What Does the Bible Say About Mercy?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, May 7, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

What is mercy? It’s a word we may have difficulty defining, but we always appreciate receiving mercy! Google’s dictionary defines mercy as “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.” Showing mercy means we could harm someone, but we choose not to. That does sound like a pretty Biblical and Christian concept, don’t you think? So what does the Bible actually say about mercy?

Many of the times the Bible speaks of mercy it’s in the New Testament, but it definitely shows up in the Old Testament too. Micah 6:8 tells us that God commands us to show mercy: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” We even see mercy in Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions [mercies] never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

David pleaded with God to show him mercy in Psalm 40:11: “Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me.” David also explains God’s mercy in Psalm 25:6-7: “Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good.”

Some translations of Psalm 23:6 use the word “mercy,” while others use “love.” The word there in the Hebrew is hesed, which we really don’t have a good English word for. The concept of hesed is a combination of mercy, love, and kindness. Wherever hesed is used, the translators have to decide which English word fits best, so sometimes we see mercy and other times they use other words.

While it doesn’t use the specific word “mercy,” one of the most famous Bible passages of John 3:16-17 explains God’s mercy toward us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Mercy is included as part of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). When speaking about loving your enemies, Jesus commanded us to “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). We are also instructed to be merciful to others if we want to be shown mercy, in James 2:12-13: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Even the single-chapter book of Jude talks about showing mercy in Jude 1:22-23: “Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

Mercy goes hand-in-hand with God’s grace, which I’ll write about more next week. The Bible is full of God’s mercy, because without Him being a merciful God, we humans would be too sinful to have a relationship with Him. I’ll leave you with mercy as part of our salvation through Jesus, in Ephesians 2:4-5: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

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