Mercy of Quality
“O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his mercy endures for ever.” - I Chronicles 16:34.
The phrase “His mercy endures forever” is written 42 times in the Bible.
1) What are some good examples of mercy in the Bible?
(1 Tim 1:12-20) I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
2) Why does Paul emphasize his past? (How was he a blasphemer?) What does he mean about ignorance and unbelief? Why does that make him a good example?
3) Why aren’t Hymenaeus and Alexander candidates for mercy?
(Luke 15:1-10) Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
4) What is the moral of these parables? How is it a response to the Pharisees?
5) How does this relate to the idea of mercy? What does it tell us about God’s mercy?
6) By substituting sheep and coins for people, how do these parables fall short? (Or do they not?)
7) Is there a difference between grace and mercy?
8) Have you been shown mercy by anyone? Had a chance to give mercy? What happened?
Outside of the Bible, the most famous words about mercy were written by Shakespeare. Portia, in The Merchant of Venice, says to Shylock who has a rightful claim against : (Act 4, Scene 1)
The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath:
it is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power, The attribute to awe and majesty, Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings; But mercy is above this sceptred sway; It is enthroned in the hearts of kings, It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew, Though justice be thy plea, consider this, That, in the course of justice, none of us Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
9) What is Shakespeare saying? Is this a biblical view of mercy?
Maybe we can close by seeking mercy together. The great prayer of mercy from the psalms was written by David after being confronted and brought to truth by Nathan.
Psalm 51:1-17 (The Message)
Generous in love—God, give grace! Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been; my sins are staring me down.
You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you; whatever you decide about me is fair.
I’ve been out of step with you for a long time, in the wrong since before I was born.
What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.
Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God, and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God; I’ll let loose with your praise.
Going through the motions doesn’t please you, a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.
Photo credit: mharrsch on Flickr of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC.