Four Examples of Mercy in the Bible
1. The Israelites in the Desert
“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:3 NIV)
God certainly chose to be merciful to His people; He loved them despite their rebellion and ungratefulness. God’s covenant with them was out of His mercy. He chose to bless them with what they did not deserve. “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.” (Exodus 16:12 NIV) He answered their complaints with food, water, protection and provision. The story of the Exodus is repeated many times in the Bible, and referenced in regards to many of the characteristics of God, including mercy.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.” (Psalm 51:1 NIV)
David, a man after God’s own heart, slayer of the giant Goliath and chosen king, committed adultery with someone else’s wife and then had her husband killed in battle (2 Samuel 11-12). Sin has the power to overtake even the most arduous followers of Christ. Consequences will always become our reality, as they were for David, but God will never falter in His mercy for us.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 NIV). David pleaded, and God heard Him. “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die” (2 Samuel 12:13 NIV). Though the consequences for our bad choices are hard and harsh, our merciful God never leaves us.
“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ … And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.” (Acts 7:59-8:1 NIV)
Paul, formerly Saul, supported the crusade against Christianity. He was responsible for the death of Christians. Then, he ran into Jesus. “ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ He replied” (Acts 9:5). Saul was struck blind but opened his eyes to see Jesus. Jesus’ mercy to forgive him ignited his faith and propelled him forward. Paul went on to survive shipwrecks, jail, beatings, and other calamities, all the while writing letters to encourage the churches he was planting along the way. “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1 NIV). Paul, in every letter he wrote, magnified mercy. He had experienced it firsthand.
4. The Adulterous Woman
“Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with His finger … But let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:6-8 NIV)
We don’t know what he was writing in the dust, but Jesus’ mercy spoke loud enough for all to hear and be convicted. The men scattered, and to the woman Jesus said, “’Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, Lord,’ ” she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more’ ” (John 8:10-11 NIV). Mercy is forgiveness and compassion extended to those who do not deserve it. The accusers and the adulterers. He chooses to extend mercy to us, and He is unchanging. We cannot fail our way out of God’s love.
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