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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Personal Attributes of God

Don Stewart :: Is God a Merciful God?

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Is God a Merciful God?

The Personal Attributes of God – Question 14

Yes. Although the God of the Bible is a God of justice, He is also a God of mercy. The Bible says that God’s mercy is an attribute He possesses.

Mercy Defined: God’s Goodness to Those Who Are in Trouble

Mercy can be defined as God’s divine goodness that He exercises toward His creatures. This occurs when people are in trouble or distress. The mercy of God is expressed in a number of ways. The Bible says the following things about the mercy of God.

1. God Is Rich in Mercy toward Humanity

The Bible speaks of God being “rich in mercy.” King David understood this as he spoke to the prophet Gad.

David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men.” (2 Samuel 24:14 NIV)

The God of the Bible is a God who is rich in mercy toward the human race. This is truly a comforting thought for those of us who trust Him.

2. God Showed His Mercy toward Israel: The Chosen People

God has also been merciful to the nation Israel, His chosen people. Jeremiah the prophet recorded the Lord speaking about this mercy.

Go, proclaim this message toward the north: “‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will not be angry forever.’” (Jeremiah 3:12 NIV)

The Lord Himself declares that He is a merciful God. Since God never lies, then He must indeed be a merciful god.

Isaiah the prophet wrote about God’s mercy toward the nation of Israel. He wrote about abandoning the people and then bringing them back.

“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.” (Isaiah 54:7 NIV)

God has indeed been merciful and compassionate to His people.

3. God Showed Mercy in Sending His Son into the World

The mercy of God reached its highest point when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, testified to this at the birth of his son John. He said John would do the following.

“You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the light from heaven is about to break upon us...” (Luke 1:77, 78 NLT)

The message of John would be a message of hope and mercy. There would be forgiveness of sin through Christ, the coming Messiah. This came to pass as John testified. Indeed, the greatest act of God’s mercy toward humanity was sending His Son into the world to show humanity His great mercy.

4. Mercy Is the Basis of Our Salvation

We are saved because of God’s mercy. In his letter to Titus, Paul emphasized this wonderful truth. He said,

...he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5 NRSV)

We do not save ourselves. We are saved because of His great mercy.

When the prophet Daniel prayed, he acknowledged that God was indeed a merciful and forgiving God. He said,

LORD God, you are merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against you... (Daniel 9:9 CEV)

This is a truth which is emphasized throughout Scripture. God is a God of mercy and forgiveness.

The psalmist also acknowledged his sin before the Lord. In doing so, he experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Selah) (Psalm 32:5 NRSV)

Salvation is rooted in the mercy of God.

5. Mercy Is Often Linked with Grace

In Scripture, we find mercy often linked with the grace of God. Grace can be defined as “unmerited favor.” It is getting something that we do not deserve. The forgiveness of sin is something that none of us deserve. Yet God has had mercy on humanity, and has forgiven those who have believed in Him through Jesus Christ. Paul wrote,

God saved you through faith as an act of kindness. You had nothing to do with it. Being saved is a gift from God. It’s not the result of anything you’ve done, so no one can brag about it. (Ephesians 2:8, 9 God’s Word)

Salvation is entirely a gift of God’s grace. There is nothing we can do to earn it and we certainly have not deserved it.

6. God Shows His Mercy toward the Church

God has showed mercy toward the members of the New Testament church. Paul wrote the following to the Corinthians.

Praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! The Father is a merciful God, who always gives us comfort. He comforts us when we are in trouble, so that we can share that same comfort with others in trouble. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 CEV)

The merciful God is a comforting God. He allows us to comfort others with the comfort we received when we were hurting.

Those who trust in Him are recipients of His mercy in a special way. The writer to the Hebrews told believers how to receive God’s mercy.

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. (Hebrews 4:16 NLT)

The church, the believers in Christ, has received God’s mercy.

7. Mercy Is the Basis of Hope

The mercy of God is the basis of hope for the believer. The psalmist wrote of his hope in the unfailing love of God. He said,

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. (Psalm 52:8 NIV)

The hope of the believer is that we will receive God’s mercy.

8. He Gives Mercy on Those Who Are Afflicted

God grants mercy, or His divine goodness, on those who are afflicted. Isaiah the prophet triumphantly wrote of the comfort the Lord gives.

Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted. (Isaiah 49:13 NASB)

The God of Scripture is a God of comfort.

In the life and ministry of Jesus we find that there were two blind men who appealed to Jesus for mercy. Matthew records the incident as follows.

After Jesus left the girl’s home, two blind men followed along behind him, shouting, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” (Matthew 9:27 NLT)

Jesus, God the Son, was merciful to them and healed them of their blindness.

9. The Mercy Is Given According to His Will

The Bible is also clear that God grants mercy according to His will. God mercifully allowed Moses to see His glory. In the Book of Exodus we read the following.

The Lord answered: All right. I am the LORD, and I show mercy and kindness to anyone I choose. I will let you see my glory and hear my holy name... (Exodus 33:19 CEV)

Notice that the Lord has mercy upon those whom He chooses.

Commenting on this statement in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul emphasized that God has mercy on those whom He desires. He wrote,

So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. (Romans 9:16 NASB)

God gives mercy to people has He desires. As God, this is His right.

10. Believers Are to Imitate God’s Mercy

We serve a merciful God. Consequently, those who believe in Jesus Christ are to be merciful to others. In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus emphasized that God blesses those who show mercy.

God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy (Matthew 5:7 NLT).

Mercy is something that believers receive from the Lord. In turn, we ought to imitate the Lord and show mercy to others.

Summary – Question 14
Is God a Merciful God?

The Bible says that the God of the Bible is a God of mercy. What is mercy? Mercy is not getting what we do deserve, judgment, and getting what we do not deserve, heaven. It is God’s divine goodness that is given to people who are in distress. The mercy of God is a major theme of Scripture. He gives us specific examples of where He has extended His mercy.

First, the Bible says that God is rich in mercy toward the human race. Scripture constantly testifies to this truth in both testaments.

For one thing, God has had mercy on the nation Israel, His chosen people. When Israel sinned against the Lord He did not reject them. Indeed, we find that time after time the Lord extended His mercy to this wayward people.

God’s mercy is also the basis of our hope in this present age. His ultimate act of mercy was sending His Son into the world. We can enter into a right relationship with a holy God because of the merciful act of God becoming a human in the Person of Jesus Christ.

God has also shown mercy on the New Testament church. Indeed, there are numerous examples recorded for us of God’s mercy toward New Testament believers. Those of us who know Christ personally can also attest to that mercy.

The Bible also says that God has mercy on those who are afflicted. He helps those who are hurting. Indeed, He is called the “God of all comfort.”

The Bible teaches that basis of our eternal salvation is the mercy of God. Scripture often links mercy with God’s grace. We are saved because of His great mercy, not because of anything good that we can do.

We also find that the mercy of God is given according to His will. In other words, He chooses whom He will show mercy. As God, this is His right to do this.

All of these things testify to the fact that God is rich in mercy. Consequently those who serve Him should be merciful to others.

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