in this one.  Indeed indeed, “The merciful man does HIMSELF good.”

As Dad would often say, “Mercy!”
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