The Mercy of God

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.”
—Psalm 103:8

IN A WORLD THAT IS so full of cruelty, injustice, hatred, vice, anger, greed, mercilessness, and selfishness, the people see so little of mercy, patience, and graciousness that it is hard for them to conceive the depth and meaning of these words. But we are glad that the Lord has reserved a day (an age) in which he will make known to the children of men the depth of his mercy and compassion, and they shall see for themselves that the Lord is ‘gracious,’ bestowing unmerited favors continually upon them, and that he is also ‘plenteous in mercy,’ or better translated, ‘abundant in loving-kindness.’ In that day (age) the people will be lifted up and blessed, and have all their needs and desires satisfied above and beyond what their fondest dreams might have envisioned.


We are not among those who must wait until the Millennial Age is ushered in with power and great glory to receive and enjoy the fullness of our Father’s love, mercy, and unmerited favors. We have already received favor upon favor, mercy upon mercy, and love beyond our thought. So rich and full is the loving-kindness bestowed upon us that the psalmist, speaking for us, said, “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.” (Ps. 63:3) There may be measures of joy that men experience in this life, but it is only in the Lord’s presence that there is “fulness of joy” (Ps. 16:11), and only such as are living in covenant relationship with the Lord at the present time can have this ‘fulness of joy.’—Ps. 50:5

In Psalm 103:9 we are told, in effect, that none must presume upon God’s love and mercy, and trample upon his laws; for, although slow to anger and plenteous in mercy, “he will not always chide [contend with the wayward]: neither will he keep [that is, retain or hold back] his anger for ever.” The point where God’s mercy and grace cease to operate is when there is deliberate and willful opposition to his good and perfect laws. This is a stern reminder that the purpose of God’s grace is not that we may continue in sin that his grace might abound, but that the grace is extended in order for us to improve our condition, and endeavor to regain the godlikeness of man’s original creation.


While we are still in the flesh, we continue to commit sins. The Apostle John wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8) Hence we need to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matt. 6:12) Sometimes our sins are partially willful, or due to great carelessness or obtuseness on our own part. For such sin the Lord sends chastisements to correct and punish us. We even may have secret or hidden faults which we do not realize. Accordingly, we need to petition, “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.” (Ps. 19:12) But how glad we should be that the Lord “hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.”—Ps. 103:10

Oftentimes, when a person has occasion to exercise mercy and forgiveness toward others, he finds it extremely difficult. Perhaps he does it reluctantly, with a measure of ill feeling left in his heart. This is especially true when he is called upon to exercise mercy and forgiveness the second and third time. It becomes increasingly difficult as the offenses continue, because the mercy and forgiveness extended each time had been accompanied with a measure of resentment, and soon there accumulates a backlog of harbored ill feeling which revolts at the thought of extending further mercy and forgiveness.

This point is demonstrated by Peter’s query of the Lord, “How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” (Matt. 18:21) Probably to Peter’s mind he would be displaying a generous degree of forgiveness when he allowed seven offenses to pass. Yet, from the Master’s answer we readily see the difference between the fallen human heart and the perfect Divine heart. “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”—Matt. 18:22

It is because men realize the hardness of the human heart that the expression, “To err is human; to forgive Divine,” has found general usage. They know that misdeeds are almost unavoidable, but still they recognize that the fallen heart is not capable of extending much mercy, and hence must look to a loving God for forgiveness.


When the psalmist endeavors to tell us the extent of God’s mercy, he seemingly cannot find the adjective to describe it, and resorts to a comparison to convey to our minds its limitlessness! “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.” (Ps. 103:11) When he speaks of the Divine forgiveness he again makes a comparison, saying, “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.”—vss. 12,13

From this we can see that each time the Lord extends mercy and forgiveness he does so completely, and does not hold any prejudice or resentment to hinder him from continuing to do so. If we could comprehend the height of the heavens, and the expanse of the universe, we would be more adequately prepared to grasp the extent of God’s mercy. Likewise, when the Lord forgives, he does not do so begrudgingly, while harboring a measure of animosity. If there were any accumulation of resentment, it would be difficult to continue such limitless mercy and forgiveness—‘until seventy times seven.’ As the poet has said, “The heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.” How our hearts should overflow with praise and adoration for such a compassionate God!


There is an intimacy and tenderness in God’s dealings which make them comparable to the interest, compassion, and care that a good earthly father has for his children. His pity and understanding are so great, that even when our own hearts condemn us we may still go to the throne of grace for comfort; for, as the apostle says, “If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.” (I John 3:20) The Lord can make allowances where perhaps we cannot, because he knows better than we the weakness and frailty of our nature. “He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.”—Ps. 103:14

Looking at man from the perspective viewpoint, David declares, “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” (Ps. 103:15,16) Man with his machines is no champion over time and the tireless grim reaper, Death. Despite what Dark Age theology and philosophy might have to say about man living on in a hereafter of bliss or torment, David maintains that man is like the flower which flourishes for a season and then withers and ‘is gone,’ or, as the Marginal Translation states it, “is not.” What could be a more graphic description of nonexistence, or death, than the simple words, ‘is not’?

In that men must die, some inquire, What comfort is there in the fact that “the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them”? (Ps. 103:17,18) Both the faithful and the wicked of all ages and generations have died. Can one who ‘is not,’ who is dead, appreciate mercy or righteousness? Surely not! Unless we understand God’s plan as it has been operating through the ages, David’s words offer little comfort.


Indeed, God is not extending his mercies to the dead while they are dead, nor is he a God of the dead. In Matthew 22:32 we read, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Jesus spoke of these patriarchs as ‘living,’ because a resurrection of the dead is to take place, and in view of this, God, “who quickeneth the dead,” is speaking of “those things which be not as though they were.”—Rom. 4:17

In the time of the regeneration, God’s mercy and righteousness will be extended to the whole world of mankind, not directly, but “by that man whom he hath ordained” to judge the world in righteousness. (Acts 17:31) So blessed and satisfying will be the conditions in God’s tomorrow that the people will be heard saying, “Lo, this is our God; … we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”—Isa. 25:9

With the faithful of this Gospel Age, the Lord does extend his loving-kindness and tender mercy to a degree which the world cannot appreciate. Because outwardly the faithful seem to be no better off than the wicked, and perhaps less so, many have concluded that “it is vain to serve God.” (Mal. 3:14) Shortly the real truth of the matter will come to light, and as the Prophet Malachi further declares, “Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” (Mal. 3:18) For “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Matt. 13:43) It is for these that “the Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens,” and they shall be kings and priests in the kingdom which “ruleth over all.”—Ps. 103:19

What shall we say to these things, dear brethren, elect and precious? David exhorts: “Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his Word. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. Bless the Lord, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the Lord, O my soul.”—Ps. 103:20-22

Dawn Bible Students Association
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