Intro: The beatitudes are not isolated, unrelated characterizations. Jesus is comprehensively describing the children of God – inside and out.
The first 4 beatitudes, which we have focused on since the beginning of the year deal entirely with inner principles of the heart. They describe the way we see ourselves before God.
God’s people are:
- poor in spirit
- mournful over sin
- hungering and thirsting to be right with God
The last 4 beatitudes, which will be our focus for the next few months, are outward manifestations of those attitudes:
- Those who are poor in spirit recognize their need for mercy and so extend it to others.
- Those who mourn over sin are motivated to lead pure lives
- Those who are meek seek for peace with others
- Those who hunger for righteousness are always willing to pay the price of persecution.
Matthew 5:7 – Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. God’s children are merciful. What does this mean? Are you a merciful person?
I. What is mercy? What does the word mercy mean? There are two compelling concepts involved in the definition of mercy. Compassion + Action; mercy is compassion in action.
A. O.T. Roots: Mercy is from the Hebrew word checed, which if often renders as kindness, or loving kindness. It is often translated from the word racham (rahk’-am) It refers to the inner part of man, or his bowels. (bowels of mercy). It thus denotes one’s “gut feeling” toward something or someone. In Gen. 43:30 it is used to describe Joseph’s emotion at the sight of his brother, Benjamin (“He was deeply moved at the sight of his brother” – NIV) This word is often translated as compassion or loving-kindness.
1. This O.T. word is most often used to describe God – Ex 34:5-7 – 5 Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” This O.T. reference to God’s mercy tells us not only about God, but also about the nature of mercy. Mercy creates longsuffering; Mercy forgives; Mercy does not overlook transgression. We will explore these important elements in this study.
B. N.T. Meaning: The primary Greek word translated as mercy is eleos – (el-eh’-os), It “is the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it. (Vines) Mercy is emotionally based, but true feelings of mercy (compassion) generate action. The merciful person feels pity on the oppressed and seeks to rectify the problem. He is one who is emotionally moved to give aid to another who is in distress.
1. It was mercifulness that led Abraham to rescue his selfish nephew Lot. It was mercifulness that led Joseph to forgive his brothers and to provide them food for their families. It was mercifulness that led Moses to plead with the Lord to remove the leprosy of his sister Miriam. Mercifulness led David to spare the life of Saul.
II. God is Merciful: It is impossible for us to understand this spiritual quality without looking carefully at the nature of God. Mercy is defined within the context of the character of God. He is a merciful God because He seeks to rescue us from our distress. This is a common designation of God in the Old Testament;
- Micah 7:18-19 – 18 Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy. 19 He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.
A. In the O.T. mercy is viewed as God’s special treatment of those who are His. It is a covenant word
- “The association of checed with “covenant” keeps it from being misunderstood as mere providence or love for all creatures; it applies primarily to God’s particular love for His chosen and covenanted people” (Vines)
1. It is particularly used of God to show that He does not abandon His people, even when they rebel against Him. Notice Deut 4:29-31 “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. “When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice ‘for the LORD your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them.
- Read Ps 103:8-18 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, To such as keep His covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.”
B. The mercy of God toward us is manifested in two profound ways:
1. God provides help when we are in distress. The concern of God is present in all situations. He is not apathetic or uncaring. He offers help.
a. The Psalmist speaks often of God’s mercy in the context of everyday living. In the 136th Psalm, each line ends with the repeating phrase “for His mercy endures forever”. The Psalmist sees God’s favor in many different contexts. God was merciful in creation (v. 6-9), He was merciful when he led Israel across the Red Sea and resuced them from their enemies (v. 10-20) When He gave them the land of Canaan for a home and a heritage (20-24); and even in the daily provision of food (v. 25)
b. Because God is merciful we can cast our cares upon Him for He truly cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7) God is our helper, a refuge in the time of trouble. Mercy is a response to pain, misery, and distress. Whether because of our individual sins or because of the sinful world in which we live, all of our problems, in the last analysis, are sin problems. The mercy of God is His response to our sin.
2. The mercy of God is also manifested toward us in the forgiveness of sins. (“cast our sins into the depths of the sea“) God has compassion on the sinner and makes it possible for him to avoid the punishment for his sins.
a. Mercy is closely linked with grace and placed in contrast to condemnation or judgment. Judgment w/o mercy is the result of sin w/o the work of Christ. Heb 10:26-29 “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
b. In the O.T. figure of the tabernacle the place where God accepted the sacrifice of the High Priest for the people was called the “mercy seat”. It was on this golden lid that the blood was sprinkled as atonement for sin. It was the place of propitiation – Where God met sinful man and provided forgiveness. Without mercy none of that would be possible.
c. In Ephesians 1 the apostle catalogued the spiritual blessings of being in Christ.. Eph. 1:7-8 – In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,.. He tells the Ephesians they were formerly dead in their trespasses, but God had brought them back to life (2:1).
d. The two characteristics of God that made this transformation possible are His mercy and His love. Eph 2:4-5 – But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), God is not just merciful, He is rich in mercy. The word rich here means “without measure or limit“. Paul teaches us here that forgiveness flows out of mercy, and mercy flows out of love. God’s love for us is the source. God pities us, but he pities us because He loves us.
e. a distinction in needed here: God’s love is unconditional, The reception of God’s mercy is not. All men are sinners (God loves them all) But not all men are forgiven.
III. Mercy and Justice: It is also important for us to realize what mercy is not. Mercy is not:
- Apathy – some people are unconcerned about injustices or wrongs. The merciful person does not respond to evil with “what does it matter”. The merciful person cares about evil.
- A Disregard for law or justice: Some think that mercy means overlooking the sin or its consequence. They view mercy as the opposite of justice. On the surface it may be difficult for us to reconcile justice and mercy. After all, Justice gives what is deserved (punishment); mercy sets aside the punishment, and gives relief. If God is merciful how can He be just?
A. Our Merciful High Priest: Hebrews 2:17 – 7 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Jesus displayed that He is a merciful high priest in that He provided a propitiation (satisfying sacrifice) for our sins. His sacrifice at Calvary was an act of mercy; but it was also an act of justice. His death was the payment (ransom) for our disobedience. Jesus did not excuse or overlook our sin. He paid the price.
- John MacArthur writes…. In every true act of mercy, someone pays the price. God did, the Good Samaritan did, and so do we. To be merciful is to bear the load for someone else.
B. Mercy that ignores sin is not true mercy. It is simply unrighteous sentimentality. David’s reaction to the sin of his rebellious son, Absalom, serves as an example. It might appear that he was being merciful, but actually David was confirming his wickedness, and Absalom was never called upon to deal with his sin.
1. God’s mercy pays the price. But His mercy also demands that we deal with our own conduct. God’s mercy demands repentance. It is wishful thinking to expect to receive God’s mercy apart from repentance. To expect to enter the sphere of God’s mercy without repenting from our sin is just wishful thinking. God offers nothing but merciless punishment to those who will not turn from their sin. Luke 13:3 – I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
2. The good news of the gospel is that God is merciful. The good news is that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin so that the mercy of God could be extended. The good news of the gospel is not that God winked at sin or justice or compromised righteousness. Jesus satisfied the justice of God and offers mercy to the sinner.
Conclusion: Jesus statement in Matthew 5:7 was and is paradoxical. A popular Roman philosopher called mercy “the disease of the soul.” The Romans viewed it as the supreme sign of weakness. You did not have what it takes to be a real man of courage and justice if you forgave the offender.
Even among the religious people of Jesus day these words were difficult to hear. The Jewish religionists were not inclines to show mercy, but judgment. Therefore they condemned Jesus for eating and conversing with sinners and showing compassion for the distressed and outcast. Jesus told them,
“Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ (Matt 9:13). It is our desire to learnwhat this means in our further study this month.