“Now I will show you my favour and mercy”.
Isa 60:10 GNB
Mercy is one of the great words of the Old Testament. It is pressed into usage on many occasions. At a time when gods were normally thought to be capricious, angry, vindictive and demanding, the people of God cottoned on to this word to describe their God. This indicates how different their God was when compared to the gods of the surrounding nations. Despite the occasional relapse into thinking like the neighbouring nations, the Israelites clung on to “mercy” as the hallmark of God and thus paved the way for the emergence of “grace” as the distinctive word of the New Testament.
Mercy could mean more than just forgiveness. Coming over into English it could become “kindness” or “compassion” or “pity” depending on the context. Then it could also become “holy” or “pious”. More and more as the centuries went by, the Israelites came to emphasize God’s mercy. They knew, being released from their captivity in Babylon that they had not earned the favour of God in this regard. He rescued and restored them out of his mercy and not because of any goodness of theirs.
Jesus again and again pointed to the mercy of God – in theparable of the prodigal son, the woman taken in adultery and the penitent thief on the cross. He wants his disciples to be just as merciful. Often the truth is that once we know Christ has accepted us there is a tendency to feel we are more righteous than others and to become sparing in our mercy to others. Only ongoing gratitude to God for his mercy and grace towards us can prompt a merciful attitude in us towards others.
Lord, God of mercy, make me merciful to others.