1 I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations. 2 For I have said, “Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.” (Psalm 89:1–2, NKJV)
God is merciful, but He will not at all clear the guilty who reject His mercy by refusing to repent and obey Him (Exodus 34:7; Nahum 1:3). A distorted view of God’s mercy lulls souls into complacency toward sin. Convincing themselves that God is too loving to see any soul be punished in hell, they willingly deceive themselves with the illusion that everyone will go to heaven. (Well, at least, most people!) Jesus often spoke of hell, and said many who call on His name will depart into everlasting fire (Matthew 25:46). God is not only merciful, He is also faithful. We can depend on Him, as surely as the heavens show His fidelity. We trust what He says is the absolute truth. Let us tell others of His ageless mercy and call them to find it for themselves in the gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:16).
11 Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. 12 For innumerable evils have surrounded me; My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; They are more than the hairs of my head; Therefore my heart fails me. (Psalm 40:11–12, NKJV)
While pleading for God’s mercy to abide with him, David acknowledged God’s merciful protection comes from His steadfast love and truth. When evil surrounds us and our own sins overwhelm us, God’s mercy secures our souls. He supplies abundant mercy when sinful forces from without and within test our hearts and try our faith. God’s mercy flows from His eternal love. His every purpose and act is founded in His abiding love for us (John 3:16; 1 John 4:7-10). Simultaneously, it is His truth that safely protects us against evil and its forces. His word (which is truth, John 17:17) explains how mercy and truth meet to give us relief from our sins (Psalm 85:10). We do not mandate the mercy of God; His word of truth does that. It explains how and upon whom the Lord shows mercy (Romans 9:14-18). Truth teaches us that we cannot expect to receive God’s mercy if we are practicing sin. Sin brings wrath (Romans 1:18). Mercy comes when we repent and obey God’s truth (Ephesians 2:4-10; Hebrews 5:8-9; Titus 3:4-5). God’s mercy proceeds from love and is revealed by truth. All who put their trust in Him and do His will shall be preserved by His mercy (Psalm 40:1-8).
13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:13–14, NKJV)
The depth of our sins magnifies the depth of God’s mercy. The Pharisee in this parable depicts “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9). The Pharisee justified himself in comparison to others. He considered himself to be superior spiritually – “not like other men” (Luke 18:11-12). When we cannot see our own sins we are unable to show compassion to others, much less receive God’s merciful forgiveness for our sins. God is ready, willing and able to show us mercy when we, in anguish over our sins, turn to Him for relief (Psalm 51:17). The tax collector was crushed over his sin. Even so today, a sinner who is “cut to the heart” over his sins receives God’s mercy when he repents and is baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38). The contrite heart turns to God for compassionate forgiveness and receives it. It is precisely when we understand our own need for mercy that we are able to show mercy to others. The merciful do not elevate themselves above others, for they know their own need for mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). The self-righteous do not give or receive mercy.
6 You will prolong the king’s life, His years as many generations. 7 He shall abide before God forever. Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him! (Psalm 61:6–7, NKJV)
King David was sure that God would hear his prayers and protect him from his enemies (Psalm 61:1-3). For his part, David would abide with God and keep trusting in God’s sheltering wings, sure of God’s favor and reward of a heritage and abundant life (Psalm 61:4-6). God prepared two things that would preserve the king, mercy and truth. By these the king would be guarded by God to lead the people in wisdom and righteousness. Like the king, each of us will be shielded by God and assured of His blessings when we are merciful and guided by truth. “God shall send forth His mercy and His truth” to save the righteous and reproach is enemies (Psalm 57:3). “Mercy and truth preserve the king,” and they also bless us when we walk in them (Proverbs 20:28). With David, we praise God for the extent of His mercy and truth, “I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds” (Psalm 57:9-10). Let us commit ourselves to being merciful and living by God’s truth. By doing so you will have His favor and reap eternal life.
23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24, NKJV)
Jesus did not pronounce this stinging condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees because they were careful to tithe herbs (this was commanded in God’s law to Israel, Leviticus 27:30). He pronounced woe upon them for abandoning the principles and motives that characterize acceptable obedience to God. They strained out a gnat and swallowed a camel with their minute correctness while failing to obey God out of justice, mercy and faith. They “passed by justice and the love of God” in their zeal to keep the law (Luke 11:42). Unfortunately, this passage is frequently used as an “either, or” proposition to justify disobedience in the name of justice, mercy, faith and the love of God. Jesus did not say that. He taught that careful obedience is useless unless it genuinely expresses faith, mercy and justice. Obeying God does not contradict justice, mercy, and faith. While being faithful to obey God, be just and merciful to others. Do not “pass by the love of God” lest you fall into condemnation (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3).
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9–10, NKJV)
If the incentives for proclaiming the praises God of verse 9 are not enough, Peter now expands upon our spiritual condition before we answered God’s call to salvation. By doing so he gives crucial insight into our priestly service unto God. In the darkness of sin we were without faith and hope. Aliens and strangers to God, we were not God’s people. As we lived under the dark forces of Satan our allegiance was only to the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:13). But now, people of faith are the people of God who have been given heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:20). Likewise, we were without mercy under the rule of Satan as we were held in the merciless bondage of sin (John 8:34). But now we have received mercy from God in Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). Because we are the recipients of God’s compassionate forgiveness we are compelled to proclaim His matchless grace to others. Once aliens, we are now citizens. Once oppressed, we are now forgiven. The grace of God we have in Christ demands we proclaim His excellence and serve Him faithfully (Titus 2:11-12). May we keep our charge with diligent faith.
And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Luke 11:4, NKJV)
Would you be forgiven of your sins if God forgave you the way you forgive others? Do you ask God to forgive you because you forgive everyone who sins against you? That is how Jesus said to pray to our heavenly Father about our forgiveness (see Matthew 6:12). God considers whether or not we forgive others when we ask Him to forgive us. Therefore, we need to examine our forgiveness of others. Forgiving those who sin against us is an action of faith which is necessary to be forgiven by the Father (Matthew 6:14; Luke 17:4-5). It is futile to expect God to forgive us when we will not forgive others. Jesus said, “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). The devil tempts us not to forgive others. He entices us to withhold from others the very things we need from God – mercy, compassion and forgiveness. We will lose our souls if we give in to his temptation. We are delivered from the temptation to withhold forgiveness by our own need for God’s forgiveness. Remember, it is the merciful who obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7).