Summary: Examination of the fifth BE-Attitude: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
PURSUING HAPPINESS: Extending Mercy
Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy”
Titus 2: 11 – 3:7
1. The Old Testament prophet Micah identifies three essential virtues for living a life pleasing to God. In 6:8 he states: “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
• Loving mercy. What a foreign concept mercy is in so much of our present day and age that appears bent on venom, vitriol, violence, and vengeance.
• As the spiral of terrorism and war escalates at a dizzying pace and the name and cause of God throughout much of the Muslim world is increasingly associated with the most horrendous acts of brutality and barbarism – now of course, Christians cannot exactly point fingers - we were guilty of their own warped understanding of God back during the Crusades of the 11th through 13th Centuries – however, the call for mercy right now seems like a futile effort and a lost cause. Who on either side of the conflict is willing to listen when revenge and retaliation are uppermost in the hearts and minds of so many?
2. We come today to the 5th Be-Attitude in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and as we have stated before, each of these beatitudes builds and expands on what has gone before. Here we have Jesus describing the character of the Christian – of what it means to be one of His followers and a member of the Church.
• We start by acknowledging our poverty of spirit – our spiritual bankruptcy and that attitude of humility opens the door to the Kingdom of God
• Next we mourn and grieve our lack of God’s life – we repent and seek His forgiveness and He showers upon us His mercy, forgiveness and comfort
• That non-defensive attitude before God – that meekness – in which we surrender the control of our lives into His hands - coming to Him with open and not grasping hands, makes us inheritors of all that is His.
• With God’s life beginning to form within us, we start hungering and thirsting for His righteousness – aligning our lives with His purposes and His agenda and in so doing, discover the satisfaction and fulfillment of our own purpose that is the result.
3. Now today, there is a bit of a shift of focus from our vertical relationship with God, outward horizontally to others.
• Because of our relationship with God, and out of our relationship with God, we deal with other people in a godlike way. God’s perspective and God’s passions now can become our own.
• And because each of us has been the generous and undeserving recipient of God’s mercy, we are moved by His indwelling Spirit to respond to others in the same way.
4. So what exactly is mercy and what is a merciful person like?
• Rather than give a series of definitions, I hope to paint a picture of mercy made up of a number of stories demonstrating merciful behavior.
5. Before we look at the picture, let’s briefly examine the frame. The frame of this picture and what gives shape to its contents is the mercy of God. Back in Exodus 25 God told Moses to make an ark for carrying the 10 Commandments of the Law. The top section or lid of the ark was to be known as “The Mercy Seat” – the Hebrew word for it is "kap-po-reth" and means “to cover” but the root of the word means “to pardon”, “to atone for” and “to cover” as in a debt.
• There were to be 2 cherubs covered in gold facing each other on either end of the mercy seat – with their wings touching
• The Ark was to be placed in the Holy of Holies inside the tabernacle and Aaron the High Priest was only to go in there once a year on the Day of Atonement with the blood of a sacrificed bull to sprinkle on the mercy seat to make atonement for his own sins and the sins of the people.
• God would meet the High Priest and speak with him from above the mercy seat
• The picture for us to hold in our minds here is how between God and His Holy, Just and Righteous Law there is a special place God has made for mercy.
6. So often people have tried to make a distinction between the God of the Old Testament and God as we have come to know Him in Jesus Christ – seeing in the Old Testament only a God of Law and Justice, of Rules and Regulations - but in Christ, a God of compassion and mercy, tenderheartedness and forgiveness.