Bible scholars talk about the importance of the “law of first mention”. This means there is value in studying how a particular word is used upon its first mention in the Bible. It is interesting to note that the very first mention of the word “mercy” in the Bible is from Genesis 19.
Here the Lord has looked upon the city and people of Sodom and Gomorrah and declared their sin “very grave”, for He could not find even 10 righteous inhabitants! Thanks to the pleading of Abraham, God decides to spare Abraham’s nephew, Lot, Lot’s wife, and their two daughters. As Lot hesitates leaving the home he loves, the Lord’s angels prod him along and Lot declares that the Lord has been merciful to him.
“And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, ‘Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.’
Then Lot said to them, ‘Please, no, my lords! Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die.’” (Genesis 19:16-19 NKJV, emphasis added)
Notice how even in the midst of the mercy he has been shown, Lot finds reason to complain about God’s plan.
Sigh. See the problem was in his heart. I can relate.
Back to the shampoo squabble, the problem wasn’t my sister’s lack of preparedness. Her lack of preparedness simply revealed the sin that was in my own heart. We will show mercy to others to the degree we are aware of the debt of our own sin. If I’m having trouble showing mercy, most likely I’m not being honest with myself about the degree to which mercy has been shown to me. He who forgives much has been forgiven much.
The Gospel is the ultimate illustration of mercy. When Jesus Christ hung on the cross as a sinless man and took the punishment that we rightfully deserved, that was MERCY. When He then offered forgiveness of those sins and, on top of that, every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms, that was GRACE.
In Christ’s first coming, he did not come to judge. He came to model the life He calls us to live – one of mercy. Anyone can show judgment. I don’t know of anyone who needs a lesson on that and the world certainly doesn’t need us to model it for them! But as we seek to be set apart from the world, we are called to be living examples of His mercy. The Day of Judgment will come when Christ returns, but when he does come as judge, let us be found full of mercy!
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
(Micah 6:8 NIV)
Thankfully, my sister is a believer and she hasn’t held a grudge. My failure to show mercy those 20 years ago has not damaged her relationship with me, or her relationship with the Lord. However, it makes me think about how many times I’ve chosen judgment over mercy, thus giving a watching world a false picture of our Lord Jesus. I’m sure my witness has been compromised many times over! It’s also a shame that I missed out on the opportunity to trust the Lord – even for clean hair in the middle of the jungle! Who knows how He might have provided?
Who in your life needs a little more of Christ’s mercy today?
Stop by my blog, Throne of Grace,today for some practical ways we can show mercy to those around us.