The Beatitudes are divine blessings pronounced on those of godly character. These attributes are required for those who wish to enter the kingdom of heaven. The fifth of these blessings is prescribed for “the merciful.” Matthew 5:7 (NKJV) Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. What is mercy and why is it important to God?
Moses recognized mercy as an integral part of God’s character. Mercy is the attribute of God that allows mankind to escape death, the permanent consequence of sin. Numbers 14:17-21 (NKJV) And now, I pray, let the power of my Lord be great, just as You have spoken, saying, The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.’ Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” Then the LORD said: “I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD
The mercy-seat was not merely a lid for the ark of the covenant. It represented a covering or propitiation. This was the place God promised to meet and speak with Moses. Exodus 25:17-22 (NKJV) “You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.
Jesus became frustrated with the unloving attitude of the Pharisees. He stated His preference for a merciful heart over their meticulous commandment keeping. Matthew 9:10-13 (NKJV) Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
Jesus is the embodiment of God’s mercy, the ultimate expression of His love. Ephesians 2:4-7 (NKJV) But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Jesus is also the propitiation, the covering, for our sins. 1 John 2:1-2 (NKJV) My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
Mercy is demanded of those who would receive mercy from God. Loving others as we love ourselves is the key to practicing mercy. James 2:12-13 (NKJV) So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. God loves us and willingly gave His son to cover our sins. This great love compels us to love and serve God in return. (2 Cor 5:14, 15)
Paul reminds us that all have sinned (Rom 3.23). Mercy is available. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NKJV) Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Be humble. Love diligently. Be merciful.