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
Apology for Word Studies
Mat 5:7 μακάριοι
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,
- This verb occurs first as a participle with a
definite article, literally, “the ones who are showing mercy,” and most
English translations render the clause appropriately as an adjective, “the
- The same verb occurs again in the explanatory
clause at the end of the sentence, this time as a passive future with an
emphatic subject, “they themselves will be shown 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
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
- I believe in Prescriptive Lexicology – that is that
there are right and wrong ways to use words, and that a standard must be
used to determine the proper use of a word.
- The opposite of this philosophy is Descriptive Lexicology,
in which it is believed that there is no right or wrong use of words and
therefore the best that a dictionary writer can do is simply describe how
people are using various words at a particular point in time.
- I believe that Descriptive Philology is more consistent
with Secular Humanism and Hindu-related religions than with
Biblical Christianity because Humanism and New Age religions have no
moral authority to govern the meanings of words except for the brains
of the people who use them. Thus they can change the meaning of a word to
suit their own purposes.
- For instance, the meaning of the word “welfare”
has been changed from its original intent in our country’s constitution.
Our constitution says that it is a function of the federal government to
“promote the general welfare,” which originally meant advancing
the well-being of all citizens generally (such as buying land in the Louisiana
Purchase) and not paying attention to special interest groups, but is now
interpreted to mean taxing rich people and distributing the money to
poor people, even though this is the opposite of the intentions of the
writers of the constitution.
- On the other hand, I believe
that Prescriptive Lexicology is more consistent with Biblical Christianity
because we believe in a God who has been thinking and speaking
before we ever came into existence and who has given us information about
how He thinks and speaks through revealing Himself to us through
the created world and through the Bible. Our ability to think and speak
and write using words came from being created in God’s image.
- Thus, when we conform
our thinking and speech to the patterns He has revealed to us, we
are using words rightly, but when we start using words to mean the
opposite of what they originally meant in order to mislead other
people, or when we start using words to express rebellion and sin
against God, we are misusing the very gift of speech given to us by God.
- This is not to say that we cannot be creative with
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),
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.),
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, in this philosophy of Prescriptive word-use, the best
way to learn how to use words is to see how those words are used in
the Bible, which, of course, is also a good principle of hermeneutics.
- Imagining what the word means or deciding to
interpret this verse merely according to the way you feel about it
is not a good way to go about understanding what Jesus was trying to
communicate in this verse.
- Likewise, the assumption that the word in the Bible means
the same thing as the way you’ve heard people use the same word in
conversations at work over the last year is also not the best
idea. Mercy me!
- We need to look at the Bible to see how God
used words and follow His pattern.
- Now, we can save some time by reading the work of lexicographers
like Strong, Thayer, Arndt & Gingrich, Reineker, Vincent, and A.T.
Robertson, who have done a good job for us of summarizing the way words
have been used in the Bible, although even then you have to be careful,
because not all of them would believe scripture the same way we do.
- For instance, Thayer was a Unitarian, so he did
not believe that Jesus was God or that mankind is sinful, or that there
is a hell, and these beliefs influenced his definition of the Greek
word for repentance so that he focused on repentance as meaning
little more than changing ones mind and did not bring out the
fact that it was required for salvation.
- Although we can use these resources, there’s always the
possibility that if we were to look at the scriptures ourselves we’d see
it a little differently than even our favorite lexicographer.
So I’ll share with you what
some lexicographers wrote, but I’ll also go through my own
What does it mean to show/be shown mercy?
A. Lexicographical Definitions
- Matthew Henry (17th Century) “Those are the merciful,
who are piously and charitably inclined to pity, help, and succour
persons in misery.”
- Adam Clarke (18th Century) The word mercy, among
the Jews, signified two things: the pardon of injuries, and almsgiving.
Our Lord undoubtedly takes it in its fullest latitude here. To know the
nature of mercy, we have only to consult the grammatical meaning of the Latin
word misericordia, from which ours is derived. It is composed
of two words: miserans, pitying, and cor, the heart; or miseria
cordis, pain of heart. Mercy supposes two things: 1) A
distressed object: and, 2) A disposition of the heart, through which it is
affected at the sight of such an object. This virtue, therefore, is no
other than a lively emotion of the heart, which is excited by the
discovery of any creature’s misery; and such an emotion as manifests
itself outwardly, by effects suited to its nature... a merciful man enters
into the miseries of his neighbor, feels for and mourns with him.
- Marvin Vincent (19th Century): The word emphasizes
the misery with which grace deals; hence, peculiarly the
sense of human wretchedness coupled with the impulse to relieve it,
which issues in gracious ministry. Bengel remarks, “Grace takes away the
fault, mercy the misery.”
- William Hendriksen (20th Century): “Mercy is love
for those in misery and a forgiving spirit toward the sinner. It
embraces both the kindly feeling and the kindly act.”
- Anonymous: “Mercy is not getting what you deserve;
grace is getting what you don’t deserve.”
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.
- Jesus then is merciful,
and He showed his mercy by “helping” and “coming to aid” us by
paying the penalty for our sins on the cross and making His people right
- So we see
once again, that the characteristics of blessedness are the
characteristics of God Himself: God is characterized by being merciful.
The Beatitudes state the basic principle that blessing and happiness
come from being conformed to God’s own character qualities.
Throughout the Scriptures, mercy is attributed to God as an
important character trait, and often that mercy is defined through parallelism
22:27b when he [the poor man] cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I
- Exo. 33:19 And He said, "I Myself will make
all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD
before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious,
and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion."
34:6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The
LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and
abounding in lovingkindness and truth;
3:12 'Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD; 'I will not look upon
you in anger. For I am gracious,' declares the LORD; 'I will not be
2:13 And rend your heart and not your garments." Now return to the
LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger,
abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil.
- Jonah 4:2 He prayed to the LORD and said,
"Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own
country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I
knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger
and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.
103:8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and
abounding in lovingkindness.
- Psalm 111:4 He has made His wonders to be
remembered; The LORD is gracious and compassionate.
- Psalm 116:5 Gracious is the LORD, and
righteous; Yes, our God is compassionate.
- Psalm 145:8 The LORD is gracious and merciful;
Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
86:15 But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to
anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
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):
23:3 nor shall you be partial [LXX=show mercy] to a poor man
in his dispute.
- Deu 7:2 and when the LORD your God delivers them
before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them [the
wicked Canaanites]. You shall make no covenant with them and show
no favor to them.
12:22 David said of the child conceived by his adultery and covered up
by his murder of Uriah, "While the child was still alive, I
fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who knows, the LORD may be gracious
to me, that the child may live.'
36:16-17 they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words
and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His
people, until there was no remedy. Therefore He brought up against them
the king of the Chaldeans who slew their young men with the sword…
and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old
man or infirm; He gave them all into his hand.
13:18 And their bows will mow down the young men,
They will not even have compassion on the fruit of the womb, Nor will
their eye pity children.
27:11 When its limbs are dry, they are broken
off; Women come and make a fire with them, For they are not a people of
discernment, Therefore their Maker will not have compassion on them. And
their Creator will not be gracious to them.
59:2 But your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so
that He does not hear. [LXX=have mercy]
9:17-19 Therefore the Lord does not… have pity on their
orphans or their widows; For every one of them is godless and an
evildoer, And every mouth is speaking foolishness. In spite of all
this, His anger does not turn away And His hand is still stretched out… By
the fury of the LORD of hosts the land is burned up, And the people are
like fuel for the fire; No man spares his brother.
- Eze 24:14 "I, the LORD, have spoken; it is
coming and I will act. I will not relent, and I will not pity and I
will not be sorry; according to your ways and according to your deeds I
will judge you," declares the Lord..."
5:11 'So as I live,' declares the Lord GOD, 'surely, because you have
defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable idols and with all your
abominations, therefore I will also withdraw, and My eye will have no
pity and I will not spare.
7:4-9 'For My eye will have no pity on you, nor will I spare you,
but I will bring your ways upon you, and your abominations will be among
you; then you will know that I am the LORD!' Thus says the Lord
GOD, 'A disaster, unique disaster, behold it is coming!... Now I will
shortly pour out My wrath on you and spend My anger against you; judge you
according to your ways and bring on you all your abominations. 'My eye
will show no pity nor will I spare. I will repay you according to
your ways, while your abominations are in your midst; then you will know
that I, the LORD, do the smiting.
- Eze 8:18 "Therefore, I indeed will deal in
wrath. My eye will have no pity nor will I spare; and though they
cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not listen to them."
- Eze 9:5-10 But to the others He said in my
hearing, "Go through the city after him and strike; do not let your
eye have pity and do not spare. Utterly slay old men, young men,
maidens, little children, and women, but do not touch any man on whom is
the mark; and you shall start from My sanctuary." … Then He said to
me, "The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is very, very
great, and the land is filled with blood and the city is full of
perversion; for they say, 'The LORD has forsaken the land, and the LORD
does not see!' But as for Me, My eye will have no pity nor will I
spare, but I will bring their conduct upon their heads."
1:6b "Name her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion
on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them… Hos 2:4
"Also, I will have no compassion on her children, Because they
are children of harlotry.
7:13-16 …do not lift up cry [LXX+for them to be pitied] or
prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you.
- Lam 4:16 The presence of the LORD has scattered
them, He will not continue to regard them; They did not honor the priests,
They did not favor the elders.
- Jas 2:13 For judgment
will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs
Prayers for Mercy
In light of the justice of God, those who fear Him
beg Him for mercy, trusting His claim to be merciful:
119:132 Turn to me and be gracious to me, After Your manner with
those who love Your name.
- Psa 119:58 I sought Your favor with all my heart;
Be gracious to me according to Your word.
- Psa 123:3 Be gracious to us, O LORD, be gracious
to us, For we are greatly filled with contempt.
25:16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and
- Psa 26:11 But as for me, I shall walk in my
integrity; Redeem me, and be gracious to me.
- Psa 27:7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
30:10 "Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me; O LORD, be my helper."
- Psa 31:9 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I
am in distress; My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body
41:4 As for me, I said, "O LORD, be gracious to me; Heal my
soul, for I have sinned against You."
51:1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
56:1 Mikhtam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath. Be
gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me; Fighting all
day long he oppresses me.
- Psa 57:1 A Mikhtam of David, when he fled from
Saul in the cave. Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious
to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I
will take refuge Until destruction passes...
- Psa 6:2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I
am pining away; Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed.
- Psa 86:3 Be gracious to me, O Lord, For to You I
cry all day long.
- Psa 9:13 Be gracious to me, O LORD; See my
affliction from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of
- Psalm 86:16 Turn to me, and be gracious to
me; Oh grant Your strength to Your servant, And save the son of Your
33:2 O LORD, be gracious to us; we have waited for You. Be their
strength every morning, Our salvation also in the time of distress.
- In the N.T., this was the plea of many a sick person whom Jesus
Matthew 15:22 And a Canaanite
woman from that region came out and began
to cry out, saying, "Have* mercy* on me, Lord,
Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed."
- The man with the demon-possessed son: Matthew 17:15 "Lord, have* mercy*
on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into
the fire and often into the water.
- Matthew 20:30-31 And two
blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by,
cried out, "Lord, have* mercy* on us, Son of
David!" The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out
all the more, "Lord, Son of David, have* mercy*
on us!" (Mark 10:47-48 Luke 18:38-39, cf. Matthew
- This prayer has also formed the basis of Biblical Blessings: Gen 43:29 As he lifted his eyes and saw his
brother Benjamin, his mother's son, he said, "Is this your youngest
brother, of whom you spoke to me?" And he said, "May God be
gracious to you, my son."
6:25 The LORD make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;
- Does God answer this kind of this prayer? Isa 30:18-19 Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious
to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the
LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. O
people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will
surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears
it, He will answer you.
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:
- Gen 33:5 He lifted his eyes and saw the women and
the children, and said, "Who are these with you?" So he said,
"The children whom God has graciously given your
servant."…11 "Please take my gift which has been brought to you,
because God has dealt graciously with me and because I have
plenty." Thus he urged him and he took it.
- Deu 13:17 "Nothing from that which is put
under the ban shall cling to your hand, in order that the LORD may turn
from His burning anger and show mercy to you, and have compassion
on you and make you increase, just as He has sworn to your fathers,
- Moses prophecied it: Deu 30:3 then the LORD your God will restore you
from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you
again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you.
- 2Ch 30:9 Hezekiah prophecied it: "For
if you return to the LORD, your brothers and your sons will find compassion
before those who led them captive and will return to this land. For the
LORD your God is gracious and compassionate, and will not turn His
face away from you if you return to Him."
- Isa 14:1 When the LORD will have compassion
on Jacob and again choose Israel, and settle them in their own land, then
strangers will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob.
- Isa 44:23 Shout for joy, O heavens, for the LORD
has done it [LXX=has shown mercy to Israel]! Shout joyfully, you
lower parts of the earth; Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it; For the LORD has redeemed Jacob And in
Israel He shows forth His glory.
- Isaiah prophecied it:Isa 49:13 Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice,
O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the LORD has
comforted His people And will have compassion on His afflicted.
52:8-9 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, They shout joyfully
together; For they will see with their own eyes When the LORD restores
Zion. Break forth, shout joyfully together, You
waste places of Jerusalem; For the LORD has comforted His people,
He has redeemed Jerusalem.
- Isa 54:7-8 "For a brief
moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you
for a moment, But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion
on you," Says the LORD your Redeemer.
12:15 "And it will come about that after I have uprooted them, I will
again have compassion on them; and I will bring them back, each one
to his inheritance and each one to his land.
- Jer 30:18 "Thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I
will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob And have compassion
on his dwelling places; And the city will be rebuilt on its ruin, And the
palace will stand on its rightful place.
31:20 "Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a delightful child? Indeed, as
often as I have spoken against him, I certainly still remember him;
Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on
him," declares the LORD.
- Jer 42:12 'I will also show you compassion, so
that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your own
39:25 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Now I will restore the
fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and
I will be jealous for My holy name.
- Hos 1:7 "But I will have compassion
on the house of Judah and deliver them by the LORD their God, and will not
deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses or horsemen."
- Amos 5:15 Hate evil, love good, And establish
justice in the gate! Perhaps the LORD God of hosts May be gracious
to the remnant of Joseph.
1:12-17 Then the angel of the LORD said, "O
LORD of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem
and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy
years?" The LORD answered the angel who was speaking with me with gracious
words, comforting words. So the angel who was speaking with me said to me,
"Proclaim, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "I am
exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and Zion. But I am very angry with the
nations who are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they
furthered the disaster. 'Therefore thus says the LORD, "I will
return to Jerusalem with compassion; My house will be built in it,"
declares the LORD of hosts, "and a measuring
line will be stretched over Jerusalem. Again, proclaim, saying, 'Thus says
the LORD of hosts, "My cities will again overflow with prosperity,
and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose
- Post-exilic historians looked back on it: 2Ki 13:23 But the LORD was gracious to them
and had compassion on them and turned to them because of His covenant
with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them or cast them
from His presence until now.
9:17 "They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous
deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and
appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a
God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and
abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them. (cf 9:31)
- Psa 119:29 Remove the false way from me, And graciously
grant me Your law.
- Luke 16:24 "And he cried out and said,
'Father Abraham, have* mercy* on me, and send
Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my
tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'
- In the N.T. this merciful
restoration included freedom from spiritual oppression for the Gadarene
demoniac: Mark 5:19 And He did not let him, but He *said to him, "Go home to your
people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and
how He had* mercy* on you."
- Matthew 18:33 'Should you not also have had*
mercy* on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had*
mercy* on you?'
- Healing for those who were sick,
like Epaphroditus in: Philippians
2:27 For indeed he was sick to the
point of death, but God had* mercy* on him, and not
on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.
- And the spiritual gift of mercy exercised through the church: Romans 12:6,8 Since we have gifts that differ according to the
grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly… he who
exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads,
with diligence; he who shows* mercy*, with
- Jude 1:22-23 And have*
mercy* on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them
out of the fire; and on some have* mercy* with fear,
hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.
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
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.
- Deep down, my heart tells me that I’ll be happier if I mind my
own business and don’t get involved in the suffering of other people.
- My natural instinct is not to show mercy but to keep on walking
like the Pharisee in the story of the good Samaritan.
- I think I’ll
be happier if I am free from outside troubles and do not take on other
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:
all need mercy. We have all done wrong and deserve judgment from God, and
it is only His mercy through Christ Jesus that can save us.
those who have received God’s mercy through faith in Jesus and who are
characterized by mercy ourselves, it is right for us to anticipate more
mercy from God in the future. “He acted [mercifully] towards us while on
earth, even laying down His life for us; and He will not, He cannot
disown, in the merciful, the image of Himself.” (JFB) Don’t be afraid of
what God might do in the future, look forward to receiving more mercy from
there is a relationship between God’s mercy toward us and the way we
handle mercy ourselves toward others. (2Ti 1:18)
righteous people then reflect God’s mercy which came to them by showing
mercy toward other people:
o Psa 112:4 Light arises in the darkness for the
upright; He is gracious and compassionate and
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
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
- Is there anyone who has done
you wrong that you can forgive? This is showing mercy.
- 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.
- In your personal finances, do
you regularly give to the church and other organizations that help
the needy? That is showing mercy.
- And do you compassionately
share with people about God’s merciful salvation accomplished
through Jesus? This also is showing mercy regarding spiritual misery and
- “Who show mercy to the bodies
of men, to those that are poor, indigent, and miserable, in their outward
circumstances; by both sympathizing with them, and distributing unto them;
not only making use of expressions of pity and concern; but communicating
with readiness and cheerfulness, with affection and tenderness, and with a
view to the glory of God: who also show mercy to the souls of men, by
instructing such as are ignorant, giving them good counsel and advice:
reproving them for sin, praying for them, forgiving injuries done by them,
and by comforting those that are cast down. To show mercy is very
delightful to, and desirable by God; it is what he requires, and is one of
the weightier matters of the law; it is very ornamental to a child of God,
and what makes him more like to his heavenly Father.” (John Gill)
- We must not only bear our own
afflictions patiently, but we must, by Christian sympathy, partake of the
afflictions of our brethren; pity must be shown (Job. 6:14), and bowels
of mercy put on (Col. 3:12); and, being put on, they must put forth
themselves in contributing all we can for the assistance of those who are
any way in misery. We must have compassion on the souls of others, and
help them; pity the ignorant, and instruct them; the careless, and warn
them; those who are in a state of sin, and snatch them as brands out of
the burning. We must have compassion on those who are melancholy and
in sorrow, and comfort them (Job 16:5); on those whom we have advantage
against, and not be rigorous and severe with them; on those who are in
want, and supply them; which if we refuse to do, whatever we pretend, we shut
up the bowels of our compassion, Jam. 2:15, Jam. 2:16; 1Jo. 3:17. Draw
out they soul by dealing thy bread to the hungry, Isa. 58:7,
Isa. 58:10. Nay, a good man is merciful to his beast. (Matthew
C. Be merciful for the right reason
- As Christians, our motivation
for showing mercy to other people is NOT so that those other people will
be nice to us
- often those who are very
needy are not going to be grateful to you anyway.
- 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.
- “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)
- It is also NOT in order to
earn mercy from God:
- 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.
- 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
- Rather we
should be merciful to show gratitude to God for having already shown us
- Rom 15:7
Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the
glory of God.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- “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)
- “…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)
- “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)
- “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