The Mercy(ies) of God (Reading Romans 12:1-2)

In my opinion Romans 12:1-2 is one of the most powerful statements in the Bible. It is well crafted. The words are well chosen. There is a cavern of meaning here of which the depths have yet to be plumbed. A testimony to the power of this statement is that in the commentaries I read almost all of them devote an entire section to these two verses.

When you encounter a short Biblical statement that says so much it is good policy to stop and study the words. Yesterday I studied the word “living.” “Present your bodies a living sacrifice.” In one dictionary I used there were twenty five pages on the meaning of the word “living.” If you read my post from yesterday I hope you discerned that in the philosophical climate in which Paul was writing his choice to use the word “living” was not accidental or trite. For a man to have the consciousness, awareness, and knowledge to offer his body as a living sacrifice to his god was a profound philosophical and theological insight.

So what can we say about the word “mercy?” The word speaks of compassion that comes from the deepest parts of a person’s being. It is built on the same stem as the Greek word for house. I think it is interesting then that the meaning of mercy literally means to the way a person can feel for another person in the deepest parts of their soul. Mercy speaks of the way we allow the hopes, fears, sorrows, and joys to others to enter our life.

Even more interesting about this word in reference to its place in the deepest part of our life is that in its ancient usage it referred to the way someone felt in the pit of their stomach about another, literally in the bowels of their being. Sure, for us that makes for an uncomfortable moment, but I think we have all felt something for someone that felt like a sick punch in the gut. The Greeks saw this part of a person as the seat of such emotions that accounted for rage and violence. They also felt love could come from the same place. Go figure! But the Hebrews saw this part of a person’s being as the seat of tranquility. This was the place of being that accounted for benevolence, tenderness, and yes, mercy.

At the very least we should begin to notice in Romans 12:1-2 that Paul is truly fulfilling the great commandment which is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength (Deut. 6:5).” God’s rescue of the human soul has assured that a human being can be fully engaged in God. Anything less and I think we have missed the whole point of salvation.

So maybe you don’t have a Bible dictionary. You should probably buy one. But if you don’t have one a great way to study words is to find other usages in Scripture. You can do this by using a concordance. Most Bibles have one in the back. If you don’t have a concordance you can also put your Bible really close to your good eye and flip through the pages really fast. See if you can find the word “mercy” as the pages go blazing by.

If the blazing page turning thing didn’t work try simply meditating on the word. Take time to think and pray about the word “mercy.” Write down your thoughts. God does a great work in people when they take time to meditate on His Word. You will be amazed at how rich your reading will become if you take time to think and pray through what you have read. Allow the Holy Spirit to speak.

Notice Paul does not say “the mercy of God” but rather the “mercies of God.” If you want to meditate on something wonderful meditate on this:

1. How has God displayed His mercy to people in the Old Testament? Cite some of those stories where the mercy of God was evident. Maybe the one about Adam and Eve will give you a good place to start. Where there is sin it will not be hard to find the mercy of God.
2. How has God displayed His mercy in your own life? It will not take you long to construct a list of “mercies.”
3. How does Paul use the word mercy in context? Think back to Romans 9! What does Romans 9 say about God’s mercy?

What is important about the mercies of God in Romans 12:1? In Romans 12:1 we see that the mercies of God are enabling. Paul is not simply saying “because God is merciful” do this. Paul is appealing to his readers to surrender in sacrifice because the mercies of God have enabled them to do so. Without the mercy of God there is nothing acceptable about us as a sacrifice. The mercy of God has become effective in rescuing people from sin. Therefore, those people who have experienced that mercy, the only right response is to fully engage yourself in surrendering to your God.


Sharon said…
I am SO ENJOYING the prep "work" involved in preparing myself for worship on Sunday. I truly am getting much more from the sermon by reading and studying the scripture references you give and the blog's you are posting. Please keep it going!

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