Today the word that I think that the Lord would have us ruminate on is ‘Mercy’. So I looked up the Oxford Dictionary definition and was blown away. It said, Mercy, n. Compassion shown by one to another who is in his power and has no claim to kindness. then by way of explanation was written ; that is a ———–, (blessing, thing to be thankful for).
‘Mercy’ in this day and age is not a fashionable topic of conversation. It is more often linked to the idea of the gangster who will show ‘no mercy’. It’s about a power imbalance and so pleading for mercy is associated with being weak and beholden to a bully. When it comes to current attitudes to God there is a sense very often that somehow He owes us, so that far from us asking Him for mercy, He should be answerable to us for the things that go wrong in our lives.
Many people for example don’t believe that they need forgiveness but even if they are aware of sin, in some way shaped or form, there is a general feeling that it is God’s job to forgive, and to allow us into heaven. This sense of entitlement, about which we have spoken previously, can have a harmful effect on the tender relationship between man and his Creator God.
The prophet Jeremiah, however, got it right. Here was a man who was quite indignant for the way, at times, God seemed to allow him to be treated, while he was prophesying as God wanted him to. In Lamentations 3:1-18, we hear his complaint and how he feels that God has been persecuting him through his enemies. It’s really worth a read, and it concludes with ‘So I say “My strength has perished, and so has my hope from the Lord.”NASB.
But then he remembers something. He recalls to mind who God is, and he gains new hope, and this is what he remembers. ‘It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him’. Lamentation 3:21-24. AV.
Jeremiah gets things back into perspective. We were created and given life, because of God’s great love and desire to share His glory with us. Sinful as we are, we are ‘not consumed’ because of His mercy. We stay alive because He gives us breath day by day. We are saved from banishment from His presence because of the blood of His Son which covers all our sin. Sin which, but for His mercy through the cross, we would still be carrying. And if we were still carrying it, that sin would prevent us from coming into His courts and living as His well loved children, saturated daily with His blessing.
God owes us nothing. Rather In order to receive ‘mercy’ we need to recognise our need for it and we need to remember who we are and who God is. We need to be like the Psalmist who wrote ‘As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those that fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.’ Psalm 103:14. Remembering that ‘we are but dust’, is not about groveling to a bully, but humbly positioning ourselves before our creator, to receive His undeserved, mercy and grace.
It is interesting that in Jesus time, (no welfare state) people more easily seemed to recognise that they needed the mercy of God. Blind Bartimaeus leads the charge here. “Son of David, have mercy on me”. Mark 10:47. The ten lepers too, “Jesus Master, have mercy on us”. Luke 17:13. NASB. Asking for mercy, as opposed to claiming our rights, involves acknowledging our need and being humble. Even the Canaanaite woman, who Jesus tested by refusing her initial request came humbly, but with persistence, and called on Jesus for mercy. Matthew 15:22-28.
Mercy, n. Compassion shown by one to another who is in his power and has no claim to kindness.
God’s said to Moses “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Exodus 33:19 We need to remember that releasing mercy to us is God’s sole prerogative! And thanksgiving for God’s daily mercies will, I believe, help us with that. Thanksgiving will keep us not just grateful, but humble. Our gratitude will prevent us from taking anything for granted. Not His mercy and forgiveness, not His provision and his grace, nor the air we breath and the food we eat. Thanksgiving for my health and strength, my family and friends, my home, and my job, in fact the whole of life, will keep me humbly receiving all the good things that the Lord in His mercy and grace pours out on me daily.