Summary: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
The Benefits of Showing Mercy
One day, a woman who occasionally walked through the park after work, stopped to have her picture taken by a photographer. She was very excited to get the Polaroid print but when she looked at it, her face dropped. She turned to the photographer and stated rather sharply, “This is not right! This is not right! You have done me no justice!” The man looked at the picture and then looked at her and said, “Miss, you don’t need justice…what you need is mercy!”
That leads us to the fifth beatitude found in Matthew 5:7: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” The word “blessed” as used in the Messiah’s message means much more than “happy.” It has the idea of being “congratulated” or “completed” or “fulfilled.” If we listen carefully, we can hear the applause of heaven when we put into practice these eight character qualities, or “be-attitudes.” As we look at what it means to be merciful, we come to a transition from the first four, which focus on our need – we are bankrupt in spirit, and broken with grief, which leads to meekness and an insatiable hunger for righteousness. We now move from our need, to what we need to do; from belief to behavior; from our situation to our responsibility.
The Meaning of Mercy
The principal Hebrew word for mercy speaks of an emotional response to the needs of others. It means to feel the pain of another so deeply that we’re compelled to do something about it. In fact, people in Bible times believed that the seat of emotions was found in the intestinal area. That’s why the King James Version uses the phrase, “bowels of mercy.” William Barclay defines mercy this way: “To get inside someone’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings; to move in and act on behalf of those who are hurting.” Mercy can be defined as: “good will toward the afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them.”
This idea is captured in Matthew 14:14: “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” The word “compassion” means that Jesus was so moved that His stomach churned, or literally, “his bowels yearned” for the crowd. Notice that this churning led Him to do something about it. He saw the need and then He went into action. Mercy in theory is absolutely meaningless. Mercy must move us. In addition, the emphasis in this beatitude is on those who are inclined to show mercy as a lifestyle, not those who are merciful on an occasional basis. I like Chuck Swindoll’s definition: “Mercy is God’s ministry to the miserable.”
We often use the words “grace” and “mercy” interchangeably, but they actually have different meanings.
Undeserved and unmerited favor Compassionate action
Gives us what we don’t deserve Withholds what we do deserve
The opposite of mercy is hostility and aggressiveness that expresses itself in an unforgiving and faultfinding spirit.
Master of Mercy
In one of his books, Bill Bright wrote this, “God is the grand master of mercy. His very nature desires to relieve us of the self-imposed misery and distress we experience because of our sin” (“God,” New Life Publications, 1999, page 232). Mercy is a God-like characteristic and Scripture is filled with references to this part of His innate nature:
Deuteronomy 4:31: “For the LORD your God is a merciful God…”
Nehemiah 9:31: “But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.”
Psalm 119:132: “Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name.”
Daniel 9:18: “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”
Micah 7:18-19: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
Romans 9:16: “It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.”
Ephesians 2:4: “…God, who is rich in mercy.”
James 5:11: “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”
There is no doubt that God is merciful toward each one of us, as He not only withholds what we deserve, but He also turns toward us and meets our deepest needs. While we can’t always count on a man or woman’s mercy, we can rely on the compassion of God. After spending over nine months taking a census of the people in his kingdom in 2 Samuel 24, David became “conscience-stricken,” and confessed what he did to the Lord. Interestingly, God gave David three options for his punishment. He didn’t have to think about it long, because he realized that it would be much better to throw himself on the mercy of the Majesty than to allow men to do what they wanted to him. We see this in verse 14: “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.”