Joel 2:12-13 – “Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.”
In Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, these words are found defining mercy: “That benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves; the disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, and to forbear punishment, or inflict less than law or justice will warrant.”
Mercy is when we do not receive the punishment that we deserve. None of us deserve forgiveness. It is because of His mercy that we are not eternally doomed. “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22). Where would we be were it not for the mercy of God? Wrath is what we deserve because of our rebellion, but mercy is available. The only hope for a guilty sinner is the mercy of God. If we do not receive God’s mercy and undeserved forgiveness, the only option is receiving His wrath. The Scripture encourages us to turn to God with repentance because He “is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.” God desires and prefers to forgive, but there must be sincere confession and repentance. We are only saved because God is merciful.
We are able to see in the Lord’s attributes both a portrait of how God is and also an image of how He wants us to be. Because we have been shown mercy, God wants us to show mercy to others. Matthew 5:7 tells us, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” Knowing how to treat others is often made clearer when we remember the way God has treated us. We thank God that He has not given us the punishment that we duly deserve. We have found forgiveness because of His mercy. Though we were guilty of many transgressions, we have been freely pardoned. Because we have received mercy, we should be ready to show mercy to others.