M.E.R.C.Y … the gift of God that we so desperately need, and eagerly receive, but find hard to give!
A few years ago, I, like many others, watched in dismay as details of the mishandling of government loaned funds by some corporate organizations emerged on North American TV. These occurrences laid bare the weaknesses of mankind and confirmed what the Bible summarizes in one sentence — “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil …” (1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV).
As I watched those events, I judged and criticized the people involved for their actions. Some of their works were clearly inappropriate and merited stern repercussions. But in the midst of my criticisms, I felt the Lord calling me to mercy. Using an experience in King David’s life, He showed me that mercy is an attribute He expects to find in His maturing sons and daughters. The story follows:
Shortly after being appointed by God to be the king of Israel, David was severely persecuted by Israel’s incumbent leader, Saul.[i] He was on the run for many years and eventually decided to seek respite in a neighboring country, trusting that God would make a way for him to return and rule the nation of Israel. Sometime later, Saul went to battle against Israel’s archenemy, the Philistines, and being severely injured, took his own life. Three of Saul’s sons also died, including David’s very close friend, Jonathan. Saul’s death was a result of God’s judgment — God told him before he went to battle that he and his sons would die and the kingdom would pass to David because he (Saul) had disobeyed Him.[ii]
After Saul’s death, a man came out of his camp to inform David that the king and his sons had died in battle. He claimed to have killed Saul. The man assumed that David would commend him for purportedly killing his adversary, but David was horrified! He and his men mourned, wept and fasted for Saul, Jonathan, and the Israelites who died in battle. Thereafter, David asked one of his men to execute the news bearer for murdering Israel’s outgoing king; he chided him for daring to destroy God’s anointed.[iii] David also took up a lamentation for Saul & Jonathan in which he spoke many heartfelt and kind words about the man who sought his life for many years!
Obviously, David had learned something of God’s heart; he had learned to extend mercy to those who opposed him. Even though he knew that Saul’s death was a result of God’s judgment, David did not speak a bad word against him; he refused to step on a fallen foe.
When I read this story, I was appalled at the actions of the news bearer. Then God opened my understanding to see that whenever we judge and criticize persons who are being disciplined by Him, we act just like that news bearer. The news bearer thought it was okay to trample on the fallen king because he had erred in many ways. But David knew that God did not approve of such behavior. He had learned what God’s Word means when it says, “Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble … No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless — that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9).[iv]
Many of us are great beneficiaries of God’s mercy; the Lord pardons our faults freely and delivers us from all unrighteousness. He does not condone sin or evil; however, once we confess and renounce our sins sincerely, He forgives and delivers us from them without harsh, critical, or demeaning words. Our continual need for His mercy reminds us that we cannot afford to act arrogantly toward others who sin because our own lives would not stand up to scrutiny without the grace of God.
There is a lot to be frustrated and judgmental about in our world today. In fact, it is quite easy to become hardened toward others. But let’s rather pray that God would teach us to be merciful.
Being merciful does not mean ignoring the things that are wrong with us. It means that we address issues and tackle problems without being mean-spirited and vindictive toward the perpetrators. Where justice is needed, justice must be granted to set things right, but this can be done without perpetuating a culture of wickedness.
Whether in our homes, offices, churches or streets, mercy is what God requires of us; it is an attribute He expects to see in those who have been great recipients of His own mercy.
“He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?”
- Micah 6:8
(i) 1 Samuel 18 – 1 Samuel 26
(ii) 1 Samuel 28:15-19
(iii) 2 Samuel 1:14-16
(iv) The Message Bible