Surely these are days to cry out, “Lord, have mercy!” Consider the state of our nation, plagued with immorality, corruption, and anarchy. Consider churches—many are turning their backs on the clear Word of God to embrace ungodly philosophies and worldly thinking. Consider our families. Too many are broken and hurting because of sinful choices.
But most of all, it’s important to consider our own hearts. Do we sense our own need for the mercy rains of revival?
Many Christians today are deceived about sin (Jeremiah 17:9–10) and are apathetic toward the things of God. We are distracted by things of little consequence, forgetting about the reality of eternity, and we do not individually obey God’s clear mandate to reach the world with the Gospel of Christ.
Oh, how we need mercy—personally, corporately, and nationally. God is ready to give rich mercy, but will we cry out to Him?
Mercy Is God’s Heart
Mercy is rooted in the heart of God. He shows a measure of mercy to all people. Even those who will not trust Him are temporarily allowed to enjoy earth’s sunshine, their families, and other blessings in this world. But the wrath and judgment of God will come. He calls the wicked to forsake their ways and turn to Him for mercy (Isa. 55:7). Only those who reject His loving, merciful provision for salvation will experience His eternal judgment.
As we look at the turmoil of our world today, we need to remember that God is incredibly patient, not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). He does not take delight in the judgment of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). But we should not take His patience for granted.
God offered people an opportunity to repent for 120 years before the flood came and destroyed all except Noah’s family (Gen. 6:3). He offered the wicked Canaanites—people who knew about Israel’s deliverance from Pharaoh—forty years to repent before they (with the exception of Rahab and those in her house) were destroyed. God also gave sinful Nineveh forty days to repent—and they did!
“I can just imagine that during those days as the Israelites were marching around Jericho, God was just longing in His heart that the people in Jericho would do what Rahab did and repent,” said Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, “but they refused.”
God continues to give people opportunities to repent today. He is “slow to anger” (Ps. 103:8–9), but as David Hocking wrote in “The Mercy of God,” “There is a judgment to be faced, unless we turn to the mercy of God. . . . do not presume upon His mercy.”
God’s greatest act of mercy is in the person of Jesus, who bore our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). The Father’s mercies to believers are fresh every day as He shows compassion and forgiveness (Ps. 103:10–14).
Who Needs Mercy?
We all need mercy. God’s mercy not only reveals who He is, but it speaks to our desperate need. God takes pity on His children who still deal with temptations and wander from His protective presence. His mercy comes in many forms.
David Mathis wrote in “Have Mercy on Me: Four Glimpses into the Heart of God,” that Moses, David, Jeremiah, and Paul each saw God’s mercy in different ways1:
- “Moses saw God’s mercy” (Ex. 33:19). When Moses asked God to show His glory, God revealed His goodness in the grace and mercy of forgiveness. But He also spoke of His judgment and holding people to account (Ex. 34:6–7). “Wrath is his righteous response to evil, but it is not his heart,” Mathis said. “Justice is the stem; mercy is the flower.”
- “David fell on God’s mercy” (Ps. 51:1) as he cried out in confession.
- “Jeremiah wept for mercy” (Lam. 3) during the Babylonian Captivity with a desperate-but-hopeful lament.
- “Paul marveled at mercy” (Rom. 9:16) as he described a “mercy-having God.”
We see many other examples of mercy in the Bible. There was God’s mercy to two kings: willful, stubborn Solomon and sinful-but-penitent David. God showed mercy to complaining Israel (Ex. 16:12) and captive Israel (Ps. 106:44–46). He granted mercy to an adulterous woman (John 8:6–11) and an apostle who was on a murderous crusade against Christianity (Acts 7:54–58, 9:5). Paul was so touched by mercy, he extolled it in every letter he wrote to the churches.
God magnified His mercy every year on the Day of Atonement when the high priest sprinkled the blood of sacrifice before the mercy seat. This annual mercy-focus foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of the precious Lamb of God (Heb. 9:11–15).
Mercy’s Constant Companions
Mercy is coupled with other attributes of God—for example, mercy and love. It is because of God’s steadfast love that His mercies never end. His mercy is deeply rooted in His love for us (Ps. 86:5). In love, His mercy is rich toward us (Eph. 2:4–5). While His holiness requires punishment for sin—and we all deserve punishment—the Father extended full mercy in love at the cross when Jesus was crucified. His mercy triumphed over judgment.
In the Lord, mercy and truth connect. They are braided together in the heart of God. Psalm 85:10 says, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” This psalm, written by a man who desired revival and restoration for Israel, began with praise, but then he begged for more of God’s grace and mercy. The psalmist knew that truth requires righteousness, but he also professed that God’s great mercy brings peace. Proverbs 3:3–4 says, “Let not mercy and truth forsake you.” The combination ensures we do not descend into the ditches of legalism or wishy-washy living.
At salvation, we see both mercy and grace. In His mercy, God, forgives sin and withholds the severe punishment we so rightly deserve (Ps. 51:1–2). He also showers undeserved blessings upon the sinner who comes to Him. This grace includes kindness, compassion, and the gift of unmerited favor. God does not owe us any good thing, but He chooses to pour out grace. Both mercy and grace are found at the foot of the cross, in the sacrifice of Christ. Where sin abounds, grace abounds more (Rom. 5:20). As Dave Hocking wrote, “There is never a moment when you come to the Lord that He stops being merciful.”
Finally, there’s a connection between mercy and repentance. Mercy is God’s gift to the repentant heart. It is not because of our goodness, but because God chose to extend His mercy toward us. He is not hesitant; He is ready to forgive (Ps. 86:5).
What is the fruit of God’s mercy in the believer’s life? Here are at least seven blessings.
- Pardon every day. God continues to pardon His children because of His mercy at the cross. He asks us to confess our sins so we will recognize our need and remember what Jesus has done for us. Though we may have scars that remain for now, He has removed our transgressions from us (Ps. 103:11–12).
- Provision to His children. God provides “benefits” to His children because of His mercy—many spelled out in Psalm 103.
- Petitions at the Throne. Because of God’s grace, we can come to God’s throne in confidence daily and cry out to “receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
- Presentation of our bodies. Romans 12:1–2 gives us the privilege to, “on account of God’s mercy,” present our bodies as holy, living sacrifices to God and allow Him to transform and use us.
- Pity for others. God leads us, His children, to take pity on and show mercy to others, forgiving them fully, because we have been forgiven so abundantly (Luke 6:36). Erin Davis wrote in “Have Mercy!” that Christians should pray, “Jesus, who am I not showing mercy to?” We might begin to show mercy first, she said, at home!
- Plans for ministry. Mercy is at the heart of God’s plans for future generations of those who fear Him (Ps. 103:15–19). We can rest in the truth that heaven reigns and choose to cooperate with God in doing works that He, in mercy, planned for us to do (Eph. 2:10).
- Praises of gratitude. We will never stop praising Jesus, our merciful and faithful High Priest (Heb. 2:15–17). Jonathan Edwards said, “Our job is to give the world a right opinion about God.” One way we do that is through our worship and thanksgiving for the Lord’s many mercies. His mercy is rich and abundant. Proclaim it to everyone—perhaps in song: “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.”
1David Hocking, "The Mercy Of God," Blue Letter Bible, https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/hocking_david/attributes/attributes13.cfm.