Sunday, October 10, 2010

the Father of Mercies

Today I'm sharing an excerpt from my book Praise Patterns. This is a segment of Chapter Seven, "The Father of Mercies."

His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. (Luke 1:50)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3)

Today I heard my middle daughter singing “Heartland” in the bathtub. This song by Celtic Thunder has lyrics in both English and Gaelic. The English words describe sailors crying out for assistance during a storm. The chorus is a Gaelic prayer which I do not attempt to spell or pronounce. Its translation is “Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.” This prayer is very familiar in several Christian denominations and is often often referred to by its Greek name, “Kýrie eléison.” At first I was puzzled by this phrase in “Heartland” because I thought of mercy as a spiritual benefit—God's forgiveness of our sins when we trust in Jesus—and I wondered why the sailors in this song were asking for a spiritual blessing when they needed a physical rescue. I thought asking God for mercy was a one-time prayer when we trust Him for salvation.

I learned, however, that mercy has a wider definition. Mercy is God's expression of pity and compassion for us. Mercy includes God's deliverance, protection and provision.* Isn't that a beautiful summary of God's interactions with His people? In some Bible translations, mercy is expressed as “faithful love” or “compassions.” So when I heard my daughter singing today, I thought of these definitions and the song made sense: a cry for mercy is asking God to display His steadfast love in delivering, protecting, and providing for us.

Mary said that God showed mercy to those who fear Him. Look at these other versions of Luke 1:50 for fuller definitions of the word “fear”:

And His mercy (His compassion and kindness toward the miserable and afflicted) is on those who fear Him with godly reverence, from generation to generation and age to age.
(Luke 1:50 AMP)

God will show His mercy forever and ever to those who worship and serve Him. (Luke 1:50 NCV)

The prophet Jeremiah, in the book of Lamentations, found hope within his laments by calling to mind God's mercies. Another prophet, Isaiah, praised God for His mercy and lovingkindness.

Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: [Because of] the Lord's faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:21-23)

I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He hath bestowed on them according to His mercies, and according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses. (Isaiah 63:7 KJV)

Meditating on God's mercy will give us many reasons to praise. Paul referred to God as the “Father of Mercies” (2 Corinthians 1:3), and described His mercy as abundant. Peter praised God for His great mercy in giving us a new birth and a living hope.

But God, who is abundant in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. By grace you are saved! (Ephesians 2:4-5)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (I Peter 1:3-4)

*Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 1106

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