Please note: The following is the sermon manuscript and not a transcript of the message preached)
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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
January 26, 2014
Blessed are the Merciful
What is the nature of man? We get our best glimpses into it when governmental restraint breaks down and people do what they want instead of what they must, or expressed in another way, your real character is displayed by what you do when can do what you would like and believe that you will not get caught. Disasters, both natural and man-made, give opportunities for such displays of man’s nature. All of us here have heard reports about or perhaps have even personally experienced disasters such as an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, tsunami, fire, regional power-outage, political upheaval, riots, terrorist attacks and war. In the midst of and following such disasters and turmoil, people often have the opportunity to display the true character of their heart. Some will prove themselves to be heroes who sacrifice of themselves for the benefit of others. Others prove themselves to be evil as the lack of law enforcement gives them the opportunity to take advantage of the situation for their personal gain. This can happen even when it is as simple as a computer glitch. Last year an error in a regional computer that processes government welfare debit cards removed the purchasing limits on them. Word spread quickly resulting in runs on stores in which people quickly “bought” – stole – as much as they could possibly carry before the error was corrected. When it was corrected, shopping carts full of food were simply abandoned in the aisles. The stores and the government had huge losses.
In May 1992, a jury acquitted the policemen that had arrested Rodney King. That decision was used as an excuse for three days of rioting in Los Angeles that left 54 people dead, 4,000+ injured, 12,000+ arrested, 5,270 buildings destroyed or severely damaged – some whole neighborhoods were wiped out – and nearly $1 billion in damage. Those losses were tragic, but perhaps more tragic were the excuses given to justify the violence and looting by those committing these crimes. Television crews went into the areas and video taped what was happening and interviewed the people present. How brazen – or stupid – can you be to give an interview to a news crew that is recording your crime.
One woman said to the television crew taping her, “if you had treated us right, we would not be doing this.” She justified the violence, destruction and theft by blaming the jury that listened to all the evidence presented in a court of law for not condemning the men that she decided were guilty because of brief, edited video clips she saw on TV. Another lady was loading the trunk of her car with merchandise she had just looted from a store. She was asked if she considered what she was doing stealing? She answered that she did not think it was wrong “because if it was, the police would stop me from doing it.” She revealed that her morality was based on what she is physically restrained from doing. A kid of about 12 years old who was carrying a bunch of things he had just looted from a store was asked why he was doing it. He said, “hey man, its fun.” Perhaps worse of all were the scenes of parents taking their children with them to join in the free for all in the looting of a Sears store.
By what stretch of the imagination could the murder, the beatings, the looting and the thousands of fires that were set and then shooting at the firemen and paramedics who responded be justified because a jury far away did not pronounce the desired verdict. None of these victims of such violence had anything to do with the jury, yet many excuses were given by those who had long ago forgot God’s commandments to men. They fit the description of Romans 1:32, “although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things (the list in the two prior verses include: greed, evil, murder, strife, malice, insolent, arrogant, unloving and unmerciful) are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”
Some politicians and commentators said the violence was because the people were poor. Really? Strange that my mom grew up in south Los Angeles during the depression and knew what it was like to be poor. My grandfather was happy to get any work he could find. My father grew up in rural Mississippi in what would today be considered poverty. There were not riots in their communities. Then there are the millions of families around the world that live in various kinds of huts and shacks without water or electricity, yet they do not riot. Poverty was not the cause of the riots that occurred in Los Angeles or other cities over the last several decades. Poverty has nothing to do with the riots that occur following victories by sports teams. They have become common enough that if you lived in an area with fanatic fans you have to be grateful when the team has a lousy year and does not make the playoffs. Here are some of the victory riots that have occurred listed by city, team and year: Detroit Tigers in 1984; Detroit Pistons in 1990; Chicago Bulls in 1992; Montreal Canadiens in 1993; Boston Patriots in 2002; Boston Red Sox in 2004, Boston Celtics in 2004 and 2008; Los Angeles Lakers in 2010 and Baltimore Ravens in 2013. In other countries, soccer victories or loses can be dangerous whether they are championship games or not.
Some tried to explain the rioting as the reaction of one race to being oppressed by another race. Certainly there is racial prejudice. Man is naturally proud resulting in a self-centered view of life. Those that appear similar are given the benefit of the doubt while those that are different are regarded with suspicion if not antipathy. However, racial prejudice does not explain so much destruction of property and violence against people of the same race and in the same economic circumstances.
The root of rioting is man’s sin nature. Pride, selfishness and greed mixed with hatred and anger result in looting and burning. People steal what they can carry away and destroy what they cannot with little regard to whom it belongs. The solution for the troubles that erupted in Los Angeles that year as well as those since and which continue to this very day is actually fairly simple, but man in his sinfulness is unwilling to seek it, much less do it. Men need to turn their eyes from themselves and the things of this world to Jesus Christ.
Racial problems? Galatians 3:26-29 states that all who are in Christ Jesus are sons of God, Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, and no group of people were as ethnocentric as the Jews of that time. They even hated the Samaritans more than the Gentiles because they were a mixed breed of Jew and Gentile. In Jesus Christ your physical heritage is of no importance.
Economic inequality? The same passage also says that in Christ Jesus there i
s neither slave nor free. The passage does not say that the slave is freed and placed on the same economic plane with the free man, but they are now both sons of God. The little book of Philemon brings this out. Paul had led a runaway slave named Onesimus to the Lord. Paul then sends this man back to his master, Philemon, as verse 15 explains, “. . . that you should have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” Onesimus remained Philemon’s slave, certainly a form of “economic oppression,” but their relationship in Christ changed both of them so that Philemon treated Onesimus as a brother and Onesimus served Philemon out of love instead of fear.
This brings us back to our study in the Sermon on the Mount. We have already seen in our previous studies that the first section of the sermon in Matthew 5:1-12, commonly referred to as the Beatitudes, is a series of statements of fact describing the blessings that a person who is characterized by the qualities listed will receive. They are not a list of things you must do in order to get into heaven for these are not character qualities humans can develop on their own. They are the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of an individual, and as such, they describe the righteousness that surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees without which no one can enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:20). This morning we will be examining the fifth of these Beatitudes listed in verse 7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” If this beatitude was a common trait in mankind, there would not be wars, riots or exploitation. But mankind leans much more to being abusive than merciful, so these evils continue.
We must begin by defining mercy. Webster defines mercy as, “compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power.” That is close to the definition of the Greek word being translated here as mercy. If there was a prevailing attitude of compassion and forbearance among people, then theft, abuse and murder would become rare. But again, the natural tendency of man is to be selfish and therefore sins against one another are common.
The Greek word here (e[leoV / eleos) was originally used to describe the emotion aroused by contact with an undeserved affliction which comes on someone else. We might use the words “sympathy,” “pity” or “compassion” to describe that in English. Those following the Greek philosophy of stoicism regarded this as being a sickness of the soul. They feared it might cause partiality in judgment. The Romans followed this line of thought and considered mercy a weakness. They valued courage, strict justice, firm discipline, and absolute power, so they looked at mercy with contempt.
The meaning of the word broadened with usage and came to mean more than just the emotion of compassion for someone less fortunate, but also of taking action and being “lovingkind” as seen in its use in the Septuagint. In the Old Testament, this was the kindness which was seen between those in mutual relationships. In the New Testament, this is the divinely required attitude of man for man. We are to show it out of concern for both the earthly needs and eternal welfare of others.
The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-36 is a good illustration of mercy. Jesus replied and said, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead. 31 “And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 “And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 “But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on [them;] and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 “And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.’
The Priest and the Levite who walked by the injured man could have felt pity and maybe even sympathy for him, but because they did nothing to help, they absolutely demonstrated that they did not have mercy. It was the Samaritan that saw the poor fellow and responded to the compassion he felt to help the man. That act of mercy cost the Samaritan something. First, he stopped his journey to render first aid (vs. 34). Second, he took the man to a place where he could recover and also paid for his care to that point. Third, he told the inn keeper that if the bill ran higher than what he had already given him, then he would pay it on his return (vs 35).
I am glad to say that even in the midst of riots there are also those who act with mercy. Some of you may remember or have heard the story of Reginald Denny who was yanked him out his truck and savagely beaten by five hoodlums during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. We know what happened because a news helicopter video taped it. He was hit and kicked and then one of the thugs struck him on the head with a fire extinguisher knocking him out. Another went through his pockets and stole his wallet. Perhaps what you do not know is what happened after. Denny recovered enough to climb back in his truck and try to drive away. A young woman on her way home from work saw what had taken place and climbed up onto the side of the truck and called out directions for Denny since his eyes had already swollen shut. Then an unidentified man climbed into the truck and took over the driver’s seat while the woman continued to call out directions since the windshield was shattered. Moments later two other men, T.J. Murphy and Tee Barnett, who had seen what had happened to Denny on TV also arrived to help. As they guided the big rig to the door of Daniel Freeman Hospital, Denny went into convulsions. He later underwent three hours of emergency brain surgery. The paramedics told the rescuers, “One more minute, just one more minute, and he would have been dead.” The action of these four contrasted with the violence of the others. They felt compassion toward the injured man and were moved to assist even though it brought some risk to themselves. That is mercy.
Mercy & Love
To increase our understanding of mercy, it is helpful to compare it to some related concepts. The first of this is love. Mercy flows out of love. Love is the greater idea of which mercy is a part. Ephesians 2:4-5 brings out this point, “But God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ.” God’s mercy comes as an act of His love. The actions of those four people that helped Reginald Denny was an act of mercy that came because they had love for a fellow human without regard to his skin color.
Mercy & Grace
Next is grace. Mercy and grace are closely related, but they are not the same. Both deal with the pain, misery and distress of the consequences of sin, and both flow out of love. Mercy seeks to give aid because of its compassion. Grace is an undeserved blessing freely given, and when it is motivated by compassion, it is a close synonym to mercy. Because of that overlap there is sometimes confusion between the two. Grace has a greater emphasis on the action taken that brings blessing. The good Samaritan was merciful in that he responded to his compassion for the injured man and sought to help him. He also demonstrated grace in that he also went on to give the man an undeserved blessing by paying for his continued care by the inn keeper. Mercy met the present need while grace extended beyond that to be an additional blessi
This difference can also be seen in Ephesians 2:4-6 which states, “But God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.” According to the passage, mercy and grace both arise out of God’s love. In His mercy God saw us when we where dead in our transgressions and made us alive. In His grace God went further to bless us by raising us up and seating us with Jesus. Mercy moves from compassion to meet the immediate need while grace goes farther to bring a blessing.
Mercy & Forgiveness
Another concept related to mercy is forgiveness. This is mercy that extends to someone who has wronged you or been against you. Compassion motivated mercy from a soldier to gently help an injured enemy soldier to medical care. A parent’s compassion moves them to be merciful in giving first aid and consoling a child that injured himself because he disobeyed. It is mercy when a spouse seeks to comfort their partner when that person is not being obedient to Scriptures and being generally difficult to live with. In each of these cases there is also some sense of forgiveness necessary in order for the mercy to be extended. In each case the one showing mercy has been wronged and has had to set that aside in order to be merciful. True forgiveness is often motived by mercy and goes farther to bring about reconciliation with the one who sinned. The wrong suffered is not held in account against the one who committed the wrong.
We have wronged God by our sin, yet God has extended to us His mercy so that we could be saved from our sins which includes being forgiven our transgressions against Him. Titus 3:5 states that God saved us “not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” It is in Jesus that we have redemption through His sacrifice on Calvary and the forgiveness of our trespasses (Ephesians 1:7).
Mercy & Justice
Mercy also has a relationship to justice, though that may seem contradictory. Justice gives exactly what is deserved, whereas mercy gives less punishment and more help than is deserved. Mercy and justice seem to be exclusive of each other and some apply this idea to God and say that He cannot be both just and merciful. They argue that mercy is negated if God punishes man for His sin, but He would negate His justice if He did not. Yet, the Scriptures proclaim God to be both just and merciful. In a civil case, a judge or certain other government officials may commute a sentence for a crime. That is merciful, but it is not just. There is a story out of the Civil War in which a young man fell asleep on guard duty, was caught and sentenced to die. His mother came to the commanding general and asked him to be merciful to her son. He explained what the young man had done, the seriousness of the offense, and why he must die for it. This mother simply replied, “I did not ask you for justice, but for mercy.” God, unlike a human judge, must stay true to His own attributes and so must perfectly satisfy justice when showing mercy. How can that be done?
In most acts of mercy, someone pays the price. The Good Samaritan paid a price in helping the injured man, and we do the same when we are merciful. In acts of mercy involving forgiveness, there is also a price that is paid. The damage caused by the offender is paid by the offended and then no longer held against them. God did this for mankind by paying the price of sin Himself in His Son Jesus Christ. This satisfies justice while at the same time it extends mercy. Justice and mercy kiss. God’s mercy is grounded not only in His love and grace, but also in forgiveness based on His justice.
The next question is how is mercy obtained? Some have reached a false conclusion based on this beatitude thinking that “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” means that you earn mercy by first being merciful yourself. In other words, if you want to get mercy from other people, you must give mercy first. However, that is simply not true in obtaining mercy from God or people. We live in a sin filled world and an act of mercy may or may not be returned in kind. In the case of the Los Angeles riots, firemen and paramedics where shot at and some wounded when they responded to calls for help. They gave mercy, but did not receive mercy.
When it comes to obtaining mercy from God, you cannot earn it by being merciful. First, by definition, mercy is granted, not earned. If you could earn it, it would be wages and not mercy. Second, God’s mercy to you began long before you were capable of even expressing compassion. Humans begin their expressions of rebellion against God in sinful selfishness as children. God is patient and longsuffering and so each of us has been the recipient of God’ mercy from our first breath. His mercy has always come first.
This Beatitude is not a random thought and can neither be isolated from the other Beatitudes nor from its place within them. Each Beatitude builds upon the previous so that the person described here as being merciful and receiving the blessing of mercy is someone who is also demonstrating the previous characteristics. No one can be merciful as demanded by the Sermon on the Mount without the other qualities also being present, and those who do have those qualities will be merciful. The person who is merciful is also poor in spirit, mourning, meek and hungering and thirsting after righteousness and so they receive the blessings of the kingdom of God, comfort, inheriting the earth, being filled with righteousness and receiving mercy.(See: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, Blessed are Those that Mourn, Blessed are the Meek, Blessed are the Hungry & Thirsty)
The concept here is more akin to that of forgiveness found in Matthew 18:21-35 in which a man who was forgiven a huge debt of incredible proportions refuses to forgive a man who owes him a pittance by comparison. The man’s lack of mercy proved he did not understand the mercy he had been granted, so the master revoked the previous mercy and threw him in jail. The person who is poor in spirit, mourning over sin, submissive to God in all things, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness is going to be merciful. If a person is not merciful, then the other qualities are also lacking showing that they do not have a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees. They are not true Christians. They will not receive God’s mercy.
What is the nature of this mercy we are called to give? It is described throughout the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:21-26 instructs the righteous about anger. Mercy does not respond in anger even as minor as name calling. Mercy seeks reconciliation with those who have something against you. Matthew 5:38-42 instructs the righteous about the issue of revenge. Mercy does not seek revenge, but in a forgiving attitude adds grace and becomes a blessing even to those that personally wrong you. Jesus instructs in Matthew 5:43-48 about the nature of love. Mercy goes beyond loving those that love you to also loving your enemies. Mercy loves the unlovable. In Matthew 6:2-4 Jesus gives instruction about almsgiving which are acts of mercy and states that the righteous do not seek to call attention to themselves but work behind the scenes in humility. Matthew 7:1-5 deal
s with judging one another. Mercy approaches every case of judgment with humble self examination. The mercy of the righteous is to be characterized by humility, self control, forgiveness and lovingly extended even to enemies. Does your mercy resemble that?
Duane Ray was an Elder at Grace Community Church. His son had just finished High School and was looking forward to college. One night as he was working at his job at a local market, he came into the store from the parking lot and walked into the middle of an armed holdup. He did not know what was happening and called out to the thieves, one of whom then turned and shot him dead. When Duane Ray was told about his son, his reaction was one of great mercy. He said that he then should be the one to tell this man who murdered his son about Christ. That is mercy.
God’s mercy toward us is the supreme example:
God’s compassion arises out of the great love with which He loves us (Ephesians 2:4). He extends His mercy.
God’s Justice is fulfilled by Him being the just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:26). He extends His mercy.
God’s love is proved in sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as the redemption payment for our sins made while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). He extends His mercy.
God’s forgiveness is provided on the basis of the atonement by Jesus Christ and granted by our simple faith in Him demonstrated by our confession to Him (1 John 1:9). The depth of forgiveness is demonstrated in Jesus asking God to forgive those who were crucifying Him (Luke 23:34). He extends mercy.
Does your mercy reflect God’s mercy? Do you have compassion on those around you caught up in sin? Even when their sin is against you? Do you pity them and seek to mercifully help? It is as D. Martyn Lloyd Jones said, “If I know that I am a debtor to mercy alone, if I know that I am a Christian solely because of that free grace of God, there should be no pride left in me, there should be nothing vindictive, there should be no insisting upon my rights. Rather, as I look out upon others, if there is anything in them that is unworthy, or that is a manifestation of sin, I should have this great sorrow for them in my heart.” Since it is God that has brought me to salvation and it is His Holy Spirit that empowers me to live the Christian life, then “if I am not merciful there is only one explanation: I have never understood the grace and the mercy of God: I am outside Christ: I am yet in my sins, and I am unforgiven.”
Are you merciful? Do you have sorrow in your heart for those still in their sins even though they offend you? Do you have pity for the victims and the dupes of the world, the flesh and the devil? That is the test of this beatitude. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) Count how many times the word “mercy” is said. Talk with your parents about what it means to be merciful and how you can be that way to others.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What would you conclude about the nature of man revealed when authority breaks down and people do what they actually want to do? What is the cause of riots, looting and mayhem? How is Jesus Christ the answer to those problems and those caused by racism and economic inequality? Define mercy. How does the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-36 illustrate true mercy? What is the relationship between mercy and love? What is the difference between mercy and grace? What is the relationship between mercy and forgiveness? How can God be both just and merciful? Do people receive mercy because they have been merciful first? Explain. Why can’t mercy be earned? Why must God be merciful before people can be merciful? What is the relationship of being merciful to the previous Beatitudes? What lessons does Jesus teach in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount that explain the actions of the merciful? How is God’s example the supreme example of mercy? Are you merciful? What is your attitude toward those that are the victims / dupes of the world, the flesh and the devil?
Blessed Are The Merciful
January 26, 2014 – Matthew 5:7
The nature of man is revealed when ______________ breaks down and people do what they want
One woman justified the violence, destruction and looting by blaming a _____for a decision she did not like
Another woman revealed her morality was based on what she was physically ________________from doing
Some thought it was __________- and others brought their children along to loot
Poverty in the past and present in other places has _________ resulted in rioting
Why do some _____________________riot when their team wins?
Racial prejudice does not explain riots which victimize people of the ___________race and economic class
Riots, looting and mayhem are rooted in man’s ______________nature – the solution is Jesus Christ
Racial problems are solved in _____________- Galatians 3:26-29
Economic envy is solved in _______________- Philemon
The Beatitudes are statements of __________about the blessings received by those with righteous character
Webster: _______________or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power
e[leoV / eleos: _____________ of sympathy, pity, compassion; actions of being lovingkind
The Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-36
Mercy & Love
Mercy flows out of ___________ – Ephesians 2:4-5
Mercy & Grace
Mercy seeks to give aid out of compassion while grace extends to be an undeserved _________freely given
Ephesians 2:4-5; mercy made us _____________in Christ; grace raised us up and seated us with Him
Mercy & Forgiveness
Forgiveness is mercy extended to someone that has _______________you
Forgiveness does not hold into ___________the wrong suffered – God did this for us in saving us – Titus 3:5
Mercy & Justice
Mercy and justice seem to be mutually exclusive, yet God is _________ merciful and just
The one showing mercy must often _____________________ in order to be merciful
God satisfied _____________by paying the price of mankind’s sin which allowed Him to be merciful to us
People are ______________ and so often do not reciprocate the mercy received
God granted mercy ______________because He is patient and longsuffering – and mercy cannot be earned
The Beatitudes are a cohesive unit that describes the c
haracter of the _____________, not random thoughts
Matthew 18:21-35 – the _______________do not understand mercy received and so do not grant it to others
Person who is poor in spirit, mourns over sin, submits to God, hungers for righteousness will extend ______
Matthew 5:21-26 – the merciful do not respond in anger, but seek ________________instead
Matthew 5:38-42 – the merciful do not seek revenge, but to forgiven and be a _______________instead
Matthew 5:43-48 – the merciful loves both friends and ________________, the lovable and unlovable
Matthew 6:2-4 – the merciful do acts of mercy in _______________and not for self glory
Matthew 7:1-5 – the merciful approaches every case of judgment with ___________self examination first
God’s mercy granted to us in Jesus Christ is the supreme ________________
The test of this beatitude is having mercy / _______- on the dupes & victims of the world, the flesh & Satan
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