Bible Reading Blog

Bible Reading Blog

“I Desire Mercy”

Categories: Congregational Bible Reading


Not long ago, a friend of mine snuck up from behind, put his arm around my neck and lifted me off the ground. For a small guy like me, there is not a more helpless feeling than being put in a choke hold by someone twice your size. In that moment I was powerless. Although he was just messing with me, a terrifying realization occurred to me: If someone stronger than me doesn’t show mercy, I am dead meat!

It is a humbling experience to realize your own helplessness. I believe that is why we tend to mask our insecurities with comparison and pride. If I can establish myself as better, stronger, more talented in some way than another, I won’t feel vulnerable or inadequate. In fact, I can take pride in some aspect of my life that I feel adept.

This is an attitude for which Jesus rebukes the Pharisees in Matthew 12. They had established themselves as “experts” in the law and were looking for ways to assert their position (Matthew 12.10)... but Jesus points out their fundamental flaw. “…if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (Matthew 12.7)

Sacrifices were a critical part of worship, but they were not the point. The system of worship was intended to keep the worshipper focused on God. The Pharisees, however, had overemphasized their part in worship and underemphasized the point: all men need mercy from God.

By nature, God is superior to all. He could speak a word and we would cease to exist. When we seriously consider that point, we should feel helpless. If God does not show mercy, where does that leave us? And yet, despite his preeminence, God doesn’t flaunt His power. He is patient and compassionate to everyone and doesn’t show any partiality (Romans 2.11). Which begs the question: Why does God show mercy? It is because there is intentionality to God's mercy!

We are powerless before the Almighty God, but that does not mean we are useless (Ephesians 2.4-10). We all have things we are good at, and we should use those talents to serve others; but we must realize that God doesn’t want us merely to follow a checklist or offer our lives as sacrifices. He wants us to be changed in our hearts and become more like him. His mercy with us should move us to show greater mercy towards others (Luke 6.36). Do you think of your gifts and abilities as a way to reflect the merciful nature of God?

If I am not humbled by the great disparity between my abilities and God’s infinite power, just like the Pharisees, I will never show mercy to others. I will always emphasize what I can do and minimize God. I may appear sacrificial but only to be well-thought of by others. But humility creates perspective that helps us to see our own limitations and live in light of God’s mercy towards us.

 “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5.7)