Do you show mercy to others or have mercy been shown to you? A while ago I drove out of our driveway in a rush to be on time for an appointment. I didn’t see the vehicle coming towards me due to two huge oak trees on the sidewalk and proceeded into the street. A crushing sound shocked me to a standstill. I just caused an accident. I got out of the car, realizing what happened. The lady in the car also got out, but to my great surprise, she was not angry or unpleasant, even though her car was damaged and she was shocked. She called her husband and he arrived shortly after and he too was calm and pleasant. These people could have been very angry with me and could have shouted and screamed, but they didn’t. Of course I didn’t do it on purpose, but it wasted their time and caused them to have to take the car in for repairs, etc. That incident showed me in real life what mercy and grace looked like. I received unexpected, undeserved favor. I can think of many other examples and I can also think of many incidences where no mercy or grace were shown me.
Mercy and grace are two of those abstract concepts that are often used to express what we are to have towards each other and what YHVH has towards us. Mercy and grace are two characteristics of YHVH, that express His deep love for us. We want to look closer at these concepts because if we understand it, we will be more likely to identify, appreciate and express it.
So what does the words mercy and grace mean? The Hebrew words “raham” and “hanan” are most often used to convey mercy or grace. The Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible explains it well.
The compassionate disposition to forgive someone or to offer aid, assistance, or help to someone in need. Closely connected are such concepts as grace, goodness, love, loving-kindness, compassion, and patience.
Mercy (Heb. rāḥam, ḥānan) is an essential quality of God (Exod. 34:6; Deut. 4:31; Ps. 103:8). This is the quality (ḥeseḏ, “covenant love”), demonstrated throughout their history (cf. Deut. 30:1–6; Isa. 14:1; Ezek. 39:25–29), by which God faithfully keeps his promises and maintains his covenant relationship with his chosen people despite their unfaithfulness (Gk. éleos; Rom. 9:15–16, 23; Eph. 2:4). Israel was often reminded of the relationship between God’s ḥeseḏ and their covenant with God (Deut. 7:9; 1 Kgs. 8:23; Neh. 1:5; Isa. 55:3; Dan. 9:4).
God’s mercy is more than punishment withheld. It actively helps those who are miserable due to circumstances beyond their control. 2
We also want to include the explanation according to the Theological Wordbook of the old Testament and the Dictionary of Biblical languages to explain the essence of the word.
2146a רֶחֶם (reḥem), רַחַם (raḥam) womb.
2146b רַחֲמִים (raḥămîm) tender mercy.
2146c רַחוּם (raḥûm) compassionate.
2146d רַחֲמָנִי (raḥămānî) compassionate women (Lam 4:10).
This root refers to deep love (usually of a “superior” for an “inferior”) rooted in some “natural” bond. In the Piel it is used for the deep inward feeling we know variously as compassion, pity, mercy.3
8171 רַחֲמִים (rǎ·ḥǎmîm): n.masc.pl.; ≡ Str 7356; TWOT 2146a—LN 88.75–88.82 compassion, mercy, pity, favor, i.e., the state or condition of receiving favor, and so in some contexts, not be in judgment or deserved punishment, implying relationship (2Sa 24:14)4
YHVH is mercy. Mercy is a tender love rooted in a natural bond like a father towards his children. The tenderest affection.
13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, So YHVH has compassion on those who fear Him.
Mercy is compassion. To receive mercy is to receive compassion instead of deserved judgment or punishment. Mercy is unmerited favor.
Grace is to find favor, or acceptance
chanan (חָנַן, 2603), “to be gracious, considerate; to show favor.” This word is found in ancient Ugaritic with much the same meaning as in biblical Hebrew. But in modern Hebrew chanan seems to stress the stronger meaning of “to pardon or to show mercy.” The word occurs around 80 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, the first time in Gen. 33:5: “The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.” Generally, this word implies the extending of “favor,” often when it is neither expected nor deserved. Chanan may express “generosity,” a gift from the heart (Ps. 37:21). God especially is the source of undeserved “favor” (Gen. 33:11), and He is asked repeatedly for such “gracious” acts as only He can do (Num. 6:25; Gen. 43:29). The psalmist prays: “… Grant me thy law graciously” (Ps. 119:29).5
From these dictionaries and lexicons we gain a clearer understanding as to what grace and mercy is. What does this translate to?
Mercy and grace from YHVH
YHVH is our Heavenly Father and He has mercy towards us who fear Him. In His mercy He sent Y’shua to take our sins upon Him and take our deserved punishment.
We have written in more detail about The Significance of the Blood of Y’shua. Y’shua taking our punishment upon Himself is mercy and grace. YHVH giving us the Holy Spirit to help us and teach us, is mercy and grace. He has given us all we need to live effective lives, the intended result being the building of His Kingdom. How do we build His kingdom? We built YHVH’s Kingdom by living according to His instructions and so be a testimony of Him and His greatness. He paid for our sins with His life, a costly price.
However, most people believe that once we have salvation through Y’shua, we don’t have to do anything thereafter. We have the freedom to do anything we want and be forgiven. This can be referred to as “cheap grace”
The term cheap grace can be traced back to a book written by German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, called The Cost of Discipleship, published in 1937. “Cheap grace” is defined by him as forgiveness without repentance, baptism without discipline; in essence, that once you believe you don’t have to change the way you live. You can continue a life of lawlessness and still be in right standing with YHVH because of grace.
Modern Christianity is essentially built on this principle that if you have salvation, you don’t have to do anything else. You don’t have to live a holy life. Living a holy life means to live according to YHVH’s commandments, they call that legalism.
This so-called freedom to do as you please is totally opposed to what is taught in Scripture. Some do teach that you are to do good to others and define that in their own way. Although, this is a step in the right direction, it is man-focused instead of focused on YHVH.
Pleasing YHVH is to be our first priority and we please Him by being obedient to Him. He gave us instructions for living because He knows what is best for us. His instructions are not burdensome and are to our benefit even if we don’t understand why we are to do certain things. Let me give you an example. We live in the age of information and research has shown that it is detrimental to our health to eat the meat of unclean animals. Another prohibition is having sexual relations during menses. Did you know that it increases the risk of cervical cancer if you do? These are but two examples of how YHVH prohibited certain things and behaviors that could harm us. However, we should not be looking for benefits in obeying YHVH, but we wanted to share this with you to show you that YHVH wants the best for us, that is why He gave us instructions.
So, what about Y’shua? Y’shua did not abolish the law. Y’shua taught that we have to keep the commandments. He said in so many words that He did not come to annul the law, but to fill it up with meaning.
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
James the brother of Y’shua taught that “faith without works is dead” and Paul not only kept the commandments but taught others to do the same. Paul must be the most misunderstood man who ever lived. His words are twisted and taken out of context to support and prove a religion of lawlessness.
Before we point too many fingers at our Christian brothers, we need to look at our movement. A movement characterized by a lack of grace and mercy for others. This too is against Scripture as YHVH wants us to be merciful to others as He is merciful to us.
Mercy to others
Y’shua showed compassion to many and taught compassion. He told a parable of a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves (Matt 27-35) The king forgave the huge debt of the slave, yet the slave would not forgive the, in comparison, insignificant debt of a fellow slave. When the king heard of this he threw the slave in jail. From this narrative we learn that we must show mercy as we have been shown mercy.
Y’shua also told another parable of a Samaritan who helped a wounded man (Luk 10:30-35) most probably a Jew. Samaritans and Jews in those times did not mix, it illustrates to us how much mercy the Samaritan has shown to that wounded man. The priest and the Levite walked passed him without helping him. We don’t know what their reasons were, maybe they didn’t want to defile themselves with what looked to them like a dead man. However, the Samaritan stopped and helped him and put him up in an Inn and even paid for his care.
It is also written that we shall sow what we reap. If we sow mercy, we will reap mercy. If we forgive, we will be forgiven. If we give to others, it will be given to us. If we show hospitality, hospitality will be shown to us.
7 Do not be deceived, Elohim is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
2 Corinthians 9:6
6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
To show mercy to another is to be kind, to love, to have compassion. It is not mercy to argue over doctrinal differences, to make nasty personal comments if you don’t agree with another person. We don’t have all truth revealed to us and we won’t in this lifetime. Each of us is on a journey, finding truth along the way and when we walk in it, more is revealed to us. However, our journey may be different from another person’s and we are to be merciful to them as we would like them to be merciful to us. Be kind, agree to disagree, don’t fight it out till the bitter end. It is pride and arrogance to think your version of the truth is the only truth.
Please consider these words. There is so much disunity in this movement. We don’t have to compromise on our beliefs to have unity. Unity is not found in doctrinal agreement. Unity is found in our love for Y’shua Messiah and for each other.
14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Messiah rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
May YHVH be gracious to you as you walk in the way Y’shua has walked, our perfect example.
24 YHVH bless you, and keep you; 25 YHVH make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; 26 YHVH lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’
- All quoted passages are from the New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995. We have substituted YHVH for LORD, and Y’shua for Jesus
- Myers, E. P. (2000). Mercy. In D. N. Freedman, A. C. Myers, & A. B. Beck (Eds.), Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (p. 885). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.
- Coppes, L. J. (1999). 2146 רָחַם. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed., p. 841). Chicago: Moody Press.
- Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- Vine, W. E., Unger, M. F., & White, W., Jr. (1996). Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Vol. 1, pp. 100–101). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson.
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