Making Sense of the Master's Mercy

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.” Psalm 103:8 (KJV)
 
“May God have mercy upon your soul" is considered a common communication that is connected to courts in various legal systems. Judges typically echo this statement when pronouncing a sentence of death upon an individual that has been convicted of a crime that comes with a death sentence. On a lighter note, it’s possible that many of you were raised in homes where your parents were de-facto judges because you provided a platform for pronouncement for the Lord’s mercy due to your conduct. How many times do you recall your Mother saying, “Lord, have mercy”? Usually this expression of the Lord having mercy is associated with context. For instance, consider with me the following contexts:
 
Humorous – This phrase may have been used when something you said did was hysterical. I recall a time when my late Grandmother, Daisy Bell, and my Mom laughed when I was three years old.  I had attempted to shield my heart and asked them to not shoot me while taking a picture with the old Polaroid camera.
 
Heat – This phrase may have been used when something you said or did made them angry.  For example, my Mother is a plant and flower enthusiast. Erasing her plants with the lawn mower when I was younger did not go over too well.
 
Help – This phrase may have been used when something you said, did or experienced needed God’s intervention. For instance, I can remember innumerable times that my mother and grandmother prayed over us for healing and restoration of health when we were sick with chicken pox, the mumps and flu.
 
The origins of the phrase “May god have mercy on your soul” are actually found in the beth din courts of the Kingdom of Israel. A beth din (a Hebrew word meaning “house of judgment") is a rabbinical court of Judaism. In ancient times, it was the building block of the legal system in the Biblical Land of Israel.  The phrase “May god have mercy on your soul” was used as a way to attribute and advance the truth of God as the highest authority in law and the land.
 
Now let’s consider some definitions and thoughts on mercy.
 
According to Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, mercy means “The act of sparing, or the forbearance of a violent act expected.” A more modern resource (Dictionary.com) provides a more detailed definition for mercy:
 
1 Compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power; compassion, pity, or benevolence: Have mercy on the poor sinner.
 
2 The disposition to be compassionate or forbearing: an adversary wholly without mercy.
 
3 The discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, especially to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty.
 
The word “mercy” at one point was a commonly used word in the church. However, its usage in contexts that are contemporary and culturally-centered have compounded over time. If we don’t conduct ourselves in wisdom and Christ-centeredness, the word “mercy” could unfortunately be rendered obsolete in church.
 
I encourage you to join me next time as we endeavor to wrap our minds around why the word “mercy” is misconstrued resulting in the mitigation of its relevance. Remember the scriptures record that “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7, KJV). Moving in mercy magnifies what is major to God!
 
For the Glory of God,
 
PBKSR