â€œO give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.â€ (Psalm 136:1)
Godâ€™s mercy is a monumental theme in Scripture. The English word appears some 341 times in the Bible. The four Hebrew and three Greek words appear a total of 454 times and are also translated by â€œkindness,â€ â€œlovingkindness,â€ â€œgoodness,â€ â€œfavor,â€ â€œcompassion,â€ and â€œpity.â€ Of the 66 books of the Bible, only 16 do not use one of the words for mercy. Even though â€œmercyâ€ is an important concept, it is somewhat difficult to prescribe a definition for it, especially since â€œgraceâ€ is occasionally coupled with it.
In the first reference where â€œmercyâ€ is used, Lot has just been expelled from Sodom by the angels of judgment. In spite of the command by the angels that Lot and his daughters â€œescape to the mountain,â€ Lot begs: â€œOh, not so, my LORD: Behold now, thy servant hath foundÂ graceÂ in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thyÂ mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life, . . . this city is near . . . Oh, let me escape thitherâ€ (Genesis 19:17-20). And later, the New Testament saints are told to â€œcome boldly unto the throne ofÂ grace, that we may obtainÂ mercy, and find grace to help in time of needâ€ (Hebrews 4:16). In these and other such passages, the two terms appear to address similar subjects.
However similar they may appear to be, these words are not synonyms. â€œGraceâ€ is most often associated with the sovereign dispensation of totally undeserved favor, and it is specifically connected to salvation. â€œMercyâ€ is more often connected to the withholding of judgment: â€œFor he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgmentâ€ (James 2:13).
Set aside some time today to read and meditate on this Psalm. You will find the day less wearisome if you do. HMM II