Knowing God: Mercy

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy (James 5:11)

Years after the death of President Calvin Coolidge, a story came to light. In the early days of his presidency, Coolidge awoke one morning in his hotel room to find a cat burglar going through his pockets. Coolidge spoke up, and he asked the burglar not to take his watch chain because it contained an engraved charm he wanted to keep. 

Coolidge then talked with the theif in quiet conversation and discovered he was a college student who had no money to pay his hotel bill or buy a ticket back to campus. He persuaded the guy to give back the wallet and immediately Coolidge counted off and handed over $32.  After he told the young man it was to be a loan, he gave him advice on how to leave so as to avoid the Secret Service!  The loan was paid back and Coolidge asked journalists who heard about it not to publish it until after his death.  

Mercy.  I’ve always heard mercy defined along with grace this way:  grace is getting what you don’t deserve while mercy is not getting what you do deserve.  More specifically:  grace is getting kindness you don’t deserve while mercy is not getting punishment that you do deserve.  The thief no doubt deserved to be handed over to the Secret Service.  He deserved justice.  But the President responded with kindness to the thief’s unkindness.  The president showed kindness in giving him help and in keeping him from the consequences.  Grace & mercy.

Mercy is something all of us ought to worship God for.  He has shown us grace and gave us His kindness when we most certainly didn’t deserve it, and, He has shown us mercy by withholding punishment when we most certainly do deserve it.  Turn to Psalm 103:8-14 with me:

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for 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 has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Ps 103:8-14)

Over and over the Bible declares the mercy of God:

  • “For the LORD your God is a merciful God”, Moses declared to the Israelites, “He will not abandon or destroy you” (Dt 4:31)
  • Nehemiah marveled at God’s mercy in his incredible prayer, “But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.” (Neh. 9:31).  Notice mercy means they didn’t get what they deserve
  • Daniel picks up the theme again in his own prayer in Daniel 9, “The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving…”
  • When Jesus commanded us to “be merciful” in Luke 6:36 He explained why:  “Because your Father in heaven is merciful”.
  • “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” James 5:11 says.
  • “Remember your great mercy and love O Lord, for they are from old” Psalm 25:6 says.

God is a merciful God.  And not begrudgingly.  It is joyful for Him.  Turn with me to Micah 7:18-20  It’s really something to think about, isn’t it?  That one of the great joys of our great God is to give us the greatness of His mercy?  

Some theologians believe God’s delight is in destroying the wicked.  But God has already spoken on this matter in Ezekiel 33:11.  Turn to Ez 33:11 with me. READ.  

God does not delight in destroying the wicked.  Don’t think this means He won’t destroy them.  He will.  But He takes no pleasure in it.  He does however delight in showing mercy to the wicked when they repent.  This is why God is patient.  Second Peter 3:9 says, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  God’s mercy motivates His patience with sinners.  Are you still making God be patient with you?  Have you still not turned to God for mercy?  Repent today.  

Have you brought God the delight of turning to Him and seeking His mercy.


Two stories. The first one is of Zacchaeus in Luke 19.  Read 1-10.  Zacchaeus was a tax collector, the scum of Jewish society.  They were Jews who collected taxes from their fellow Jews on behalf of the Romans, which made them despised by Jews.  Nobody raised their kids to be tax collectors.  .  

The other story is from John 8, the woman caught in adultery.  You can’t miss the very end of the passage what Jesus says to her:  Go, and leave your life of sin.”  Mercy is what makes you love God and want to leave sin behind.  

APPLICATION:  God’s mercy motivates us to live righteously.  Nobody who knows mercy thinks its a license to go sin.  

Mercy promotes worship too.  The woman in Luke 7 “was forgiven much” and knew the ocean of mercy God had for her.  What did she do?  She worshipped.  She crashed the party Jesus was at and wept at his feet, literally drenching his feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair.  She didn’t care who was there or what they thought of her.  She only cared about where Jesus was and being there.  She must’ve run into Jesus and been forgiven at an earlier time because she immediately worshipped Him.  Which stands out to me.  She didn’t hear:  “Yes, daughter, your sins are forgiven” and then go, “Thanks!  I’m on my way now!”  No, mercy birthed love for Jesus – a love for her God – that would not let her rest until she went then and worshipped Him.  It was mercy that made her worship.  

Does mercy make you worship?  Does it make you sing in church?  Does it make you pray?  Does it make you obey when you’re tempted?  Turn to Romans 12:1-2 with me.

“Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s MERCY, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”  

Mercy is the reason for righteous living.

You’ll notice too that he says to offer our bodies to God as “living sacrifices”.  A living sacrifice is different than a death sacrifice.  A living sacrifice means that you live your life sacrificially for God.  You sacrifice everything in your life for God.  You “deny yourself and take up your cross”, you “put off the old man with its evil desires”,  you “resist the flesh and its sinful urges”, you reject the “ways of the world” and the “spirit of the age”.  A living sacrifice means you are living in a way that shows God that you are sacrificing anything and everything that would come between you and Him.

A death sacrifice on the other hand, is where Jesus comes in.  Jesus was the death sacrifice for our sins.  There is no way for us to live sacrificially enough to be acceptable to God.  The only thing every human being deserves at the end of their life is death.  No one can live well enough for God to grant them eternal life.  Judgment is what everyone deserves.   


Hebrews 2:17

Hebrews 4:14-16


(Silent Reflection)

  1. Do you praise God for His mercy?
  2. Have you received His mercy by coming to Jesus Christ?
  3. Do you delight in being merciful?

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