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Summary: A sermon on God’s mercy with main points taken from a very popular section of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice.

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Blessed Are the Merciful Matt. 5:7

INTRO. This is the first of the Beatitudes that deals with the attitude of a Christian toward his fellow man.

Mercy is love in action. It seeks the benefit of those who are in our power to hurt and may well deserve ill treatment.

It goes beyond benevolence because it prompts us to treat enemies as friends.

It goes beyond kindness because kindness doesn’t presuppose a personal injury to the person exercising it.

The first part of mercy is forgiveness of offenses. If we are willing to forgive offenders and actively seek their benefit and improvement, we are merciful.

Jesus said mercy is more pleasing to God than religious ritual. Religious ritual without the proper attitude toward others is empty, useless. Matt. 12:7

I’ve taken my main divisions from Shakespeare’s "Merchant of Venice."

I. "The quality of mercy is not strained"

A. True mercy is without limit. Matt. 18:21, 22

1. Rabbis of Jesus’ day required forgiving 3 times.

2. True forgiveness does not consider size or number of offenses.

3. Unlimited forgiveness is God’s ideal. Most difficult for men to attain.

B. God does not ask us to do more than He has done:

1. Forgave, for instance, Saul who opposed Him. I Tim. 1:16

2. Jesus forgave His killers. How hard this would be!

3. God forgave those who killed His son. That’s even harder.

II. "It is twice blessed. It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."

A. The one forgiven is blessed by being forgiven:

1. He is relieved of the burden of guilt.

2. He is freed from fear of retribution.

3. If friends have been parted by unforgiven offense, forgiveness restores fellowship.

B. The one extending mercy is also blessed:

1. His prayers will be answered. Matt. 6:14

2. God will forgive his sins. Matt. 6:14, 15

3. He has better hope for mercy from his fellow man.

III. "It is an attribute to God Himself":

A. His mercy is "abundant" I Pet. 1:3

1. Before Jesus, Jews perverted God’s Law, Gentiles ignored Him & made idols.

2. Yet, He had mercy though no one deserved it.

3. If not for His great mercy, we would be neither alive or saved.

B. Mercy is an adornment, even to kings.

1. Power aside, we esteem a merciful ruler highly.

2. God was in a position to destroy man. Any earthly king can destroy. Mercy is God-like.

3. The more power we have over a person, the more blessed to forgive. Lk. 7:40-43

4. The debtor forgiven most felt most blessed, therefore he loved most.

IV. "We do pray for mercy."

A. Mercy is the souls greatest need. Lk. 18:13

1. Justice would condemn us.

2. He saved us by His mercy. Titus 3:4

3. All man’s hope lies in the mercy of God.

B. We also need to show mercy toward others.

1. Brooding over past wrongs occupies the mind and keeps it from constructive activity.

2. "Getting even" by talking about others causes many illnesses. ILLUS.: Quote fr. Dr. S. I. McMillan

3. It is impossible, in God’s moral universe, to be forgiven unless we are willing to forgive.

V. "And that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy."

A. Perhaps Shakespeare was familiar with Matt. 6:12.

1. Many condemn themselves with this prayer.

2. Not just a verbal offer of forgiveness, but doing deeds of mercy. Helping those who may wrong us.

B. God’s mercy may be withdrawn if we don’t have mercy on others. Lk. 18:25

1. The servant in Jesus’ story had already been forgiven. He "fell from grace."

2. There is a warning here for Christians.

3. The unforgiving, unmerciful person is headed for torment.

CONC.: the patriarch Joseph is a good example of a merciful man. His brothers wronged him severely. Because of them, he spent the better part of his life as a slave or prisoner. Yet, when it was in his power to take revenge, he had mercy on them. By doing so, he glorified God and gained for himself a great part in God’s story of redemption.

Shakespeare on mercy (From the Merchant of Venice)

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:

’Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown;

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

The attribute to awe and majesty,

Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

It is an attribute to God himself;

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

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