Summary: What exactly is mercy? How does it look in our lives? How do we express it towards others? Why is it that the merciful will be blessed?
Living it Out - Matthew 5:7 - August 21, 2011
Series: Kingdom Life – A World Turned Upside Down #5
As we get started together this morning I’ll ask you to take your Bibles and turn with me, please, to the Gospel of Matthew. We’ll be reading Matthew 5:7 as we continue our study of the Beatitudes. And this morning we reach something of a transition in our series. To this point we have examined the first four of the Beatitudes - Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Each of these deals primarily with our response to, and our relationship with, God. We are broken in spirit as the depths of our spiritual need is made evident to us, we mourn our sin and find comfort in the forgiveness and grace of God, accepting that God’s ways are better than our ways we surrender everything we are, and have, and ever hope to be, and we turn it over to Him, and we seek after His righteousness – His Word, His Ways, His Will, in each day. The focus is on the work of God within us drawing us to Himself.
But the focus of the next four Beatitudes is different. They are not primarily focused on our relationship with God, but rather our relationship with one another. They are evidence of the work of God within us drawing us, not just to Himself, but turning our hearts to one another that He might be glorified as we do life together, that the hurting might find healing, that the lost might be found, that we might be, as His hands and feet, to everyone we meet.
What exactly is mercy? First of all, we could say that mercy, is a characteristic, or a quality, of God. It is something that is evidenced in, and lived out through, God Himself. Ephesians 2:4 reads like this: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” (Ephesians 2:4–5, NIV) We who have been saved from the wrath of God, which will be poured out against all unrighteousness, are recipients of God’s great mercy, for in Titus 3:5 we read that God “saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” (Titus 3:5) If you are here today and you have been born again, not of the flesh but of the Spirit of God, then it is not because you are a good person, a moral person, a righteous person – or any other type of person that you might be tempted to name. You are here, we are here, because of the mercy of God. God is merciful! He is full of mercy, He is rich in mercy, He abounds in mercy.
But mercy is also what God requires of those who are His. Our society has it backwards. It is often tempted to view mercy as a weakness, or a character flaw. God takes the values of this world and turns them upside down. In God’s economy, mercy, becomes an essential characteristic of His people. It’s not a weakness, it’s a strength, because it is living out the heart of God Himself.
People often want to know what God requires of them – what’s God looking for from us? How is it that God wants us to be living? In the book of Micah we read of another people who asked those same questions of God. They said, “With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:6–7, NIV) Now we don’t use the same language today but we are asking the same questions. And the answer that is given to them is this: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8, NIV)
What does God require of us? The same things – to act justly – to love mercy – and to walk humbly, with Him. To act justly simply means to do what is right and good in the eyes of God. Isaiah 1:17 - “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17, NIV) Jeremiah 22:3 - “This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” (Jeremiah 22:3, NIV) Those are examples of what God means when He asks us to walk justly.