The Mercy of God
"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy." Psalm 103:8
The refrain in Psalm 136: "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good for His mercy endures forever."
Mercy is one of the perfections in God's own divine nature...
The mercy of God is the great object of our faith, worship and thanksgiving, because it is the basis and source of every aspect of our salvation
There is a general mercy of God which is not limited to those who are being saved. Matt 5:45 Psalm 145:9 (Also Psalm 119:64 Luke 6:35,36). There is also the special mercy of God to those whom He saves.
Both mercy and grace are aspects of the love and goodness of God. The difference between them has been described by saying that in His grace God gives us that which we do not deserve, while in His mercy He forbears to give us the punishment and misery which we do deserve. See Psalm 103:10
In the Bible and various versions of the Bible a number of words are used for mercy. These include tender mercy, steadfast love, love, loving kindness and compassion.
The great revelation to Moses
Throughout their journey from Egypt, the Israelites had repeatedly murmured and rebelled against their leader, Moses, and against God Himself. In Exodus 32 there is the story of their terrible sin of worshipping the golden calf. God hates idolatry and His wrath burned hot against them.
In Exodus 32:32 we find Moses pleading with God to forgive the people. It would seem that Moses has come to the end of himself and in a desperate attempt to find a way of moving God to forgive them, he makes this awesome, self-sacrificing and very noble prayer,
"Yet now, if you will forgive their sin - but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written." Ex 32:32
However, God rejected such a basis of forgiveness, Ex 32:33 and this teaches us an essential truth of salvation...
God never forgives sin because of anything in man, however noble and good.
In the following chapter, God revealed to Moses His own divine attribute of mercy as the basis of prevailing prayer for forgiveness of sin. This was the great lesson for Moses and it was to be passed on to God's people for all time. Titus 3:5
Notice the requests Moses makes and what God is about to show him in Exodus chapter 33.
His ways, glory, goodness, name, mercy, compassion and sovereignty
"... teach me your ways" Ex 33:13
"... show me Your glory" Ex 33:18
"I will cause all my goodness pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord,.. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Ex 33:19
By His ways we understand the manner of all God's dealings with His creatures in love, mercy, grace, justice etc. Ps 103:7
Many different names of God are used in the Scriptures and each refers to an aspect of His character. Thus in proclaiming His name God reveals His divine attributes. (c.f. John 1:18 and John 17:6).
God showed His glory to Moses when He revealed His divine attributes to him. Verse 19 shows that God's sovereignty in showing mercy to whom He pleases is part of His glory. The importance of this is shown by the fact that it is quoted in Rom 9:15. Notice also that Jesus is sovereign in revealing the Father to whomever He wills Matt 11:25-27.
In Exodus 34:6,7 there is one of the greatest revelations in the O.T. The importance of it may be seen in the fact that God did not entrust it to any man but came down to earth and proclaimed the message Himself.
And the LORD passed by before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty..."
Moses was quick to learn the lesson, and in Numbers 14 we see how he put into effect the lesson which God taught him. In this passage we find the people again rebelling against God by refusing to enter the promised land, and again incurring God's anger. In verses 13-19 we find Moses interceding with God on behalf of the people. In Num 14:17-19 he prays, quoting God's own words of Exod 34:6,7
"...Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of your mercy..."
and God replied,
"I have pardoned according to your word..."
Examples of prayer for forgiveness based on the mercy of God.
David prayed for forgiveness on the basis of God’s mercy, and confessed his sin in Psalm 51 after his great sin of adultery and murder.
"Have mercy upon me O God, according to your lovingkindness, according to the multitude of your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions." Psalm 51:1
Daniel prayed for the nation of Israel on the same basis.
"To the LORD our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him." Daniel 9:9
"O my God, incline your ear; open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by your name; for we do not present our supplications before you because of our righteous deeds, but because of your great mercies." Daniel 9:18
Jonah knew very well that God was merciful and gracious.
"...for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, ..." Jonah 4:2
The Tax Collector Jesus told how the tax collector prayed,
"God be merciful to me a sinner."
This man went down to his house justified, rather than the man who trusted in his own good deeds Luke 18:13,14.
Exodus 34:6,7 has been called the John 3:16 of the O.T. saints and it is referred to many times throughout the O.T. e.g. 2 Chr 30:9 Neh 9:17 Ps 103:7,8 Joel 2:13 Ps 86:15
The greatness of God's mercy
God is the Father of mercies 2 Cor 1:3, it is His way to be merciful Ps 119:132
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity, and passing by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he does not retain his anger for ever, because he delights in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:18,19
God is described as "rich in mercy" Eph 2:4 and Peter speaks of His "abundant mercy" 1 Peter 1:3
The mercy of the LORD is extolled throughout the Psalms.
Please read Psalm 103.
Verse 10 explains what it means for God to act in mercy. The greatness of His mercy is described in verse 11
"For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him."
and in verse 17
"...the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting..."
"great above the heavens" Ps 108:4
No sin can be great enough to place the sinner who repents beyond the mercy of God.
In Isaiah 55:6-9 all are invited to return to the Lord who will show mercy and abundantly pardon.
Those who have difficulty in coming to faith can ask God to reveal Himself to them and help them on the ground of His mercy. God sees and takes pleasure in those who fear Him and in
"...those who hope in His mercy." Ps 33:18 Ps 147:11
Mercy and Justice
Notice the last part of Exodus 34:6,7
"...by no means clearing the guilty... "
This draws attention to the justice of God together with His mercy. God is perfectly holy and just as well as merciful.
"Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; mercy and truth go before your face." Psalm 89:14
"He is both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Romans 3:26
God forgives out of His mercy, but only when the righteous requirements of His law have been fully met. He has made full provision for this through the obedience and the suffering of Christ on the cross. He will show no mercy to those who reject forgiveness through faith in His Son.
Glorify God for His Mercy The mercy of God is to be a source of our praise and thanksgiving
"…and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: ‘For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles, And sing to Your name’ ". Rom 15:9
Those who have difficulty in coming to faith and repentance should seek enlightenment on the ground of God's great mercy.
God's mercy is so great that no one should despair of forgiveness. Pray for forgiveness and salvation for ourselves and others on the ground of God’s great mercy. Do not presume on God's mercy.
Take notice of the warning that He will have no mercy on those who reject forgiveness through faith in His Son. John 3:36
Hope in His mercy Ps 33:18 Ps 147:11
Trust in His mercy Ps 13:5 Ps 52:8
Show mercy Matt 5:7 Luke 6:36 Col 3:12
Glorify God for His mercy and His sovereignty in showing mercy. Rom 15:9-11
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Let the mercies of God motivate us to present our bodies a living sacrifice. Rom 12:1,2