Blessed are the ones who show mercy, for it is to them that mercy will be shown. (Matthew 5:7)

A Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 13 March 2011

Introduction: the Good Samaritan

[Has already been read, so recap?]


“The [first four] beatitudes… [‘blessed are the poor, mourners, meek, hungry’] represent the saints rather as conscious of their need of salvation, and acting suitably to that character, than as possessed of it. The next three [‘blessed are the merciful, pure, peacemakers, persecuted’] are of a different kind - representing the saints as having now found salvation, and conducting themselves accordingly.” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown)

Apology for Word Studies

Mat 5:7  μακάριοι οἱ ἐλεήμονες, ὅτι αὐτοὶ ἐλεηθήσονται.

We have already dealt with the word “blessed” in the first beatitude, so there is only one other new word, and that is the verb ἐλεω, “have/show mercy.”

So if we can get a good grasp of what this action of mercy is, that’s about all there is to understand about this 5th beatitude!


And for me, that means yet another Biblical word study! Let me digress for a minute to explain why Bible word studies are so important to me.

1.      We can still use old words in new ways (as the Apostles did with the Classical Greek word agape, using a general word for love to regularly express a particular kind of self-sacrificing love),

2.      We can still borrow words from other languages (Just as Jesus did with the word Mammon, borrowing from pagan Aramaic a word referring to a god of wealth as a way to warn Christians against putting money-making into competition with following God.),

3.      And we can even make up new words (which I suspect Isaiah did on occasion, because he used a lot of words which have never been found in writing anywhere else, not even elsewhere in the Bible!).

So I’ll share with you what some lexicographers wrote, but I’ll also go through my own word study!

What does it mean to show/be shown mercy?

A. Lexicographical Definitions

B. Bible Word Study

God is merciful

The only other place in NT this noun occurs is Hebrews 2:16-18 For assuredly He [speaking of Jesus] does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.


Throughout the Scriptures, mercy is attributed to God as an important character trait, and often that mercy is defined through parallelism as compassion:

Justice – When God cannot be merciful

When we break faith with God (and we all have), we deserve the punishment that God has decreed for sin. God is perfectly just to punish us for our sin, and He promises to show no mercy to those who live in rebellion against Him. God would be corrupt and unjust if He allowed evil to go unpunished. The Bible is clear that when God exercises His justice in this way, He shows no mercy (and, by the way, neither should we when we are responsible for carrying out justice):

Prayers for Mercy

In light of the justice of God, those who fear Him beg Him for mercy, trusting His claim to be merciful:


The O.T. use of the verb for showing mercy seems to start out with instances of God giving blessings of children, but it mainly revolves around the promise and fulfillment of God restoring the Jews taken into captivity in Babylon and re-establishing them in Jerusalem, but it is not merely political restoration, forgiveness of sin is part of this demonstration of mercy:


The physical restoration of nationhood, descendents, and health correspond to the spiritual restoration and healing which God offers in our salvation:

·         Isa 55:7 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 12:1-2 Then you will say on that day, "I will give thanks to You, O LORD; For although You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, And You comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the LORD GOD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation.

·         Describing people exercising repentance and faith: Hosea 14:3 "Assyria will not save us, We will not ride on horses; Nor will we say again, 'Our god,' To the work of our hands; For in You the orphan finds mercy."

·         Romans 11:30-32  For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown* mercy* because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown* mercy*. 32  For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show* mercy* to all.

·         2 Corinthians 4:1 ..since we have this ministry, as we received* mercy*, we do not lose heart,

·         1 Timothy 1:13  even though I [Paul] was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown* mercy* because I acted ignorantly in unbelief… 16  Yet for this reason I found* mercy*, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

·         1 Peter 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time… 2:10  for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED* MERCY*, but now you have RECEIVED* MERCY*. (Quoting Hosea 2:23)


A. Seek God’s mercy

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” can be taken as a secular proverb, much like the apocryphal addition to Proverbs 12:13 “…He whose looks are gentle will receive mercy, but he who fights in the gates will afflict his soul.” (cf. Maimonides Hilch. Mattanot Anayim. c. 10. sect. 2 “All who show mercy, mercies will be shown to them.”)There is some truth to this. Just as the Jesus brought out with His parable of the shrewd servant who forgave debts to his master just before he got fired so that he could land another job after he got fired with one of the people whose debt he had just pardoned! When you do people a good turn, they’ll often do you a favor in return. And that is true to some extent, but I don’t think that is the heart of this beatitude.

Jesus spoke this beatitude to confront wrong attitudes in our hearts.

But when Jesus taught the beatitudes, He was speaking particularly to His disciples, not just uttering sagacious quotes to put into fortune cookies. He is going beyond mere secular proverbs to deeper spiritual truths:

o       Psa 112:4 Light arises in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious and compassionate and righteous.

o       Pro 11:17 The merciful man does himself good, But the cruel man does himself harm.

o       Pro 12:10 A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel [LXX=unmerciful].

o       Pro 14:21 He who despises his neighbor sins, But happy is he who is gracious to the poor.

o       Pro 19:17 One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed.

o       Pro 22:9 He who is generous will be blessed, For he gives some of his food to the poor.

B. Show mercy

  1. Is there anyone who has done you wrong that you can forgive? This is showing mercy.
  2. Is there anyone you know who is miserable and whose suffering could be alleviated if you were to share with them something you have? Show mercy.
  3. In your personal finances, do you regularly give to the church and other organizations that help the needy? That is showing mercy.
  4. And do you compassionately share with people about God’s merciful salvation accomp­lished through Jesus? This also is showing mercy regarding spiritual misery and poverty.

C. Be merciful for the right reason

  1. As Christians, our motivation for showing mercy to other people is NOT so that those other people will be nice to us
    1. often those who are very needy are not going to be grateful to you anyway.
    2. In my interactions with people who ask our church for money, most of them don’t think twice about lying to me and inconveniencing me; they have been programmed through years of receiving impersonal financial aid from the state to take gracious gifts for granted.
    3. “though the universe be ungrateful and pay back the meanest reward… it should be sufficient that grace is laid up with God for the merciful… that they in turn should find Him kind and merciful.” (J. Calvin)
  2. It is also NOT in order to earn mercy from God:
    1. Romans 9:14-16  What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
    2. Tit 3:5  He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,
  3. Rather we should be merciful to show gratitude to God for having already shown us mercy
    1. Rom 15:7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
    2. 2Co 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
    3. Eph 4:32-5:1 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
    4. Col 3:12-14 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
    1. “The most merciful and charitable cannot pretend to merit, but must fly to mercy. The merciful shall find with God sparing mercy (Mat. 6:14), supplying mercy (Pro. 19:17), sustaining mercy (Psa. 41:2), mercy in that day (2Ti. 1:18).” (Matthew Henry)
    2.  “…the Christian stands in a middle point, between a mercy received and a mercy yet needed. Sometimes the first is urged upon him as an argument for showing mercy - ’forgiving one another, as Christ forgave you’ (Col. 3:13; Eph. 4:32): sometimes the last - ’Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy’; ‘Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven’ (Luk. 6:37; Jam. 5:9). And thus, while he is ever to look back on the mercy received as the source and motive of the mercy which he shows, he also looks forward to the mercy which he yet needs, and which he is assured that the merciful shall receive, as a new provocation to its abundant exercise.” (Trench)
    3. “Mercy is not purchased but at the price of mercy itself; and even this price is a gift of the mercy of God.” (Adam Clarke)
    4. “The gift of mercy, it’s more than I deserve. If I ever get to Heaven, it’ll be mercy, not justice, that’s served.” (Pat Terry)


All scripture quotations are from NASB