‘The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works’, Ps. 145. 9
God’s mercies, His compassions, extend to the whole of creation. The birds, the animals, the creatures in the sea and to all mankind. God is mindful of their need of sustenance, and He oversees the welfare of each one.
Birds: The Lord asked Job, ‘Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God’, Job 38. 41. The Lord Jesus said, ‘Behold the fowls of the air … your heavenly Father feedeth them’, Matt. 6. 26. As to their welfare, it is God who directs the migrating birds to fly south to escape the harshness of the Arctic winter, Job 39. 26. It is God who causes the eagle to know instinctively the best vantage point, ‘and make her nest on high … From thence she seeketh the prey, and her eyes behold afar off’, vv. 27, 29.
Animals: ‘The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God’, Ps. 104. 21. ‘He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle’, v. 14; He provides shelter for them, ‘The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies’, v. 18. It is clear in scripture that God is attentive to the welfare of animals. It was forbidden to ‘plow with an ox and an ass together’, Deut. 22. 10. The larger animal would bear a disproportionate weight of the load. The ox treading the corn was not to be muzzled; it was permitted to eat to sustain itself in its arduous task, 25. 4. A newborn animal from the cattle or sheep was not to be taken from its mother until the eighth day, Exod. 22. 30. The Lord considered the feelings of the animals.
Creatures in the sea: Around seventy percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water. Much of the seabed is still uncharted and multitudes of species of fish and sea creatures, large and small, are still undiscovered and unnamed. Scripture speaks of, ‘this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts … These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season’, Ps. 104. 25, 27. God provides for their welfare. ‘Thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good’, v. 28. ‘And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind … And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas’, Gen. 1. 21, 22. The God who blessed them at the beginning continues to bless them still.
As we consider God’s provision and care for the birds, the animals, and creatures in the sea, surely it bears witness that God is the Father of mercies, and His tender mercies are over all His works.
All mankind: ‘He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things’, Acts 17. 25. ‘The rain … watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater’, Isa. 55. 10. God’s mercies are lavished indiscriminately upon all mankind. ‘Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth forever’, Ps. 136. 25. ‘He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust’, Matt. 5. 45.
Zacharias prophesied of, ‘the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us’, Luke 1. 77, 78. God demonstrated His love and mercy to a lost world in the giving of His only Son to the shameful death of the cross. Scripture was fulfilled at Calvary, ‘Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other’, Ps. 85. 10. This scripture will also have a glorious fulfilment in the peace and harmony that will mark conditions on earth during the millennial reign of Christ, Isa. 2. 4; 11. 6-9.
‘Mercy and truth unite,
Oh, ‘tis a wondrous sight,
All sights above!
Jesus the curse sustains,
Guilt’s bitter cup He drains,
Nothing for us remains,
Nothing but love’.
Thomas Kelly (1769-1854)
There was mercy at the cross for the repentant malefactor, Luke 23. 43, for the centurion, and they that were with him, Matt. 27. 54. Multitudes have visited that sacred place by faith and received mercy from the One who suffered there.
The Lord Jesus told a parable of the publican who went up to the temple to pray. He realized his guilt before God; he knew that his sin had separated him from God, so he stood ‘afar off’. He realized that the source of his problem was his own sinful heart, so he ‘smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner’, Luke 18. 13. The word used by the publican means, be propitious, be merciful, on the ground of the sacrifice offered on the brazen altar. Ultimately, the Lord Jesus was going to Calvary to offer Himself as the one sacrifice for sins for ever, so that all who come in repentance, seeking God’s mercy, can be forgiven. Jesus said of the man in the story, ‘this man went down to his house justified’, v. 14.
Paul wrote to Titus about his conversion on the road to Damascus, and explained that it was, ‘Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us’, Titus 3. 5.
There are at least seven wonderful adjectives used in scripture to describe God’s mercy. Solomon said to the Lord, ‘Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy‘, 1 Kgs. 3. 6. David wrote, ‘O Lord my God, thou art very great’, Ps. 104. 1. His attributes are in accord with His greatness.
In Ephesians chapter 2 verses 1 to 3, we have the dark picture of man’s fallen condition, ‘dead in trespasses and sins’. Then there is a beam of heavenly light, ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)’, vv. 4, 5.
James speaks of the patience of Job in his great trials, and how God’s dealings with him demonstrate, ‘that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy’, Jas. 5. 11. The Lord’s tenderness and compassion shone through the dark clouds which overshadowed the life of Job.
‘Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head’.
William Cowper (1731-1800)
Peter reminds us of the living hope that accompanies our salvation, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’, 1 Pet. 1. 3. God’s mercy is abundant; not only in the present blessings that the believer enjoys, but in the bright prospect we have for the future.
David wrote, ‘But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth’, Ps. 86. 15. Here, it is the scope of those to whom God’s mercy reaches. Moses wrote, ‘The Lord God, merciful and gracious … keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin’, Exod. 34. 6, 7. How thankful we are as believers that we can gladly sing, ‘It reaches me! Wondrous grace, it reaches me’, Mary James (1810-1883).
‘But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting’, Ps. 103. 17. God Himself is eternal, as are all His glorious attributes, ‘from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God’, Ps. 90. 2.
‘But do thou for me, O God the Lord, for thy name’s sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me’, Ps. 109. 21. David’s request for deliverance and blessing was based simply on the fact of God’s goodness. In New Testament language, ‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God’, Rom. 8. 28.
How blessed are those who are the recipients of God’s mercy. It is great, rich, tender, abundant, plenteous, everlasting, and good.
When we look back over our lives, we have to agree with Jeremiah, ‘It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness’, Lam. 3. 22, 23. Our hearts respond with grateful praise. David wrote, ‘I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning’, Ps. 59. 16.
‘When all Thy mercies, O my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I’m lost
In wonder, love, and praise’.
Joseph Addison (1672-1719)
In a day when the spirit of the age is that many are unthankful and unholy, 2 Tim. 3. 2, it is becoming for a Christian to maintain a thankful spirit for all God’s mercy towards us. Psalm 136 repeats the call four times, ‘O give thanks unto the Lord … for His mercy [‘His exuberant bounty’, Spurrell] endureth forever’. The psalmist addresses God in four different ways: ‘the Lord’, v. 1; ‘the God of gods’, v. 2; ‘the Lord of lords’, v. 3; ‘the God of heaven’, v. 26. But he concludes each statement, ‘for his mercy endureth for ever’.
As we remember our Father’s mercies (compassions) toward us, we ought to respond by showing compassion to those around us. Compassion is a rare commodity in the world in which we live.
In reply to a lawyer who asked, ‘who is my neighbour?’, the Lord Jesus spoke of the man who was assaulted by thieves and left for dead by the roadside, Luke 10. 29-37. We may make the gospel application of the story but let us not miss the main point. We are called to show to others something of the mercy that the Lord has shown to us. It is interesting that included in the list of spiritual gifts outlined in Romans chapter 12 is, ‘he that sheweth mercy’, v. 8. The Lord Jesus taught His disciples, ‘Blessed are the merciful’, Matt. 5. 7.
Paul’s reasoning in Romans chapter 12 verse 1 is that having received God’s mercies in abundance, a full surrender of all that we are and have, is our reasonable service. ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service’.
‘What glad returns can I impart,
For favour so divine?
Oh, take me, all, and fill my heart,
And make me wholly thine’.
Anne Steele (1716-1778)