22 October 1999

"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy"-Matthew 5:7 While the first four "Beatitudes" describe the initial exercises of the heart in one who has been awakened by the Spirit, the next four describe the subsequent fruit. That is grace. It begins on the inside, as God changes the heart in regeneration, and then an outward change is observed. An apple tree must undergo many changes before fruit becomes visible. While the fruit tree is young, it is changing; growing; maturing. But when it becomes mature, fruit is born. Such is the case of those happy people that Jesus here describes as He traces the spiritual features of His own people, among which mercifulness is a prominent one. These are identifying marks of true Christians, "For the tree is known by His fruit". THE BLESSING The word "merciful" means "compassionate". It is one of the great attributes of Christ. It was most prominently displayed at the cross as His enemies crucified the Son of glory. They beat Him; spit upon Him; and nailed Him to the cross. Though we would have called legions of angels to come to our rescue and revenge, the meek and lowly Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." That is mercy! They hated Him without a cause, yet He felt compassion for them because of their spiritual blindness and prayed for them. Mercy means that punishment, rightly deserved, has been withheld. I have heard some say, "I want what I deserve". I do not. I want mercy. Who do you suppose will be the most merciful to others? By observation, those who have had great mercy extended to them are the quickest to extend mercy to others who have trespassed against them. While the Pharisees would attended every worship service, and could quote volumes of scriptures, Jesus rebuked them for omitting the weightier matters of the law: "Judgement, mercy and faith". They were quick to judge; possessed an unforgiving and revengeful spirit; they were full of jealousy; yet they claimed to be the most religious people of their day. As we read of their account in the gospels, they do not seem to be very happy people in the midst of all of their religious exercises. They were lacking the fruit which would work for their own peace. And here is the blessing. Those who are merciless to others are the most miserable people in the world. I have seen people who have become physically ill because they were bent upon the destruction of another. While they could not claim perfection in their own life, they demanded from others. They were lacking "mercy". Therefore, God withheld His mercy from them. One man explained mercy like this, "Mercy is when one is moved to pity another to such a degree that they make the case of another their own." Such was the lesson of our Lord's parable of the good Samaritan. The Samaritan was the "good neighbor" because he extended mercy to the fallen man. Mercy does not mean that we condone sin in order to justify self. But rather extend a Holy compassion for those who have fallen into Satan's traps. The possessor of mercy tempers justice with mercy, and scorns the taking of revenge. It is an operative principle. It not only stirs the heart, but is moves the hand. It was "mercy" in Abraham, after he had been wronged by his nephew Lot, which caused him to go after and secure the deliverance of Lot and his family. It was "mercy" on the part of Joseph, after his brethren had so grievously mistreated him, which moved him to freely forgive them. It was "mercy" in Moses, after Miriam had rebelled against him and the Lord had smitten her with leprosy, which moved him to cry, "Heal her now, O God, I beseech thee". Are not these the truly happy people of the Bible? As Solomon wrote, "The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh"-Prov 11:17. The blessing of a merciful heart is apparent. THE PARADOX To the world, such a maxim will make little sense. Merciful people are not taken to be the wisest. How can one, who is merciful to those who have rightly wronged them, find peace and happiness? Revenge is said to be sweet because true happiness may only be found in finally getting even. Such is the world view which brings misery to the soul. THE PARADOX EXPLAINED As with our other "Beatitudes", the paradox is explained in the promised blessing. Jesus has promised to extend mercy to those who are merciful to others, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy". They shall obtain mercy from the Lord for their own shortcomings. What a blessing!! Come and worship with us at Harmony Primitive Baptist Church, at Donaldson, where God is sovereign, and salvation is by His abundant and amazing grace. Services begin at 10:30 each Sunday morning. By His mercy and grace, Neil Phelan, Jr., Pastor