“Your Father Is Merciful”
“Continue becoming merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”—LUKE 6:36.
1, 2. How do Jesus’ words to the scribes and the Pharisees and to his followers show that mercy is a desirable quality?
THE Law given through Moses contained some 600 requirements and regulations. Although discharging the obligations of the Mosaic Law was necessary, the showing of mercy was also of major importance. Consider what Jesus said to the Pharisees, who manifested an unmerciful attitude. On two occasions he rebuked them, pointing out that God had decreed: “I want mercy, and not sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:10-13; 12:1-7; Hosea 6:6) Toward the end of his ministry, Jesus said: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you give the tenth of the mint and the dill and the cumin, but you have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness.”—Matthew 23:23.
2 Undeniably, Jesus placed a high value on mercy. He told his followers: “Continue becoming merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) To “become imitators of God” in this regard, however, we need to know what true mercy is. (Ephesians 5:1) Moreover, appreciating the benefits of mercy will move us to display this quality more fully in our lives.
Mercy Toward the Disadvantaged
3. Why should we look to Jehovah to learn what true mercy is?
3 The psalmist sang: “Jehovah is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and great in loving-kindness. Jehovah is good to all, and his mercies are over all his works.” (Psalm 145:8, 9) Jehovah is “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3) Mercy is shown by treating someone in a compassionate way. This is a major facet of God’s personality. His example and his instructions to us can teach us what true mercy is.
4. What does Isaiah 49:15 teach us about mercy?
4 As recorded at Isaiah 49:15, Jehovah says: “Can a wife forget her suckling so that she should not pity the son of her belly?” Hebrew words closely related to the one here translated “pity” are used in connection with mercy at Psalm 145:8, 9, quoted above. The emotion that moves Jehovah to be merciful is compared to the warm feeling that a nursing mother normally has for her child. Perhaps the baby is hungry or has some other need. Moved by the feelings of compassion or sympathy that this stirs in her, the mother attends to her infant’s need. Jehovah has such tender feelings for those to whom he shows mercy.
5. How did Jehovah show himself to be “rich in mercy” toward Israel?
5 It is one thing to feel compassion but quite another to act on it for the benefit of the disadvantaged. Consider how Jehovah responded when his worshippers were in bondage in Egypt some 3,500 years ago. He told Moses: “Unquestionably I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and I have heard their outcry as a result of those who drive them to work; because I well know the pains they suffer. And I am proceeding to go down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a land good and spacious, to a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 3:7, 8) About 500 years after the Israelites were delivered from Egypt, Jehovah reminded them: “It was I who brought Israel up out of Egypt and who went delivering you from the hand of Egypt and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.” (1 Samuel 10:18) Because of deviating from God’s righteous standards, the Israelites were frequently in sore straits. Yet, Jehovah felt compassion for them and repeatedly came to their rescue. (Judges 2:11-16; 2 Chronicles 36:15) This illustrates how the loving God responds to those in need, in danger, or in difficulty. Jehovah is “rich in mercy.”—Ephesians 2:4.
6. How did Jesus Christ imitate his Father in showing mercy?
6 When on earth, Jesus Christ imitated his Father perfectly in displaying mercy. How did Jesus respond when two blind men beseeched him, saying: “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David”? They were begging Jesus to restore their sight miraculously. Jesus did so, but he did not perform the miracle in a matter-of-fact manner. “Moved with pity,” says the Bible, “Jesus touched their eyes, and immediately they received sight.” (Matthew 20:30-34) Pity moved Jesus to perform many miracles that brought relief to the blind, the demon-possessed, the leprous, and the parents of afflicted children.—Matthew 9:27; 15:22; 17:15; Mark 5:18, 19; Luke 17:12, 13.
7. What do the examples of Jehovah God and his Son teach us about mercy?
7 The examples of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ show that mercy has two components—feelings of compassion, sympathy, or pity toward the disadvantaged and action that brings relief to the recipient. Being merciful requires both elements. In the Scriptures, mercy most often refers to a positive expression of kind consideration toward those in need. How, though, is mercy displayed in a judicial context? Does it also involve what might be viewed as a negative action, such as a holding back of punishment?
Mercy Toward Transgressors
8, 9. What did the mercy shown to David after his sin with Bath-sheba involve?
8 Consider what happened after Nathan the prophet confronted King David of ancient Israel about David’s adulterous relationship with Bath-sheba. The repentant David prayed: “Show me favor, O God, according to your loving-kindness. According to the abundance of your mercies wipe out my transgressions. Thoroughly wash me from my error, and cleanse me even from my sin. For my transgressions I myself know, and my sin is in front of me constantly. Against you, you alone, I have sinned, and what is bad in your eyes I have done.”—Psalm 51:1-4.
9 David was cut to the heart. Jehovah pardoned his sin and exercised restraint in administering judgment upon him and Bath-sheba. According to the Mosaic Law, both David and Bath-sheba should have been put to death. (Deuteronomy 22:22) While they did not escape all the consequences of their sin, their lives were spared. (2 Samuel 12:13) God’s exercise of mercy entails the pardoning of error. However, he does not hold back from administering appropriate punishment.
10. Although Jehovah is merciful in rendering judgment, why must we not presume upon his mercy?
10 Since “through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world” and “the wages sin pays is death,” all humans are deserving of death. (Romans 5:12; 6:23) How grateful we can be that Jehovah shows mercy when rendering judgment! However, we must be careful not to presume upon God’s mercy. “All [Jehovah’s] ways are justice,” states Deuteronomy 32:4. In granting mercy, God does not ignore his perfect standards of justice.
11. How did Jehovah show due regard for justice in dealing with David for his sin with Bath-sheba?
11 In the case of David and Bath-sheba, before the judgment of the death penalty could be softened, there had to be a pardoning of their sin. The Israelite judges were not authorized to do this. If they had been allowed to handle the case, they would have had no alternative but to pronounce the sentence of death. This is what the Law required. Out of regard for his covenant with David, however, Jehovah wanted to see if there was a basis for forgiving David’s sin. (2 Samuel 7:12-16) Hence, Jehovah God, “the Judge of all the earth,” who is “an examiner of the heart,” chose to handle the matter himself. (Genesis 18:25; 1 Chronicles 29:17) God could accurately read David’s heart, evaluate the genuineness of his repentance, and grant forgiveness.
12. How may sinful humans avail themselves of God’s mercy?
12 The mercy that Jehovah shows us by making possible our release from the penalty of inherited sin is in accord with his justice. To make possible the forgiveness of sin without the violation of justice, Jehovah has provided the ransom sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ—the greatest expression of mercy ever shown. (Matthew 20:28; Romans 6:22, 23) To avail ourselves of God’s mercy, which can save us from receiving punishment for inherited sin, we must ‘exercise faith in the Son.’—John 3:16, 36.
A God of Mercy and Justice
13, 14. Does God’s mercy temper his justice? Explain.
13 While Jehovah’s mercy does not violate his standard of justice, does it in some way affect his justice? Does mercy lessen the impact of divine justice by tempering it? No, it does not.
14 Through the prophet Hosea, Jehovah told the Israelites: “I will engage you to me for time indefinite, and I will engage you to me in righteousness and in justice and in loving-kindness and in mercies.” (Hosea 2:19) These words clearly show that Jehovah’s exercise of mercy is always in harmony with his other attributes, including justice. Jehovah is “a God merciful and gracious, . . . pardoning error and transgression and sin, but by no means will he give exemption from punishment.” (Exodus 34:6, 7) Jehovah is a God of mercy and justice. Concerning him, the Bible states: “The Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) God’s justice is perfect, as is his mercy. Neither is superior to the other, nor does one need the other to temper its effect. Rather, both qualities work in perfect harmony with each other.
15, 16. (a) What shows that divine justice is not harsh? (b) When Jehovah executes his judgment upon this wicked system of things, of what can his worshippers be sure?
15 Jehovah’s justice is not harsh. Justice almost invariably has legal implications, and judgment usually calls for the meting out of deserved punishment to wrongdoers. However, godly justice can also involve salvation for deserving ones. For example, when the wicked in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah met their end, the patriarch Lot and his two daughters were saved.—Genesis 19:12-26.
16 We can be confident that when Jehovah executes his judgment upon the present wicked system of things, the “great crowd” of true worshippers, who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” will be spared. Thus, they will “come out of the great tribulation.”—Revelation 7:9-14.
Why Be Merciful?
17. What is a fundamental reason to be merciful?
17 The examples of Jehovah and Jesus Christ indeed teach us what true mercy is. Giving us a fundamental reason to be merciful, Proverbs 19:17 states: “He that is showing favor to the lowly one is lending to Jehovah, and his treatment He will repay to him.” Jehovah is pleased when we imitate him and his Son by being merciful in our dealings with one another. (1 Corinthians 11:1) And others are encouraged to be merciful, for mercy begets mercy.—Luke 6:38.
18. Why should we strive to be merciful?
18 Mercy is a blend of many good qualities. It involves graciousness, love, kindness, and goodness. Tender feelings of compassion or sympathy are at the root of acts of mercy. While godly mercy does not compromise justice, Jehovah is slow to anger and patiently gives wrongdoers sufficient time to attain to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9, 10) Mercy is thus related to patience and long-suffering. As a combination of many desirable traits—including various aspects of the fruitage of God’s spirit—mercy becomes a framework within which these qualities may be cultivated. (Galatians 5:22, 23) How vital that we strive to be merciful!
“Happy Are the Merciful”
19, 20. In what way does mercy exult over judgment?
19 The disciple James tells us why we should make mercy an essential quality in our lives. He wrote: “Mercy exults triumphantly over judgment.” (James 2:13b) James was speaking of the mercy that a worshipper of Jehovah shows toward others. It exults triumphantly over judgment in that when the time comes for a person to “render an account for himself to God,” Jehovah takes into consideration his merciful dealings and forgives him on the basis of the ransom sacrifice of His Son. (Romans 14:12) No doubt, one of the reasons why David was shown mercy for his sin with Bath-sheba was that he himself was a merciful man. (1 Samuel 24:4-7) On the other hand, “the one that does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy.” (James 2:13a) No wonder the “merciless” are listed among those whom God views as “deserving of death”!—Romans 1:31, 32.
20 In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) How forcefully these words show that those seeking God’s mercy should themselves be merciful! The following article will discuss how we can practice mercy in our daily life.
What Did You Learn?
• What is mercy?
• In what ways is mercy manifested?
• In what way is Jehovah a God of mercy and justice?
• Why should we be merciful?
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Jehovah’s tender feeling for those in need is like that of a mother for her baby
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What do we learn about mercy from Jesus’ miracles?
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Did Jehovah violate his justice by extending mercy to David?
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God’s mercy toward sinful humans is in accord with his justice