As a born-again Christian and pastor, one of the things that I often reflect upon is God’s everlasting mercy. Since I am not perfect, sometimes I make mistakes and sin, but God constantly forgives me and gives me a second chance. Therefore, I decided to share more about mercy with my congregation during our last Sunday service. So, what does mercy mean in the Bible?
The Bible suggests that mercy means forgiving or withholding punishment. A good example of mercy in the Bible is when God sacrificed his son on the cross (John 3:16) for the sins of mankind. God showed us mercy even when we did not deserve his forgiveness. Bible scholars define mercy as an expression of love and compassion.
In this article, I invite you to join me as we delve into the true meaning of mercy. Keep reading to find out what mercy means in Hebrew and Greek and much more!
What is mercy?
Mercy refers to treating people that are in distress with compassion. Some people also define it as showing kindness to people who do not deserve it or forgiving someone that does deserve punishment. Let us look at what this word means in different languages.
What does mercy mean in Hebrew?
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the word mercy has different meanings in this language. It is believed that this word means racham, which stands for having compassion on, sympathizing with or loving tenderly.
Mercy is also referred to as Chanan, which means to implore. The word mercy as a verb in Hebrew means showing favor or being considerate. It is also used to express generosity. This is further elaborated in Psalm 37:21, which says, the wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives. In this verse, the term mercy has been used to express the generosity of a person described as righteous.
In Hebrew, mercy is also referred to as checed, which means loving-kindness, steadfast love and goodness. Checed is believed to be one of the characteristics of God since he offers loving kindness to his people. This term is also referred to as hesed in Hebrew and stands for steadfast love.
What does mercy mean in Greek?
Just like in Hebrew, mercy has different meanings in Greek. The New Testament was written in Greek, and one of the terms for mercy in this language is eleeo. It means to give out compassion or to show sympathy to someone. Mercy is also referred to as eleos in Greek, and it means compassion. Eleos is the free gift that God gives humans and forgives their sins.
The term eleos in Greek is derived from the term olive oil, which is famous for treating wounds. This oil is believed to be soothing, healing and comforting. Just like olive oil, God is believed to be a merciful God since he has all these characteristics. God not only soothes and comforts humans but also relieves us of our pain, as explained in Jeremiah 33:6.
In Greek, mercy is also referred to as oiktirmos which means pity. Psalm 103:13 suggests that the Lord pities those who fear him just as a father pities his children. The New Testament Greek also uses the term eleemon for mercy. This term means to show compassion or take pity on others.
What does God’s mercy mean?
God’s mercy involves different things. The first thing is that God’s mercy represents who he is. Different bible verses suggest that God is merciful. For instance, Psalm 145:8 says, The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and of great mercy. This verse describes God’s characteristics. It mentions God’s favor to us even when we do not deserve it. Due to the merciful nature of God, the Bible suggests that even when we have sinned or need help, we can approach God and find grace in time of need (Hebrew 4:16)
Additionally, Christians believe that God’s mercy not only refers to God’s nature but also involves his provision. Since God is merciful to us, he provides forgiveness, healing and redemption. The mercy of God enables Christians to enjoy these benefits, as elaborated in Psalm 103:2-5. The verses also mention that since God is merciful, he crowns and satisfies us.
Christians believe that God’s mercy also refers to his patience. Since Psalms 108: 8-9 implies that God is merciful and slow to anger, this is interpreted to mean he is patient. Even when we sin and deserve punishment, God is abounding in mercy and is slow to take action. He pardons us when we bring our sins to Him, as explained in 1st John 1:9. According to this verse, for God to show mercy on us when we sin, we should confess.
Bible scholars also believe that God’s mercy and patience come from his willingness to postpone judgment. They argue that God is merciful since he chooses not to judge humans quickly. God’s mercy is also rooted in his love for mankind. Christians believe that a large part of why God is merciful is because he is love (1st John 1:8). God loves us, and he gave his only son to die for our sins so that we can get eternal life. Therefore, the fullness of God’s mercy is seen on the cross when his son received our condemnation, and we received his mercy.
Is God’s mercy and God’s grace the same thing?
Though God’s grace and God’s mercy are closely related, many Christians argue that they are not the same thing. Mercy is believed to be kindness and compassion. In the Bible, it is often spoken of in the context of God not punishing us when we sin. Mercy in the Bible is connected to deliverance from judgment, as explained in 1st Timothy 1:13. In this verse, Paul recognizes that his sins are severe and credits God’s mercy for saving him.
On the other hand, most bible scholars argue that God’s grace differs from God’s mercy since grace carries the idea of granting a favor or gift. God’s grace is defined as extending a blessing to someone who is not worthy. Though we do not deserve anything from God, the unmerited favor that He gives us is a result of his grace.
Theologians further argue that the salvation we get through Jesus Christ portrays God’s grace and His mercy. In this case, God’s mercy is portrayed in that he delivered us from judgment when he gave his son. On the other, the gifts of His grace that we receive are eternal life and abundant life, as explained in John 10:10. Other examples of God’s grace are the resources that He provided for us and the beauty of creation that He has given us.
We can also learn the difference between God’s grace and mercy by looking at prominent stories in the Bible. For instance, 1st and 2nd Samuel suggests that King David was a great ruler, but he was also an adulterer and fornicator. Despite his sins, God used him to accomplish his purpose. He not only forgave him for sinning but also gave him unmerited favor. Christians believe that this is an example of God expressing his grace.
Another Bible story that shows God’s mercy is that of the Israelites. The Bible suggests that they turned their backs on him and bowed down to idols. However, when they finally returned to God and cried for his help, God forgave their sins. Most Bible scholars also argue that God’s mercy ends in death when we face his judgment, while God’s grace ends when believers get to heaven.
What are the benefits of God’s mercy?
The Bible suggests that the benefits of God’s mercy are joy, love and peace. It urges us to be merciful, just like our Father is. And by doing so, our reward will be great. This is explained in Luke 6:35-36. According to Luke, when we express mercy like our Father, it brings us joy. By submitting to His merciful ways, we acknowledge peace.
Psalm 40:2 also suggests that practising God’s virtue of mercy leads to a greater reward. This verse says Blessed is he who takes thought for the poor and destitute. It encourages us as Christians to practice the virtue of God’s mercy since he will reward us with eternal and temporal gods. This message is further emphasized in Proverbs 19:17, which suggests that if we befriend the poor, God will repay faithfully.
God promises great blessings for the merciful when he says in Luke 6:38, Give and it shall be given to you. The measure you give to others is the measure that will be given to you. This verse encourages us as Christians to show mercy to the less fortunate, and we will receive great blessings.
One good example of how God can reward the merciful is recorded in Job 29. This book suggests that Job was merciful to the poor. Due to his acts, God rewarded him with generous blessings. Apart from temporal goods, another benefit of God’s mercy is spiritual goods.
Christians believe that God rewards the merciful with spiritual goods like the forgiveness of sins.
Mathew 5:7 suggests that those who are merciful shall, in turn, obtain mercy.
Practicing God’s mercy is also believed to bring an immortal reward. God promises Christians this reward when he talks about the sentence which will be given at the last judgment as recorded in Matthew 25:34-40. This verse suggests that during judgment, the merciful will take possession of the kingdom due to their acts of mercy.
Why do we need God’s mercy?
Many Christians believe that without God’s mercy, we would live miserably. For instance, if you are suffering from an illness, praying to God for his mercy can help you receive healing. The Bible suggests that through Jesus, God showed mercy on different people who were sick, and they received healing. For instance, Matthew 17:15 describes a man who was experiencing seizures and was suffering greatly. If Jesus had not had mercy on him, he would continue suffering.
Biblical scholars also believe that we need God’s mercy since it is the only way that our sins are forgiven. Lamentations 3:22-23 suggest that God’s mercies never come to an end since they are renewed every morning. We live in a world full of sins, and if God was not merciful to us, there is no way we would be forgiven and eventually enter his kingdom. God made way for us when Jesus defeated death. Christians believe that reading God’s word helps us receive God’s mercy every day.
Some Christians also argue that our entire existence, as well as everything we have, is dependent upon God’s mercy. Though our sins separate us from God, and we deserve eternal punishment, God’s mercy spares us from this. This is further elaborated in Lamentations 3:22-23 which suggests that through the Lord’s mercies, we are not consumed because his compassion never fails. Theologians also believe that we need God’s mercy since it can help us enjoy hope, joy, everlasting love and true peace.
How to seek God’s mercy
Christians believe that one of the ways we can seek God’s mercy is through prayer. Since we are all sinners, it is important that we start by repenting while praying, as emphasized in Acts 2:38. Ask for God to forgive your sins and have mercy on you and fill you with grace. Matthew 7:7 also suggests that if we ask, it will be given to us, and if we seek, we shall find.
We can also seek God’s mercy by being merciful to others. Matthew 5:7 suggests that those who are merciful to others will obtain mercy. Therefore for you to seek God’s mercy, start by forgiving those who have wronged you and have compassion for those in need.
Christians also believe that one can seek God’s mercy by being baptized. Acts 2:23 suggests that repenting and being baptized can help one receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Biblical scholars argue that when you get baptized, you prepare to gain the fullness of God’s mercy and love.
We can also seek God’s mercy by forsaking our wicked ways. Once you confess and repent your sins, you should be ready to let go of wicked ways and return to God completely. By doing this, God will show you his mercy. We can learn this from 2nd Chronicles 7:14, which suggests that if people turn from their wicked ways, God will heal their land and forgive their sins. These are acts of God’s mercy.
As Christians, living a righteous life can also help us obtain God’s mercy. We should purposely do works that glorify God and obey his commands. By demonstrating that we have a merciful heart, we can receive God’s mercy. To obtain God’s mercy, one should also have faith in Jesus Christ, as explained in Ephesians 2:8. This verse suggests that if we put our faith in Jesus, we are made right by God and can receive his mercy.
Examples of God’s mercy in the Bible
We can learn about God’s mercy from the story of Paul, recorded in Acts 7 and 8. The Bible suggests that Paul was formerly known as Saul. Before getting saved, Saul was responsible for the death of numerous Christians. God was merciful to him and forgave him for his sins. He ignited his faith and turned him into his servant. In every letter that Paul wrote after receiving salvation, he magnified mercy, just like God was merciful to him.
Another example that Christians learn about God’s mercy in the Bible is the story of the adulterous woman recorded in John 8:6-8. The Bible suggests that an adulterous woman was brought before Jesus. People accused and condemned her for her sins, but when Jesus saw her, he stopped and wrote something on the dust with his finger. He told the crowd that if any of them had never sinned, be the first to stone the woman. In this story, Jesus showed mercy upon the woman and told her he did not condemn her. He asked her to ho and not to sin anymore.
Christians can also learn more about God’s mercy through the story of Mannaseh, recorded in 2nd Chronicles 33. Manasseh was an evil king that disobeyed God’s commands and worshiped false gods. However, God had mercy on him and gave him forgiveness. He even showed him grace by restoring him as a king.
Jonah 4 records the story of the Ninevites, which also teaches us on God’s mercy. The Bible suggests that the Ninevites were evil, but when they repented. God spared them from his wrath. This made Johan quite angry, and he wanted to die. However, God rebuked him.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.