is a sad fact of our time that no longer do we speak of mercy as a virtue, but
as a weakness. You have but to look at the emotions portrayed in our movies
and television; mercy is a weakness, vengefulness is strength. But it has
always been the case: the ways of God will appear foolish to those who follow
the ways of the world. We must, therefore, examine the concept of mercy as
shown in the Scriptures, so that we might know how it applies to us, both as givers
carries a lot of different names in the Bible: compassion, love, forgiveness –
but always carries with it the idea that forgiveness, the covering over of
offenses, is a form of love in which God delights – as his children should, too.
are the merciful
they shall obtain mercy. That’s the simple form of it. We can remember this
in two ways:
towards others is the key to obtaining mercy for ourselves.
This is God’s requirement on us, if we are to be his followers.
judgment without mercy will be shown to those who are unmerciful.
matter is summed up simply in the parable of the unmerciful servant.
You recall it; the servant is forgiven a huge debt – and immediately goes out
and threatens one who owes him money. His master then punishes him all the
more severely for his failure to show mercy. Fair’s fair.
towards our enemies
is the love of mercy received – and quite differently, there is the love of
mercy given. As we shall see, God delights to be merciful. We are his
children; do we delight in it also? Do we in fact “love mercy” so much that
we are merciful even to our enemies? We should be.
need to forgive as the Lord forgave us (remember the unmerciful servant). It
should be part of our character, a virtue with many others.
we should be those who rejoice in the fact that “mercy triumphs over
Instead of condemnation, we should offer mercy, even to the worst of
is a gift
of us are grouches. We don’t like being merciful and we are not particularly
pleased to do it. But – I hope this surprises you – mercy is a gift of the
Holy Spirit, one of those which is designed to build up the church.
Therefore God has shown us that mercy is not something immutable about our
personalities, but rather his gift.
it is to be given cheerfully. We should be pleased to be merciful. (And
mindful not to bring it up again).
you lack mercy, remember it is a gift of the Spirit. Ask your heavenly
father for the gift of mercy, so that you might be merciful as He is
all else, we are to do this in imitation of Christ, who was merciful to us
at the Cross – forgiving even those who crucified him.
Mercy of God
a fact: mercy is part of the character of God. It is one of his attributes;
therefore we may say that God is mercy (just as we would say that God is love.)
justice and mercy – these are the things that God tells us he delights in.
this is so much a part of his character that the 136th Psalm
(in the King James eloquence) ended each verse with, “for his mercy
stuck in time; he is eternal. So the prophet of old put it in terms we
could understand: every morning his mercies are new.
Even if yesterday was rotten, today his mercies are new.
of his eternal character, his mercy never fails. It is always there for us to
request. Can the same be said of us, his children?
balance between wrath and mercy
course, God is righteous – and therefore is obliged to deal with the wicked.
But even there we see his mercy:
Scripture describes him as “slow to anger,” but rather “abounding in
he does become angry with us, it is only for a little while – but his
mercy lasts a lifetime.
when he disciplines us, we can see his mercy in it.
He will not turn away from you if you will but turn back to him.
court of appeals
God is merciful, then we should appeal to his mercy.
God is not arbitrary with his mercy; rather, he places upon it the condition
that we must ask for it.
often happened in Israel, the people as a whole sinned. God makes it
clear then that national repentance will bring mercy.
asks of the individual two things: confession, so that you might
acknowledge your sin before him, and repentance – so that you might give
up whatever is evil in you.
you do, you will find him abounding in love, ready to be merciful.
together, these thoughts lead to a startling conclusion. God is so ready to
grant us mercy that we go to the throne of grace (mercy) with great boldness –
because we are confident that he is the merciful God.
upon whom he will have mercy
is a snare in all this. We can grow arrogant and think, “Well, God always
forgives. I can do what I please, then ask forgiveness – and get away with
anything.” One barrier to this thought is that God requires not just
confession but repentance – turning away from your sin. But there is a greater
of us see God’s mercy as “automatic” – you do this and he does that. The error
is in supposing that we have “earned” God’s mercy. Mercy, by its very nature,
cannot be earned. Indeed, as shown at the Cross, it is beyond human price. It
is only by his great love that his mercy is shown to us.
The Holy Bible, King James
10Mercy and truth are
met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.11 truth
shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Psalm 85:10 through Psalm 85:11
enough, this virtue is so important that God gave the ancient Israelites a
model, a picture, of his mercy. Take a look at this diagram of the Ark of the
you will note the lid on this box – for that is what it is, basically, you will
see what is variously called the Atonement Cover or the Mercy Seat. It’s a
visual aid for us to understand the mercy of God.
physical item itself
cover itself has certain physical characteristics which have their spiritual
is made of pure gold – symbol of eternity, as gold does not corrode.
God’s mercy endures forever.
cherubim – the two angels you see there – are shown as worshiping God.
One of the reasons we worship God is that he is merciful, loving.
wings “overshadow” the mercy seat. We think of sheltering in God’s wings
as a picture of being saved and safe.
cover was made from gold given in a freewill offering, not something
required of the Israelites. It shows us, therefore, that God’s mercy is
free, without price – and given to those who will come to the mercy seat
times, the Old Testament speaks of God as being “enthroned between the
cherubim. The mercy seat is the throne of grace.
it was dedicated and purified with blood, a picture of the blood shed by
Christ on the Cross.
the physical side; there is also a spiritual side.
ark is called the Ark of the Testimony. Inside the ark were the stone
tablets of the Law; a pot of manna and Aaron’s rod that budded. The Law
is the accuser of the people. The manna is evidence of the times they
tested God’s patience. The rod is evidence of the time they defied God’s
command. All these things serve to accuse the people – and all of them
are hidden from God’s view by the Mercy Seat. It is a picture of
God’s mercy: our accuser, the evidence against us, are put out of sight
by the atonement of Christ.
those two cherubim, Moses (and later the high priest) met God. The
Shekinah, the glory of God, was seen there. This is why the cherubim are
shown worshiping God. God’s throne is on the Mercy Seat – which is why we
know it as the throne of grace.
may seem a bit less connected, but with the current interest in the Ark, I would tell you that the chances of its being found on earth don’t seem too high.
that men will no longer care about it. This is a prophecy (some believe)
of the time when Christ reigns on earth. It will no longer be necessary.
The ark was in the Holy of Holies in the Temple; but at the crucifixion
the veil of the Holy of Holies was torn in two – from top to bottom,
showing that the ark is just the forerunner of the atonement of Christ.
is seen in the time of the New Testament – in prophetic vision, by John,
the author of Revelation.
John tells us that he saw the Ark – in heaven. Some take this to mean
that God has not finished dealing with the Jews; others, simply as a
symbol of God’s mercy.
what does all this mean? How am I supposed to live?
– a character trait of the Christian
are to be the imitators of Christ, who showed us mercy at the Cross.
he showed mercy both to friends and to enemies, so should we.
must be asked for – either as a gift of the Spirit (for others) or as
forgiveness (for ourselves).
shown to the merciful
constant theme is this: those who show mercy to others will receive mercy from
God. Those who don’t, won’t.
more than he is wrathful.
is so much his character that we can appeal to it – and depend upon it.
mercy is shown to us, and now based upon, the atonement of Christ.
Mercy Seat, our visual aid
this object, we see the nature of God’s mercy:
is golden, symbolic of the eternal nature of his mercy.
is his throne – the throne of grace.
is there – at the throne of grace – we are to meet him.
the atonement of Christ stay between God and our sins. May it also stay
between us and the sins of our brothers.