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Blessed Are The Merciful


(Matthew 5:7 NKJV)
Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

Jesus spoke these words into one of the harshest and most legalistic cultures in history.. To Pharisees who would stone an adulteress to death. To lawyers who would divorce their wives for burning the dinner. To Roman soldiers who crucified people. To tax collectors who were extortionists. Mercy was in short supply. These words must have sounded like a pious daydream but we can look back and see that they introduced a new era and a new approach to humanity based on kindness and truth.

After these words rang out the followers of Jesus would suffer greatly but their mercy would win the day. Hospitals would be built, infant exposure by the Romans would cease, the Colosseum and the "circus" where people fought to the death with each other and wild animals would be closed down, education would prosper and grow, marriage be held in hon our and women given a higher status than ever before, and the cross would become a symbol of refuge and hope.

What Is Mercy?

In human terms mercy is the foregoing of the right to judge, criticize, attack or punish a person who is in one's power. A good illustration of this comes from the days when people fought duels. The fight would be fast and furious but if it came to the point where one of the duelists lost his weapon and was helpless against his opponent he could ask for mercy. The opponent had every right to run him through. But a gentleman would let the loser live. That is mercy. It is releasing our "opponent" from the consequences of their actions. It is forgoing our "right to punish". It is the opposite of a cruel, vengeful or exacting attitude.

The first mention of mercy in the Bible is found during God's judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah and refers to God's rescue of Lot from the destructive consequences of his lifestyle. (Genesis 19:16 NKJV) "And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife's hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city." Mercy takes us by the hand and places us outside of judgment and away from destruction.

Mercy is not capricious, God's mercy is chiefly shown to those who are loyal to Him. And obey His commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9-10 NKJV) "Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; {10} "and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face.

Mercy moves along the laneway of covenant relationship. The wicked cannot expect mercy, instead the wrath of God normally abides on them. (Romans 1:18) unless they repent - for the repentant shall always find mercy with God. (Isaiah 55:6-8 NKJV) Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. {7} Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. {8} "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.

The second meaning of mercy flows from this idea of "people in our power". It is mercy not to exploit the weak but to help and assist them. For instance a rich person is asked for a loan by a poor person. It is mercy to give them a gift or an interest free loan. The poor person is "in the power" of the rich person. The rich person can "make or break" the poor person. Sometimes people can be "in our power" due to circumstances. In the parable of the Good Samaritan the wounded man was in such a grave condition "left for dead" that his life was "in the power" of those who chose to show hospitality or refuse it. (Luke 10:29-37).

"Mercy ministries" use the power of the Christian church to help those most in need. The ultimate example is God and His Creation. If He was to decide to withdraw everything He gives us for free then all life would perish. God is merciful to the Creation that is totally in His power. He is the God who sends rain on thirsty ground.

Mercy one of the three attributes often found in the New Testament's greetings. Normally they are in this order - Grace, Mercy and Peace. God sends His Grace through the covenant which then results in Mercy which brings Peace -( "shalom" wholeness") to our hearts, minds and lives. Grace and mercy can be obtained through bold importunate prayer

(Hebrews 4:16 NKJV) Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. This bold prayer to the throne of God then brings us peace of mind (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; {7} and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Mercy is that gracious attribute of God that sets our needy lives at peace and rest.

Mercy is an attribute of the truly wise and godly.

(James 3:17 NKJV) But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

And above all of God who shows mercy to all and who has allowed disobedience to spread to all that He might have mercy upon all.

(Romans 11:30-33 NKJV) For as you (Gentiles) were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their (the Jews) disobedience, {31} even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. {32} For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. {33} Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

The mercy he has shown us in Christ Jesus is truly mercy! It takes disobedient people in danger of judgment and makes them Sons of God with an exalted place in the heavenly realms

(Ephesians 2:4-7 NKJV) But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, {5} even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), {6} and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, {7} that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

What great and marvelous things mercy can accomplish! This often derided virtue is the very transforming power of God! Merciful people are not wimps they are transformers of this globe. The predators and rapacious will go the way of the dinosaur and the merciful and meek will triumph! Praise the Lord whose ways are past finding out! He is awesome, holy and blessed! Praise His name!

Blessed Are The Merciful

Being merciful is truly a challenge to our human nature!. It challenges the following three fleshly vices - exactness, hypocrisy and vengefulness.

Exactness versus Mercy

Exactness is that precise spirit that is always worried about things like "fairness" and precise details of ritual. Its the spirit that was outraged at the unwashed hands of Jesus' disciples but which tolerated unwashed hearts.(Mark 7:1-23) It is unable to "make allowances". Jesus told a parable to break this spirit of exactness.

(Matthew 20:1-16 NKJV) "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. {2} "Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. ..... "And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day?' {7} "They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.'.....' {9} "And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. {10} "But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. {11} "And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, {12} "saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.' {13} "But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? {14} 'Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. {15} 'Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?' {16} "So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen."

Mercy can violate our sense of what is fair and "exactly right". We can call the goodness of God "bad" because He was good to someone - and it wasn't us! This is, in effect, saying that we are the center of the Universe and if anyone is to be treated well it must be us. It is making us the Judge and turning God into the accused. Unless we break our spirit of exactness we will end up condemning a merciful God. How can we break out of this? Jesus gives some suggestions that pierce us to the core in this area.

(Luke 6:28-36) {28} "Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. {29} "To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. {30} "Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.  {31} "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. {32} "But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them."But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,{ 33} "And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. {34} "And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit i s that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. {35} "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. {36} "Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

Hypocrisy versus Mercy

(Matthew 9:11-13 NKJV) And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?" {12} When Jesus heard that, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. {13} "But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

The desire of Jesus' heart is not that we get all the external details right but that we have merciful hearts - hearts that love sinners and draw them toward God and repentance. The Pharisees saw worship as the "big thing" they got all the details of burnt offerings correct. They tithed even the garden herbs.. They attended regularly al the feasts, fasts and hours of prayer. They knew the Scriptures . They knew the rules. But it was all outward. They did not know God. If they did they would have been merciful just as He is merciful. Mercy means that we must break the alabaster vase of our outward pious selves and spill some ointment into the lives of others.

Jesus cure for the judgmental attitudes of the hypocrites is a continuation of the verses we quoted as a cure for the spirit of exactness {36} "Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. {37} "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. {38} "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."

Vengefulness versus Mercy

"I'll get him back..he deserves it". The spirit of vendetta is the breeze that fans the fires in Hell. As the saying goes if everyone took and eye and eye and a tooth for a tooth soon the whole world would be blind and toothless! Mercy is a close companion of forgiveness and grace. It is the balm that puts out the stinging anger and rage. Once we let go of our rage in forgiveness then mercy extends a helping hand.

Life has its very bitter moments. When we feel deeply betrayed mercy seems the farthest things from our hearts. But O! the peace when we extend it. I remember sitting on my verandah, cup of coffee in hand, and more steam was coming out of me than the coffee! I was enraged at a deep betrayal. For six months I had stewed in anger and rage. I seriously wanted to kill the person who had hurt me so deeply. Before God I decided not to. Suddenly deep peace flooded through me. It was so beautiful that even ten years later I remember it with joy. The decision not to take revenge, to 'extend mercy' was hard for me because it seemed so unjust. It was "letting him get away with it". But justice is God's to dispense.

Mercy challenges our flesh and our sense of "natural justice". The Spirit has a different agenda to the flesh, a different wisdom and a different way of calculating profit and loss. That decision to be merciful will be a "star in my crown" in heaven!

(James 3:13-18 NKJV) Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. {14} But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. {15} This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. {16} For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. {17} But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. {18} Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

The cure for this spirit of vengefulness is again found in Luke 6! (Luke 6:27-31 NKJV) "But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, {28} "bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. {29} "To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. {30} "Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.{31} "And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

Mercy returns good for evil thus breaking the vendetta cycle. Mercy overcomes evil with good. This is such a "hard saying" that some theologians have tried to place its fulfillment in the Millennium saying that it is beyond the reach of the average Christian. However countless Christians in ordinary circumstances have put this into practice. It can be done. The Bible sees radical mercy as part of the Christian gospel for all people at all time. It certainly was part of practical Christian living for Paul and for the church in Rome which was soon to be intensely persecuted.

(Romans 12:17-21 NRSV) Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. {18} If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. {19} Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." {20} No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." {21} Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The Good Samaritan

The Good Samaritan is Jesus' primary example of an actively merciful individual.

(Luke 10:29-37 NKJV) But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" {30} Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. {31} "Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. {32} "Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. {33} "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. {34} "So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. {35} "On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.' {36} "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" {37} And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

The Good Samaritan had ten good points that show us how we can have practical mercy on others. He...

  1. Saw the need. (v. 33.)

  2. Decided to get involved out of compassion.(v.33)

  3. "Went to him." .didn't avoid him or expect the wounded to visit him.(v.34)

  4. Acted graciously to meet the immediate obvious physical need. (v.34)

  5. Used the best he had at hand (oil and wine).(v.34)

  6. Gave the traveler priority over himself . (v 34)

  7. Involved others in appropriate ways. (v.35)

  8. Did not intrude on the privacy of or make claims on the person helped.(v.35)

  9. Made a financial sacrifice. (v.35)

  10. Checked back to ensure appropriate service delivery.(v.35)

As Jesus aid to the lawyer -"Go and do thou likewise".

What If We Don't Show Mercy

Jesus tells a number of parables about what will happen to people who fail to show mercy. The unmerciful servant who would not forgive a small debt when he had ben forgiven a large one was handed over to the torturers (Matthew 18:21-35) and those that did not have compassion on the "least of my brethren" were cast into everlasting punishment in the lake of fire.

(Matthew 25:41-46 NKJV) "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: {42} 'for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; {43} 'I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' {44} "Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' {45} "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' {46} "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

The showing of practical compassion indicates that the love of God dwells in our hearts and that we are truly believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ with His agape love in us. To not have practical compassion indicates that we do not have God's love and that perhaps our actual salvation should be questioned.

(1 John 3:16-18 NKJV) By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. {17} But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? {18} My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

For They Shall Receive Mercy

We have all sinned against God and against other people. We all need mercy, forgiveness and grace. The best way to get this is to be merciful yourself for as Jesus said (Matthew 5:7 NKJV) Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. He makes us a further promise in Luke 6 {37} "Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. {38} "Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you." To receive mercy we need to give mercy and when we do we shall receive it back in "good measure" and our life will overflow with the blessings of God.


This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.