Updated: Nov 22, 2018
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.
The mercy of the Lord is an unfathomable aspect of God’s unique and amazing character.
Mercy means: showing compassion and forgiveness on one who doesn’t deserve it.
We tend to be an unmerciful people – when someone does us wrong, we are quick to hold them accountable and find it difficult to see past the end of our noses. It’s easier to see other people’s faults than our own.
God is not like this on many levels; firstly, He never wrongs anyone because He is incapable of sinning. Secondly, He is longsuffering, patient and quick to forgive – desiring to show mercy.
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
No matter what we do, God’s love is steadfast – it is immovable and cannot be shaken. The Lord’s love never changes and His mercies never come to an end. In other words, we can never do any sin bad enough that is unforgivable by God.
However, there are clauses within this promise…
God chooses to show mercy on whom He wants to show mercy. We cannot make God be merciful to whom we want Him to – He is the Creator and therefore it is entirely up to Him as to who He will shower His mercy upon.
For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
There is a certain amount of mercy that God automatically gives to all people throughout the world. The fact that those who hate God are given air to breathe just the same as those who love Him, shows that God has allowed an allotted time where His mercy extends to all creation.
For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
We must never take God’s mercy for granted. The Lord warns that He will not strive with man forever (Genesis 6:3) – He is only allowing this time for people to repent of their sins and turn to Him before it’s too late. And once it’s too late, then comes unavoidable eternal judgment – that great and terrible day (Malachi 4:5).
2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
We may never fully comprehend the amazing mercies of God with our limited and often defective understanding, though we should always be mindful and ever thankful that our God is a God of mercy and truth.
All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
In order to receive God’s ultimate mercy: forgiveness for our sins and having our iniquities pardoned, there is a crucial part for us to play. We must first humble ourselves before our God, repent to the Lord and believe and receive Christ’s tremendous sacrifice of being our substitute in order to make atonement for us.
Who is a God like unto you, who pardons iniquity, and passes by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retains not his anger forever, because he delights in mercy.
God delights in mercy! What precious words these are.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
So in understanding the abundant mercy that our heavenly Father freely bestows upon us – and His mercy is complete and absolute -- it has been prescribed for us to follow in the footsteps of our Master, showing mercy to others … putting away all disapproval, disdain and resentment.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
When we show mercy to others, we are acknowledging that we as sinners did not deserve mercy from the Lord, yet He gave it to us, therefore we realise how much more that we – flawed humans who are no better than anyone else – should show mercy to others, knowing that we have no right to hold someone else in disrepute.
The merciful man does good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubles his own flesh.
Showing mercy to others also brings forth mercy upon ourselves – this is a blessing that passes on to all who give it.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Treating someone harshly for a wrong they’ve committed can be a detrimental mistake. For when we refuse to show mercy, even to the one who has committed the most vile sin against us, we are placing ourselves in a precarious position.
For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
God delights in mercy and He expects us to also show ourselves as merciful.
2 Samuel 22:26
With the merciful you show yourself merciful…
Part of the believer’s quest is to hold tightly to both mercy and truth – to wrap ourselves in them and never let go – for when we do this, we will find favour with the Lord because we will be a godly people of love, honesty and integrity.
Let not mercy and truth forsake you: bind them about your neck; write them upon the table of your heart: So shall you find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
Let’s ask the Lord for the insight needed to walk humbly with Him, doing justly and loving mercy – never forsaking ‘the way’, but by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we might display these Christ-like attributes and walk as one who is in close communion with our Lord and Saviour.
He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
-- By Jenny Ayling
This article was written to form part of the series, 'Imitate'. Containing 45 sessions, this thorough series intends to reveal the characteristics found in a disciple of Jesus. The original article, 'Imitate', would be the best place to begin your journey in discovering the qualities of a follower of the Messiah of Israel.