Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
As Jesus saw the crowds and sat down to teach them, He speaks this profound sequence of blessings upon types of people and what is theirs, they shall be, they shall inherit, and in this one verse, what they shall receive.
On initial reading, this may seem like a pretty straight forward thing – be merciful and receive mercy – yet when we take a closer look, the implications are much deeper.
When it says, “Blessed are the merciful”, that word for merciful is only used 2 times in the New Testament. The other verse it’s found in is Hebrews:
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a MERCIFUL and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17, emphasis added)
This word, “merciful”, is an adjective meaning to be compassionate. Its root word is from the verb that we see as “mercy” in this beatitude, and implies helping one who is afflicted.
Jesus had to be made in the lower state of us humans for a little while, so that in what He experienced as a man would produce the effect of becoming a help to us who are afflicted and forever be a faithful high priest. His faithfulness as a high priest was foundationally His blood sacrifice for the atonement of our sins, but His faithfulness continues as He lives to intercede for us and as a help in our afflictions.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:18-19)
The mercy of God goes far beyond salvation alone, and it extends to our everyday lives. We are like sheep, getting ourselves into trouble on a regular basis and constantly being hunted by the predator that is the enemy; and here Jesus tells us that we can receive his help in our time of affliction by being merciful – showing compassion.
The thing is, we in ourselves cannot be compassionate and described as merciful. We are fallen human beings, and it’s actually the opposite when left to our human nature. The compassion that we show to others must be what we’ve received from God first.
Now this isn’t an oxymoronic circular idea that we need mercy in order to be merciful so that we then would receive mercy. This is not at all a salvation issue, it’s a lifestyle issue. If we are communing with God, we will be more like Him, and in turn be merciful towards others. In being merciful towards others, we’ll be blessed with the compassionate help in our afflictions by our faithful high priest and Savior.
Is there someone in your life that you could be merciful towards? It can be hard, especially in a cultural environment where everyone tends to put their best foot forward and hides any part of them that could be considered a flaw or looked at negatively. But around you, there are hurting people. People you work with, people you pass at the grocery store or walking to your car, the people you live next to… Everyone is dealing with something, and everyone needs compassion.
Have you ever heard the saying, “If a rock is thrown into a pack of dogs, the one who barks the loudest is the one that got hit”? The same rings true with people, except that “rock” may just be a basic circumstance of life; but to a person who felt “hit” by it, it’s overwhelming and they “bark” loudly. There are a lot of hurting people all around you, you are likely even one of them, and yet many times we look at others with a filter as if there is no possible explanation for why they are acting in a way that we have perceived as poor. If you could see how things affected others by seeing them as literal stones being thrown at the person, wouldn’t you have compassion on them?
Do you need to know other people’s problems to be merciful towards them? Or can you simply be merciful because Jesus has said that if you’re merciful, you’ll be blessed and receive His mercy?
As you go about your days and someone cuts you off during traffic, says something you feel is rude, or any other thing that causes you to put up a guard and get your feathers ruffled; I encourage you to take a deep breath, remember how your merciful and faithful high priest responds, and mimic Him in action.