BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL
Matthew 5:7; Psalm 41:1-4
The fifth beatitude of Christ says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” I consider Psalm 41:1-4 an enlightening commentary on this beatitude. The character mentioned in the fifth Beatitude is higher than the previous four. The virtue of mercifulness is higher than to be poor in spirit or to mourn over sin or to be meek or to hunger and thirst after righteousness. All of the character traits in the Beatitudes are of great price in the sight of God, but some things are said about this Beatitude that is said of no other.
Our first consideration is to determine who these blessed people are, the merciful who obtain mercy. They are a people who possess a very noble feeling and attitude towards their fellow human beings. They are possessed of a beautiful character trait called mercy. The word seems to have been derived from the French or Latin, both languages having a similar word which means favor, pity and compassion. The French word, “Merci” means “thank you.” Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines the Greek word used as kindness or good will towards the miserable and afflicted, joined with a desire to relieve them. Webster's Dictionary gives this definition, “a refraining from harming or punishing offenders, enemies, person's in one's powers, kindness in excess of what may be expected or demanded by fairness; a disposition to forgive, pity or be kind., a feeling of sympathy towards those in distress.”
The language experts have given us a general idea of the great word, and it appears that it has negative side and a positive side. In its negative connotation, it is associated with conduct that will not treat people harshly nor inflict punishment, even when it is due. From the positive side, the merciful show kindness to the destitute, to the sick, to those in misery and to any who are in trouble. A beautiful virtue indeed! The merciful are those who pity, sympathize with and help all who are suffering and in misery of any kind. . Mercy is near akin to forgiveness and love. It strives to relieve people who suffer spiritually as well as physically. Mercy pities people who are living in darkness, without God and without hope in the world. The merciful extend pity to the guilty, to the suffering and extend help to the needy. However, mercy is more than sympathy and pity; it shows itself in action, not only existing in thought. James the Lord's brother said, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their truble and to keep one's self unspotted from the world”(James 1:27). That included more than a social visit. It means to
extend to them the help they need, and help them to make their lives more comfortable. James also gave this insight on mercy when he said, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of food, and one of you says to them, `Depart in peace and be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” I think we
have learned enough about the merciful to restate this Beatitude in a way that will set forth its meaning. “Blessed are those who show mercy to those in need of kindness or help, for they themselves shall be the objects of mercy from God in this present life as well as at the time of the judgment.”
Now that we know who the merciful are, who are the people in particular who are suffering and hurting and who are suitable recipients for our pity, compassion and kindness? Human sin moves the Christian heart with pity. Vast numbers of people have no regard for the laws of God and have no interest in Christ and His church. Although unaware of it, these people are in the worst of all human miserable conditions. Jesus had compassion for lost mankind.. The Bible says that when Jesus saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd. Jesus ended His public ministry in the city of Jerusalem with these words, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see me no more till you say, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” This is the solemn farewell of the Savior over the city after his last public address. The public ministry of Jesus was finished with these words. As bad as the history of that city was, His words are full of pity and compassion.. This city was about to commit the greatest crime ever committed in the history of the world. by crucifying the divine Son of God. He sadly said, “Your temple is left to you desolate. It is no longer God's; it's your temple. God has left it and has no more claim on it.”. He also said to that city, “You will never see me again until you see Me coming from heaven in great glory and majesty”(Matt. 23:39).
However, we learn a very important truth from that farewell address. As bad as those people had been in the past history, and knowing
they would put Him to death within days, He still felt pity and compassion for them. The Lord pitied the proud Pharisee and the cold-hearted Sadducee. Our indignation against sin must ever be mingled with pity for
the sinner. Thoughtless people who live in wealth, luxury and disobedience are objects of the Christian's pity. It was pity that bought Jesus from heaven to earth, and it was compassion that caused Him to die the just for the unjust. Man's spiritual poverty is even more wretched than his physical poverty. We can show mercy by sharing the gospel of Christ with others. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.” The gospel shows men their wounds and bestows on them love. It shows them bondage and supplies the hammer to knock away their chains. It shows them nakedness and provides them with garments of purity. It shows them their poverty and pours into their lives the wealth of heaven. It shows them their sins and points them to the Savior This is the message we are to take to the lost, confused and bewildered world.. This is showing mercy.
Another way to show mercy is to the physically poor, the homeless and the down and outers. Jesus said, “You have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good.” Following Christ's example, the early church administered to the needy and hungry. Paul collected funds from Christians all over the world to help needy people in Jerusalem. The word of God says, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” James said it is pure religion to help widows and orphans. To help people with food, shelter and clothing is a way to show mercy.
When you go to bed tonight, remember that over half of the world's population is hungry, poor and wretched. Most of these people are illiterate people who are unable to read or write. Most of them use farming methods a thousand years old. Many of them are little better than slaves to the big landlords who own the land. They need food, education, clothes, homes, medical care, and most of all, love. It is certainly merciful to have compassion on and help these downtrodden peoples of the world. Jesus fed the multitudes as well as preach the gospel to them. Frank Laubach was an American missionary, preacher and educator. who won world fame for teaching illiterate peoples to read.. He is mentioned in the World Book Encyclopedia. He co-authored more than 200 primers for illiterate adults in over 165 languages. I have an interesting quotation from this man who said, “In my opinion, the United States must make an all-out effort to help the destitute half of the world out of its misery, or we shall find that the world has gone Communistic because of our neglect.” In regard to this man's saying, I think it is only proper to say that the United
States is the most generous and merciful nation in the world. When we go to war and defeat an enemy, we rebuild his cities, feed the peoples and rebuild their economy. We respond to disasters world-wide. I often wonder if this is not one of the reasons God has so providentially blessed our nation. All cannot go to faraway lands, but all can give to missionary and charitable causes that will help build hospitals, educational institutions, orphanages and help provide the necessities of life to many of these destitute millions. When that good Samaritan Jesus talked about stopped and helped a Jew who was half beaten to death, treated his wounds and put him up in a hotel, those few dollars he spent was the best investment that man ever made. His act of mercy received the praise of Christ, put his name in the Bible, immortalized the man, and the man will be remembered by all generations.
Another way to show mercy in our everyday social relationships is not to treat people harshly In Matt. 18 Jesus told the story of a servant who owed his lord an enormous debt, . and he begged his lord to be patient with him. The lord had mercy on his servant and forgave him all the debt. But the same servant went out and found a man who owed him a small debt. He refused the man's plea for mercy and had him cast into prison. When the man's lord heard of this wicked deed he said to him, “You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you wanted me to. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-servant even as I had on you? He turned him over to the judicial authorities who held him until he could pay the entire debt. Jesus made this application of the parable, “So my heavenly Father will do to you if each of you from his heart does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Since Christ has shown such mercy to man, surely men ought to show mercy to each other in the relatively small debts they owe to one another. Often a man will hate another for years, and even to the grave, for an offence which he considers great. But how trivial even the most major crime committed against us appears when compared to our sin against God.
I shall close by briefly noticing the blessing which is promised to those who are merciful. It is said of them that “they shall obtain mercy.” I cannot help believing that this means in this present life as well at the end of time when we must all appear before the judgment sea of Christ. We all need the mercy of our God in this life. What would the best of us be without His tender mercy? We need that mercy because of our daily sins and shortcomings. We are in danger of losing God's mercy because He will
not pardon the unforgiving. He makes our forgiveness of others, the standard of His forgiveness of us. Jesus said, ”If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” The reward that belongs to the merciful in this life is stated in Palm 41:1-3, “Blessed is he who considers the poor. The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble. The Lord will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth...the Lord will strengthen him on his bed of illness. You will sustain him on his sickbed.” Are these promises only for people who lived in Old Testament times, or is this one of those divine principles in the government of God that applies to all times? I believe it one of timeless principles mentioned in the Old Testament. Peter quoted one of this timeless principles from Psalm 34, “He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him tun away from evil and do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers, but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil”(I Peter 3:10-12). The fifth beatitude promises mercy to the merciful in this life.
But the full meaning of the promise that the merciful will obtain mercy, no doubt relates to that day of which Paul wrote concerning his friend Onesiphorus, “The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day”(2 Tim. 1:16). If anyone questions the help mercifulness may give us in the judgment, let us remember our Savior's own description of the day of judgment, “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, `Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you have me food; I was thirsty and you have me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me..Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me”(Matt. 25:34-46). James, the Lord's brother tells us how mercy will be used at the judgment, “Judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”(James 2:13)