The concept of the mercy of God is expressed by various English words: love, mercy, loving kindness, everlasting love, merciful, tender mercy, compassion.

Biblically, God’s mercy is the basis on which salvation is granted. This salvation granted by the mercy of God includes the forgiveness of sin and  access into the presence of God.

The concept of God's love and mercy is directly related to the fact that there is nothing good, nothing positive in us. Salvation, acceptance by God, and answered prayer are all undeserved. We can never merit them. God's love, God's mercy, operates specifically in the absence of merit. Once there is merit there is no longer mercy, but a just payment or reward for our attitudes, choices and actions. It is this utter undeservedness that makes his love and mercy so amazing, so overwhelming.

In Psalm 5 David identifies the kind of behaviour that God hates: evil, wickedness, arrogance, wrongdoing, telling lies, violence, deceit. He knows that people who do such things cannot stand in God's presence [verse4-6]. Then he states in verse 7 'But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house'.

Here we must stop and think: Is David saying that he can come into God's house because he does not do the things listed in verses 4 to 6? Or, is he saying that, even though he is guilty of those actions, he can come into God's house because of God's great mercy ? If we have a biblical mindset, we must, of necessity, say 'by God's mercy'.

Psalm 6 also expresses awareness of the undeservedness of God mercy: In verse 1 David knows that what he deserves is God's rebuke, God's anger, and God's discipline through the outpouring of his wrath. Yet what he begs for [verse 2] and what he is confident of [verse 9] is God's mercy.

In Psalm 25, aware of his sin and rebellion David asks the Lord to remember not these sins, but his (the Lord's) mercy, grace and love [verse 6-7,16-18] . Again, in Psalm 27, David is aware that God could justly reject him and turn him away [verse 9,12], yet, because of God's mercy [verse 7] he seeks the Lord [verse 8] confident of his acceptance [verse13,14].

In Psalm 51 David casts himself upon the mercy of God. This mercy is 'according to' God's unfailing love, God's great compassion. The mercy that David craves is the complete forgiveness of sin [verses 1,2,7,9]. Aware of his individual sins [verse3,4] and his sinful nature [verse5], aware of God's justice in condemning him as a sinner who sins [verse4b], David knows that his only hope is God's immense, unfailing mercy.

On the basis of God’s mercy, referred to by the words ‘compassionate’, ‘gracious’, ‘abounding in love’, ‘love’, ‘compassion’ [verses8,11,13,17], Psalm 103 exults in that fact that God does not mete out to us the strict legal justice we deserve because of our sins [9,10]. Rather, in great compassion and everlasting love he removes those transgressions from us [12] in such a way that their just penalty will never come upon us.

When Psalm 100 encourages us to 'enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his hame' [verse 4] the basis of this joyful, confident entrance into God's presence is God's everlasting and faithful mercy [verse5].

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2008