David said to Gad, “I am in great distress;
please let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are very great.
But do not let me fall into the hand of man.” (1Chr. 21:13)
What does mercy mean to you? Noah Webster described mercy as,
That benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves; the disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, and to forbear punishment, or inflict less than law or justice will warrant. (Webster 1828)
The Lord God is merciful. Although He will not neglect justice, neither is He quick to execute punishment for sin. In fact, you might say He is a God of second chances. He prefers to discipline with gentleness, desiring to lead offenders to repentance that He might forgive them.
God is patient with us and merciful. As a gentle, loving Father, He disciplines His children in order to lead and guide them in the right way. But His discipline is tempered with mercy. He doesn’t bring the full weight of just punishment as He disciplines. Rather, His first response to sin is most gentle. He brings sin to our attention. He pricks our conscience. He gives us every opportunity to repent. It is only as we continue to choose to pursue our own way and harden our hearts against His gentle prodding that He allows us to experience more serious consequences for sin.
I am speaking of the consequences for sin we experience in this life as discipline, not of eternal consequences. In regard to eternity, God the Father, in His wisdom and compassion has provided a way that we might entirely escape the eternal consequences of sin through His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus took our punishment upon Himself so that by grace through faith, we might receive forgiveness and mercy rather than the punishment for sin we deserve (Isaiah 53:4-5, Romans 5:6-10). Jesus was raised from the dead that, in Him, we might have new life, both in eternity and in this present life (2Cor. 5:17). For all who receive Christ, justice has been satisfied so that mercy might be poured out in abundance (John 1:9-13, Romans 3:21-26).
Mercy is dear to the heart of God. Having appropriately identified the greatest commandments in the Law as, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27, see also Matt. 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-34),” an expert in the Jewish Law asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).
In the parable, the Samaritan showed mercy and compassion to a stranger, a man who had been robbed and beaten and lay suffering at the side of the road. The Samaritan bandaged his wounds and brought him to an inn where he provided for his care. At the end of the parable, Jesus asked the lawyer, “Which one proved to be a neighbor to this man?” And the lawyer answered, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
We may define our “neighbors” as those in our circle of acquaintance. God defines our neighbors as those He places in our path. We embrace them as neighbors when we show mercy and compassion and kindness toward them as our God also shows toward us.
In His sermon on the mount, Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matt. 5:7).” He also commanded, “love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return… and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36).
It is not easy to be kind to those who are ungrateful or unlovely. But when, with the help of His Spirit, we choose to act with mercy and compassion and lovingkindness, that is when we truly reflect the character of our God.
The Lord is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
The Lord is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. (Psa. 145:8-9)
From the Series: Nature of God