December 7th, 2014
“Emmanuel’s Kingdom – Pt 6”
Meditation/Preparation: Being merciful is a natural by-product of recognizing and mourning over your spiritual poverty, and seeing God has given you every resource necessary to be what God created and designed you to be. Therefore, as a result, you are now willing to do whatever it takes to be like Jesus . . . full of mercy.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. — Micah 6:8
The questions to be answered are . . . What is mercy? How do I become more merciful? Is there ever an inappropriate expression of mercy? Why is mercy regarded as a grievance by much of the world but as a virtue by God? Why should we be merciful?
Answer: Mercy is to care enough about someone in need to help them. You become more merciful by comprehending God’s mercy towards you. Mercy is perverted when it leads away from God and righteousness. Mercy in the eyes of the world is a Darwinian weakness. Mercy in the eyes of God is a virtue that demonstrates strength and identifies civility. We should be merciful because we recognize God’s mercy towards us it and creates a blessed world.
The Word for the Day is . . . Mercy
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament; Vol 2, p. 477 Eleos (Gk for Mercy) = the emotion roused by contact with an affliction which comes undeservedly on someone else.
Five questions Pastor Keith would like to attempt to answer concerning mercy:
- What is mercy? (Dt 15:7-8; Psa 41:1-2; Prv 12:10; Ti 3:5; 1 Pt 1:3)
The ministry of mercy is the meeting of “felt” needs through deeds. As agent of the kingdom, the church seeks to bring substantial healing of the effects of sin in all areas of life, including psychological, social, economic, and physical. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 45)
The basic idea of the Greek word translated merciful is “to give help to the wretched, to relieve the miserable.” Here the essential thought is that mercy gives attention to those in misery. From this we make the important distinction between mercy and grace. Grace is shown to the undeserving; mercy is compassion to the miserable. (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 46)
Mercy includes kindness, but it is more than that. Someone has expressed the difference quaintly, but fairly accurately: kindness is a friend calling when you are well; mercy is a friend calling when you are sick. (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 31)
What is mercifulness? It is a gracious disposition toward my fellow creatures and fellow Christians. It is that kindness and benevolence that feels the miseries of others. It is a spirit that regards with compassion the sufferings of the afflicted. It is that grace that causes one to deal leniently with an offender and to scorn the taking of revenge. (Arthur W. Pink, The Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer, 39)
Mercy earned is no mercy. Love earned is no love. Compassion for a wage is no compassion, it is a prostitution of the Father’s Character. — Steve Brown
. . . . Forgiveness, mercy and grace are not cheap – they always cost the one giving it, never the one receiving it.
Mercy exists when something is done to alleviate distress. (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 46)
Mercy means active goodwill. (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 47)
True mercy demands action. (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 47)
The Hebrew word for mercy is chesedh; and it is an untranslatable word. It does not mean only to sympathize with a person in the popular sense of the term; it does not mean simply to feel sorry for someone in trouble. Chesedh, mercy, means the ability to get right inside the other person’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 103)
Mercy offers relief from punishment; grace offers pardon for the crime. Mercy eliminates the pain; grace cures the disease.
When the good Samaritan bound up the wounds of the man who had been beaten and robbed, he showed mercy. When he took him to the nearest inn and paid for his lodging until he was well, he showed grace. His mercy relieved the pain; his grace provided for healing.
Mercy relates to the negative; grace relates to the positive. In relation to salvation, mercy says, “No hell,” whereas grace says, “Heaven.” Mercy says, “I pity you”; grace says, “I pardon you.” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 191-2)
The best definition of the two that I have ever encountered is this: “Grace is especially associated with men in their sins; mercy is especially associated with men in their misery.” In other words, while grace looks down upon sin as a whole, mercy looks especially upon the miserable consequences of sin. So that mercy really means a sense of pity plus a desire to relieve the suffering. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 84)
What makes mercy different from grace? Primarily it is the quality of helplessness or misery on the part of those who receive mercy. Grace is love when love is undeserved. Mercy is grace in action. Mercy is love reaching out to help those who are helpless and who need salvation. Mercy identifies with the miserable in their misery. (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 45)
Because of God’s mercy toward the helpless and His forbearance of human frailty, sinners are able to appeal to Him in hope. Daniel appealed to God on the ground of His great mercy, not on the ground of his own righteousness (Dn 9:8f.). Sinners who confess and forsake sin may boldly appeal for and find mercy (Ps 51:1; Prv 28:13). While mercy can be expected because of God’s nature and historical actions, it can never be demanded or earned; God freely bestows it. As God said to Moses, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy” (Ex 33:19).
Finally, it must be noted that the mercy of God is not simply an emotion; it is always manifested historically in personal actions. He has mercy on His people and multiplies them (Dt 13:17), restores their fortunes (Jer 33:26; Ez 39:25), and delivers them from their enemies (Jer 42:12). (Geoffrey Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 322-3)
Augustine describes man under four different conditions. Before the law he neither fights nor strives against sin. Under the law he fights but is overcome. Under grace he fights and conquers. But in heaven it is all conquest, and there is no combat more to all eternity. It is our happiness here in grace that there is a conquest, though a daily combat: we fight, but we get the victory; sin shall nevermore have dominion over us. Those sins that were kings are now captives in us; sins that were in the throne are now in chains. What a mercy is this! (Samuel Bolton; The True Bounds of Christian Freedom, 26)
- How do I become more merciful? (Psa 25:6-7; 103:8; 116:5; 145:8; Lam 3:22; Hos 6:6; Mi 6:8; 7:18; Mt 18:21-35; Lk 7:47; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 4:32; 5:1-2; 2 Tm 1:16-18; Jas 3:17; 5:11; Heb 12:1-2; 1 Pt 2:10)
The one who is not merciful is inevitably so unaware of his own state that he thinks he needs no mercy. He cannot picture himself as miserable and wretched; so how shall God be merciful toward him? He is like the Pharisee in the temple who was unmerciful toward the wretched tax collector in the corner (Lk 18:10ff.). By contrast, the person whose experience reflects these beatitudes is conscious of his spiritual bankruptcy (Mt 5:3), grieves over it (5:4), and hungers for righteousness (5:6). He is merciful toward the wretched because he recognizes himself to be wretched; in being merciful he is also shown mercy. (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 25)
Nothing moves us to forgive like the wondering knowledge that we have ourselves been forgiven. Nothing proves more clearly that we have been forgiven, to show mercy and to receive mercy: these belong indissolubly together, as Jesus illustrated in his parable of the unmerciful servant. (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 47-8)
Pure mercy is a gift of God. It is not a natural attribute of man but is a gift that comes with the new birth. We can be merciful in its full sense and with a righteous motive only when we have experienced God’s mercy. Mercy is only for those who through grace and divine power have met the requirements of the first four beatitudes. It is only for those who by the work of the Holy Spirit bow humbly before God in poverty of spirit, who mourn over and turn from their sin, who are meek and submissive to His control, and who hunger and thirst above all else for His righteousness. The way of mercy is the way of humility, repentance, surrender, and holiness. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 194)
We are not meant to control our Christianity; our Christianity is rather meant to control us. From the standpoint of the Beatitudes, as indeed from the standpoint of the whole of the NT, it is an entire fallacy to think in any other way, and to say, for example, “To be truly Christian I must take up and use Christian teaching and then apply it.” That is not the way our Lord puts it. The position rather is that my Christianity controls me; I am to be dominated by the truth because I have been made a Christian by the operation of the Holy Spirit within. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 82)
As recipients of the abundant mercy, we are compelled by our new-found wealth in Christ to share it verbally and practically in deeds of kindness to the window, the orphan, sick, and the poor. This is the emphasis of James 1 and 2, and the theme of Romans 15 and 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. It is also the story of church history. Be it the Reformation or the Great Awakening, history shows that revival expression itself is a concern for the weak that brings many of them to Jesus Christ. (C. John Miller, Powerful Evangelism for the Powerless, 76)
Now we are in a position to see why Jesus (and Isaiah, James, John, and Paul) can use the ministry of mercy as a way to judge between true and false Christianity. A merely religious person, who believes God will favor him because of his morality and respectability, will ordinarily have contempt for the outcast. “I worked hard to get where I am, and so can anyone else!” That is the language of the moralist’s heart. “I am only where I am by the sheer and unmerited mercy of God. I am completely equal with all other people.” That is the language of the Christian’s heart. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 61)
If you were in this happy [humbled] state, far from impatiently enduring those who are not, the immense stretch of your heart would make you indulgent and compassionate toward all the weaknesses which shrink selfish hearts. The more perfect we are, the more we get along with imperfection. The Pharisees could not bear the publicans and the women sinners, whom Jesus Christ treated with such gentleness and kindness. (Fenelon, Christian Perfection, 61)
Forgiveness flows out of mercy, and mercy flows out of love. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 191)
Paul characterizes godless men as unrighteous, wicked, greedy, evil, envious, murderous, deceitful, malicious, gossiping, slanderous, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, and unloving. The climaxing evil of that long list, however, is being unmerciful (Rom 1:29-31). Mercilessness is the capstone marking those who reject God’s mercy. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 193)
As Edmund Clowney has put it, “God requires the love that cannot be required.” Mercy is commanded, but it must not be the response to a command, it is an overflowing generosity as a response to the mercy of God which we received. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 62)
The Jewish leaders in Matthew’s Gospel failed to grasp the fundamental requirement of being merciful. Because of their relentless legalism, Jesus instructed them to learn Hos 6:6, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13). Failing to learn that, they remained intolerant (Mt 12:7). Therefore, Jesus condemned them for their pettiness, the scrupulous tithing of garden herbs, while ignoring the weightier matters of justice, mercy, and faith (Mt 23:23). (Geoffrey Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 323)
Some think they can’t do it; others refuse to change or grow. They simply lack the faith to step out and do something. “Where is your faith?” I wish to admonish them (and many times I do). “Don’t you believe that God will enable you to obey Him?”
The churches that mature in health and effect lasting change are the ones that come to God in brokenness and humility and beg Him to produce the obedience of faith in them. (Donald J. MacNair; The Practices of a Healthy Church, 231)
The OT prophets habitually called for a threefold repentance on the part of God’s people: the rejection of idolatry or false religion; the renunciation of adultery, drunkenness and other personal sins; and a renewal of caring for the poor and needy, forsaking indifference, fighting oppression and seeking justice. (Richard F. Lovelace; Dynamics Of Spiritual Life—An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, 382)
Obviously the doctrine of justification by faith only is absolutely essential. There has never been a revival but that this has always come back into prominence. This doctrine means the end of all thinking about ourselves and our goodness, and our good deeds, and our morality, and all our works. Look at the histories of revivals, and you will find men and women feeling desperate. They know that all their goodness is but filthy rags, and that all their righteousness is of no value at all. And there they are, feeling that they can no nothing, and crying out to God for mercy and for compassion. Justification by faith. God’s act. ‘If God does not do it to us,’ they say, ‘then we are lost.’ (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 55)
. . . there are at least two essential marks of the upright heart. First, it trembles at the word of God. It feels precarious and helpless and in tremendous need of mercy. Then, second, it trusts the mercy of God to forgive and help and save. (John Piper; The Pleasures of God, 222)
III. Is there ever an inappropriate expression of mercy? (Jdg 10:11-16; Ps 3:7; 146:9; Mt 18:15-35; Acts 5:1-11; Rom 9:15; 16:17; 1 Cor 5:1-12; 16:22; 2 Thess 3:6–15; 1 Tm 1:19-20; Ti 3:10-11; 2 Jn 10-11)
When the person in need is acting irresponsibly, and your continued aid would only shield him from the consequences of his own behavior, then it is not longer loving or merciful to continue support. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 228)
If God is completely just, how could He ever not punish sin totally? For Him to be merciful would seem to negate His justice. The truth is that God does not show mercy without punishing sin; and for Him to offer mercy without punishment would negate His justice. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 192)
“But you must know that God is just as well as merciful! It is not unmerciful for God to punish men according to His threatenings. Yea, His truth and faithfulness oblige Him to do it. God Himself has determined the way and the time for the exercise of His mercy. If these are neglected, no mercy will be shown. The very devils may as well hope for mercy as impenitent unbelievers who neglect the day of salvation and do not seek for mercy in a Gospel way. You cannot take a more direct and dangerous route to turning away the heart of a merciful God from you than by abusing His goodness in strengthening yourselves in rebellion against Him. This is both a most vile abuse of it and a most unreasonable inference from it. Paul asks, “shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” and answers emphatically, “God forbid!” (Rom 6:1). Such a thought is to be abhorred.” (Owen Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation, 131)
God is merciful as well as just. He has always dealt in mercy with mankind and will always deal in justice when His mercy is despised. (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 91)
It is thought to be unloving and unkind to hold people responsible for their sins. But that is a cheap grace that is not just and is not merciful, that offers neither punishment nor pardon for sin. And because it merely overlooks sin, it leaves sin; and the one who relies on that sort of mercy is left in his sin. To cancel justice is to cancel mercy. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 192)
God’s mercy comes to us without conditions, but does not proceed without our cooperation. So too our aid must begin freely, regardless of the recipient’s merits. But our mercy must increasingly demand change or it is not really love. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 93)
And though we must be extremely patient, eventually, aid must be withdrawn if it is abused.
We see then that mercy ministry operates on the same basis as evangelism. Initially, we offer the gospel to anyone and everyone, as we have opportunity and resources to reach them. “Whosoever will”! We do not wait for them to come to us. But, if eventually a person or a group evidences a rebellious and disrespectful attitude toward the gospel, we withdraw. Continued pressure only hardens them and dishonors the message. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 97)
To expect to enter the sphere of God’s mercy without repenting from our sin is but wishful thinking. And for the church to offer hope of God’s mercy apart from repentance from sin is to offer false hope through a false gospel. God offers nothing but merciless judgment to those who will not turn from their sin to the Savior. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 192)
Pastors continually face this dilemma. There are chronically needy people in every church. Such people consume countless hours of their ministers’ time because they ask for extensive counseling and encouragement. Yet their unhealthy attitudes and behavior often remain unchanged. Meanwhile, church members wanting to grow in their faith may receive scant attention from their pastor because they do not complain or draw attention to themselves. Leaders who allow this to happen find themselves pouring all their energy into the least responsive people in their organization, while neglecting those who would flourish with even minimal effort. When leaders allow their time to be monopolized by the weaker members, they limit their organizations by not adequately supporting their healthy members. (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Spiritual Leadership, 219-20)
There are so many people today who think that being merciful means to be easygoing, not to see things, or if we do see them, to pretend we have not. That, of course, is a particular danger in an age like this which does not believe in law or discipline, and in a sense does not believe in justice or righteousness. The idea today is that man should be absolutely free minded, that he has the right to do just what he likes. The merciful person, many people think, is one who smiles at transgression and law breaking. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 83)
There is, however, a very much stronger reason than that for saying that what is meant by “merciful” is not being easygoing. For when we interpret this term we must remember that it is an adjective that is applied specially and specifically to God Himself. So that whatever I may decide as to the meaning of “merciful” is true also of God, and the moment you look at it like that you see that this easygoing attitude that doesn’t care about breaking the law is unthinkable when we are talking about God. God is merciful; but God is righteous, God is holy, God is just: and whatever our interpretation of merciful may be it must include all that. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 83)
Herein is terror for the wicked. Those who defy Him, who break His laws, who have no concern for His glory, but who live their lives as though He existed not, must not suppose that, when at the last they shall cry to Him for mercy, He will alter His will, revoke His word, and rescind His awful threatenings. Lo, He has declared, “Therefore will I also deal in fury: Mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in Mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them” (Ez 8:18). God will not deny Himself to gratify their lusts. God is holy, unchangingly so. Therefore God hates sin, eternally hates it. Hence the eternality of the punishment of all who die in their sins. (Arthur W. Pink; The Attributes of God, 40)
“But what an evidence does this afford of the unspeakable goodness of God! If even their very imperfect repentance—their turning from their evil ways, though alas it fell short of turning truly to the Lord—was, nevertheless, regarded by the Lord, how open must His ear even be to the poor, afflicted soul that turns truly to Himself! We have an instance of God’s extreme readiness to be reconciled to us on our repentance in the merciful manner in which He dealt with Ahab. We are told concerning that wicked monarch that “there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord.” Yet when Elijah was sent to denounce the most dreadful judgments on his house, the wretched king, stunned with alarm and remorse, “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.” There is not the slightest evidence, but the contrary, that this was a vital change of heart. But there was in it true regret; a sincere owning of God’s power, and hand, and righteousness; a justification, in so far, of the justice of God’s threatening; and a public testimony to the supremacy and government of God. And though not accompanied by a renewal of nature and a repentance unto life, it was pleasing in the sight of God in so far as it went. “And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? Because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil upon his house” (1 Kgs 21:25-29). (Hugh Martin; Jonah, 273-4)
“Instead of resting content with the fact that he was promised deliverance from the approaching judgment, Josiah did everything that was in his power to lead the whole nation to true conversion to the Lord, and thereby avert as far as possible that threatened curse of rejection, since the Lord in His word had promised forgiveness and mercy to the penitent.” (Keil & Delitzsch; Commentary on the OT: Vol.3; 482)
“The repentance of the Ninevites, even if it did not last, showed at any rate, a susceptibility on the part of the heathen for the word of God, and their willingness to turn and forsake their evil and ungodly ways; so that God, according to His compassion, could extend His grace to them in consequence. God always acts in this way. He not only forgives the converted man, who lays aside his sin, and walks in newness of life; but He has mercy also upon the penitent who confesses and mourns over his sin, and is willing to amend.” (Keil & Delitzsch; Commentary on the OT: Vol. 10; 409)
God is a God who honors and regards with more passion and conviction the image of Himself inside of every man who was given choice, knowledge, and will to exercise as man wishes. If you choose to regard and accept the forgiveness and mercy of God with integrity, repentance, and sincerity, then God will be unbelievably gracious, merciful, loving and forgiving to you. BUT, if you choose to despise and reject the mercy of God and spurn His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness; then He will honor your choice and make sure that you do not have to endure anymore of Himself than He can righteously withhold from you. — Pastor Keith.
The work of Jesus is to preach the gospel to the poor, not to pamper the pride of the wealthy. His work is to save men from their sins, not to encourage them to rest secure in sin; to save from all sin, and not to heal slightly, crying “Peace, peace, when there is no peace” (Jer 6:14b). “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully” (Jer 48:10) – that is, superficially. (B.T. Roberts; Fishers Of Men, 152)
It is not that pastors should preach grace only or that they should preach law only. The problem (as I see it) is that pastors should preach a more intense grace and more unfathomable love of God and a more forgiving and compassionate God and at the same time God’s utter contempt, abhorrence and disgust with our sin and we should more intensely preach God’s Law and the tragic consequence of our disobedience. It is not Law and judgment only or grace only that drives us to repentance, but a powerful understanding of both at the same time. Our preaching has become anemic because we preach only law or grace and not an extreme of both.— Pastor Keith
- Why is mercy regarded as a grievance by much of the world but as a virtue by God? (Ex 33:19; Mt 9:9-13; 12:7; 23:23; Lk 6:36-38; 10:25-37; Acts 20:35; Eph 2:4-9)
For the most part, the days in which Jesus lived and taught were not characterized by mercy. The Jewish religionists themselves were not inclined to show mercy, because mercy is not characteristic of those who are proud, self-righteous, and judgmental. To many–perhaps most–of Jesus’ hearers, showing mercy was considered one of the least of virtues, if it was thought to be a virtue at all. It was in the same category as love–reserved for those who had shown the virtue to you. You loved those who loved you, and you showed mercy to those who showed mercy to you. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 187-8)
The world reckons those men to be happy, who give themselves no concern about the distresses of others, but consult their own ease. Christ says that those are happy, who are not only prepared to endure their own afflictions, but to take a share in the afflictions of others,–who assist the wretched,–who willingly take part with those who are in distress,–who clothe themselves, as it were, with the same affections, that they may be more readily disposed to render them assistance. (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 263-4)
A popular Roman philosopher called mercy “the disease of the soul.” It was the supreme sign of weakness. Mercy was a sign that you did not have what it takes to be a real man and especially a real Roman. The Romans glorified manly courage, strict justice, firm discipline, and, above all, absolute power. They looked down on mercy, because mercy to them was weakness, and weakness was despised above all other human limitations. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 188)
It is very possible to have a passion for righteousness but to lack compassion for the one who fails to attain it. Righteousness can be cold and hard. Our fallen natures are geared more to criticism than to showing mercy, but it must not be so in the Kingdom.
Mercy can be exercised only to the undeserving. If it were deserved, it would not be mercy but simple justice. It is more than a compassionate feeling. It finds expression in compassionate activity. (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 27)
The more Jesus showed mercy, the more He showed up the unmercifulness of the Jewish religious leaders. The more He showed mercy, the more they were determined to put Him out of the way. The ultimate outcome of His mercy was the cross. In Jesus’ crucifixion, two merciless systems–merciless government and merciless religion–united to kill Him. Totalitarian Rome joined intolerant Judaism to destroy the Prince of mercy. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 189)
As such it is a peculiarly Christian virtue, which holds also for the other characteristics mentioned in the beatitudes. All indicate qualities of the citizens of the kingdom. For that matter, it should never be forgotten that while the Romans spoke of four cardinal virtues–wisdom, justice, temperance, and courage–mercy was not among them. (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 275-6)
The religious leadership in Jesus’ day tended toward being merciless because of their demand for rigorous observance of the law. Their motive was commendable in that it was driven by a desire for the people of Israel to be pure, but it was inexcusable because their unbending demands produced harshness and condemnation toward those who did not meet their standards. (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 208)
The OT affirms that mercy was a basic characteristic of God. The psalmist declared, “our God is merciful” (Ps 116:5; cf. Prv 12:10). Israel’s earliest experience of God was that of One who was merciful, gracious, and slow to anger (Ex 34:6). Thus the OT is rich in words that express the concept of mercy. Since mercy was part of God’s nature, it would never fail (Dt 4:31; Lam 3:22), even when Israel proved unworthy (Neh 9:17, 19, 27f., 31). God’s compassion was something the enemies of Israel totally lacked (Isa 13:18; 47:6; Jer 6:23; 50:42). Therefore, David preferred the mercy of God, even if it should bring pestilence, rather than be left to the hands of men (2 Sm 24:14; 1 Chr 21:13). (Geoffrey Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 322)
There is nothing that we can see on earth which does not either show the wretchedness of man or the mercy of God. One either sees the powerlessness of man without God, or the strength of man with God. — Blaise Pascal
The gospel is not at all what we would come up with on our own. I, for one, would expect to honor the virtuous over the profligate. I would expect to have to clean up my act before even applying for an audience with a Holy God. But Jesus told of God ignoring a fancy religious teacher and turning instead to an ordinary sinner who pleads, “God, have mercy.” Throughout the Bible, in fact, God shows a marked preference for “real” people over “good” people. In Jesus’ own words, “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 54)
The Romans despised pity. The Stoics might offer succor, but they looked askance at compassion. The Pharisees were harsh in their self-righteousness: they showed little mercy (see 23:23). Besides, the commonly accepted explanation of suffering saw in it only the deserved punishment for sin. So Jesus here took sharp issue with his world. (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 284)
“One so often hears people say, “I just can’t handle it,” when they reject a biblical image of God as Father, as Mother, as Lord or Judge; God as lover, as angry or jealous, God on a cross. I find this choice of words revealing, however real the pain they reflect: If we seek a God we can “handle,” that will be exactly what we get. A God we can manipulate, suspiciously like ourselves, the wideness of whose mercy we’ve cut down to size.” —Kathleen Norris (Phillip Yancey; Reaching for the Invisible God, 112)
“Would you like your light to shine?” Asks the prophet, “Then do away with oppression” (see Isa 58; Amos 8:4-10). In a time of frustration when the Lord did not seem to hear the cry of Israel, another prophet asks, “What does the Lord require of you?” It is to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8) (Tony Compolo; 101 Ways Your Church Can Change the World, 166)
As capitalism rose, the idea of the poor being dear to God changed to the idea of the poor having lost favor with God. — S. Prakash Sethi
Isaiah the prophet captured the urgency of timely repentance when he said, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa 55:6-7). (Owen Roberts; Repentance, 241)
- Why should I be merciful? (Ps 41:1-2; Prv 14:21; 19:17; Mt 6:14-15; 7:2; 12:18-21; 18:21-35; 25:31-46; Lk 18:10-14; Acts 20:35; Gal 6:7; Eph 5:1-2; Phil 2:1-11; Col 3:12; Jas 2:11-13)
O the bliss of the man who gets right inside other people, until he can see with their eyes, think with their thoughts, feel with their feelings, for he who does that will find others do the same for him, and will know that that is what God in Jesus Christ has done! (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 105)
The form of proverbial teaching should not confuse the order of these statements. For example, believers do not show mercy in order to obtain mercy; they show mercy because they have obtained mercy. In so continuing to show the evidence of the grace of God in their lives, they continue to receive that grace. In other words, they are not saved simply because they show mercy and are kind to people. He shows mercy and is kind because they are saved. (Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 51)
He who can and does not help the poor is a disgrace to Christianity: and he who does not lend his hand for the support of the cause of God, is a worthless member of the church. He who shows no mercy shall have judgment without mercy. And he who spends in pampering the flesh what should be given to the poor, shall have a fearful account to give in the day of the Lord. (Adam Clarke; Clarke’s Commentary: Vol. III, Matt-Acts, 785)
If we remain impassive or callous to human need and refuse to do anything about it, we need to take a good long look at ourselves and see if we really are believers. John says it best: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 Jn 3:17). (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 48)
Mercy to the full range of human needs is such an essential mark of being a Christian that it can be used as a test of true faith. Mercy is not optional or an addition to being a Christian. Rather, a life poured out in deeds of mercy is the inevitable sign of true faith. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 35)
Without sacrificing God’s standard of holiness, Jesus commends those who demonstrate mercy toward the needy, because the mercy that they show others will be shown toward them. (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 208)
We cannot go on from this point, however, without first calling attention to the fact that this beatitude has been a problem to some persons because it seems to imply that receiving mercy from God depends upon our showing mercy to others. The beatitude reads, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” This seems to imply that we must act first in showing mercy.
Does it mean this? Obviously not, unless this statement of Jesus Christ is to be accepted as contradicting all Scripture, including his own clear testimony, or unless we are to abolish the doctrine of grace entirely and with it all hope of salvation. If we are to be dealt with on these terms, no man would ever see heaven. No one would ever receive God’s mercy. Actually, of course, it is the other way around. For what Jesus actually was saying was that we are to show mercy because we have received mercy and are confident that we will continue to receive it. Conversely, if we do not show mercy to others, we show that we either understand little of that mercy by which we have been saved or else have never actually received it. (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 46)
What this Beatitude means is that those who are truly God’s children, and as such are objects of his mercy, will themselves be merciful and will receive mercy in the end. Showing mercy is evidence that we have received mercy. (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 48)
One of the purest and most refined delights in this world, is that of doing good. In this word, Blessed are the merciful, is included that saying of Christ, which otherwise we find not in the gospels, It is more blessed to give then to receive, Acts 20:35. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 51)
It is not the hookers and thieves who find it most difficult to repent: it is you who are so secure in your piety and pretense that you have no need of conversion. They may have disobeyed God’s call, their professions have debased them, but they have shown sorrow and repentance. But more than any of that, these are the people who appreciate His goodness: they are parading into the kingdom before you: for they have what you lack—a deep gratitude for God’s love and deep wonder at His mercy. (Brennan Manning; Ragamuffin Gospel, 103)
Thoreau wrote that “Most of the luxuries, and many of the so called comforts of life, are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. With respect to the luxuries and comforts, the wisest have ever lived a more simple and meager life than the poor… None can be an impartial or wise observer of human life but from the vantage ground of what we should call voluntary poverty.” (Philip Yancey; Soul Survivor, 313)
In Prv 14:31 and 19:17 we are told that to ignore the needs of a poor man is to sin against the Lord. So the poor and needy are a test. (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 39)
If ever you make a mistake of judgment, let it be on the side of mercy. — Barbara Johnson
A few days ago I made a marvelous discovery. In the Hebrew language of the OT the word for “compassion” comes from the root word, “womb.” The picture is of a birthing. Something new is being born. If I apply this in a human experience, it means that my compassionate acts always give the other person another chance. I do not hold past failures against them. I offer a “fresh start.” I want this for myself from others. Am I willing to give it to the other person? Such compassion will dramatically change the way we relate to each other. (Brooks Ramsey, Pastoral Counseling and Consulting Center, Memphis TN)
If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. — The Dalai Lama
Many of those who cry so loudly for justice would soon beg for mercy if justice were done to them. — Richard J. Needham
Worship Point: Worship the God of all mercy as you begin to recognize just how blessed you are and how much He has given you.
According to the narrative of Scripture, the very heart of how we show and distinguish true worship from false worship is apparent in how we respond to the poor, the oppressed, the neglected and the forgotten. As of now, I do not see this theme troubling the waters of worship in the American church. But justice and mercy are not add-ons to worship, nor are they the consequences of worship. Justice and mercy are intrinsic to God and therefore intrinsic to the worship of God. (Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship, 37-38)
God’s mercy is the foundation of mankind’s salvation. It is God’s unmerited response to human need: “He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy” (Ti 3:5). Mercifully, God made those dead in trespasses alive together with Christ (Eph 2:4f.). By His great mercy He caused Christians to be born anew to a living hope (1 Pt 1:3); He will be merciful toward their iniquities (Heb 8:12). (Geoffrey Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 323)
Gospel Application: See Christ as the incarnated example of mercy. Every resource He had He made available for the sake of others . . . never for Himself. You are saved from this life and the next by His mercy.
The word carries the meaning of identification in the suffering of others, of going through something with another, of entering into another’s problem with understanding and acceptance. And this is what God did for us in Christ; identifying with humanity and suffering on behalf of our sin. (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 64)
Spiritual Challenge: Look to Jesus to obtain mercy which will allow God’s will to be more effectively done here on earth as it is in heaven (Mt 6:10). Jesus is the author and perfecter of your faith (Heb 12:1-2).
Do you want a vision of divine wrath? Of intense holiness? Of righteous judgment? Look at the Cross! Do you want to know divine love? Mercy? Grace? Look at the Cross. But don’t look at either dimension of the divine character in isolation. Don’t try to grasp grace without seeing judgment. Don’t expect to appreciate God’s mercy without being stunned by his holiness. (Stuart Briscoe; Choices for a Lifetime, 44)
Quotes to Note:
Are you happy about yourself? Are you happy about the state of the Church? Is all well? Can we go jogging along? Meetings, services, activities—wonderful! Is it? Where is the knowledge of God? Is he in the midst? Is he in the life? What is our relationship to him? Face that question, and it will lead to this true godly sorrow and repentance, which will manifest itself in a practical manner. May God have mercy upon us, open our eyes to the situation, and give us honest minds, and truth in our inward parts. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 160)
- Mercy withholds the knife from the heart of Isaac – Grace provides a ram in the thicket.
- Mercy runs to forgive the Prodigal Son – Grace throws a party with every extravagance.
- Mercy bandages the wounds of the man beaten by the robbers – Grace covers the cost of his full recovery.
- Mercy hears the cry of the thief on the cross – Grace promises paradise that very day.
- Mercy pays the penalty for our sin at the cross – Grace substitutes the righteousness of Christ for our wickedness.
- Mercy converts Paul on the road to Damascus – Grace calls him to be an apostle.
- Mercy saves John Newton from a life of rebellion and sin – Grace makes him a pastor and author of a timeless hymn.
- Mercy withholds what we have earned – Grace provides blessings we have not earned. (David Jeremiah, Captured by Grace, 23)
Full of Mercy