Scripture: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” Matthew 5:7 ESV
Observation: This fifth beatitude is akin to David’s Psalm 18, written in response to God delivering him from the hand of Saul and other enemies. Praising the Lord as his rock and fortress, in verse 25, David declares: “With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless” (ESV). And in Psalm 25:7, David reminds us that mercy begins with the Lord and is intrinsically linked to his love: “Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old” (ESV). And the Father’s love is foremost revealed in his Son from of old.
Indeed, Jesus’ mission was all about extending loving mercy through words of forgiveness and comfort and acts of healing. Regarding his teachings, here are a few instances in Matthew’s Gospel:
- The Lord’s Prayer: Forgive our debts as we have forgiven our debtors (6:12 ESV).
- Questioned by the Pharisees regarding eating with sinners at Matthew’s dinner party: “Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, and not sacrifice…” (9:13 ESV).
- Confronted by the Pharisees about gathering grain on the Sabbath: “And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (12:7 ESV).
- The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant: “And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (18:33 ESV).
And as theologian Michael Wilkins contends, “Mercy is a central biblical theme, because in God’s great mercy he does not give humans what they deserve; rather, he gives them what they do not deserve” (The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew).
Takeaway: As theologian John Stott argues, this fifth beatitude builds on the third (blessed are the meek): “It is ‘the meek’ who are also ‘the merciful’. For to be meek is to acknowledge to others that we are sinners; to be merciful is to have compassion on others, for they are sinners too” (Stott, Christian Counter-culture, p.48). This principle of paying it forward as redeemed sinners, extending to others what God imparts to us, reveals yet another aspect of grace. We can do nothing in ourselves to extend godly mercy to others; instead, his loving mercy flows through us to others. Thus, as forgiven sinners in whom Christ has shown his mercy, we, too, extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us and compassion to the suffering and needy.
So how are we blessed in showing mercy to others? As theologian D.A. Carson notes, “The reward is not mercy shown by others but by God” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew). If we expect reciprocation from fellow sinners, we may be sorely disappointed. But if we understand the depth of sin and the height of God’s grace, we will more readily receive his mercy when we most need it. And it is golden to find comfort and rest in his mercy. Truly, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Prayer: Father God, we confess that we are unworthy of your grace and thus express our deepest gratitude for your loving mercy extended to us through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son. So would you please help us follow the lead of your Holy Spirit in offering your loving mercy toward others, without expectation of reciprocation, and be quick to receive your mercy with joy and thanksgiving? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling