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A Torah of Mercy...
Marc Chagall

A Torah of Mercy

Weightier Matters of the Law...

by John J. Parsons

Hosea 6:6 Hebrew Text

"For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God
rather than burnt offerings."
- Hosea 6:6

It has been wisely said that grace is getting what you don't deserve, whereas mercy is not getting what you do... Yeshua said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matt. 5:7). This is not a reciprocal law like karma, i.e., you get in return what you first give, since we cannot obtain God's mercy as reward for our own supposed merit (Rom. 4:4). No, we are able to extend mercy to others only when we are made merciful ("full of mercy"), that is, when we first receive mercy as the gift of God (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 5:15). After all, you can't give away what you don't have, and if we have no mercy for others, it is likely that we have not received it ourselves, as the parable of the Good Samaritan reveals (Luke 10:25-8). Your forgiveness is your forgiveness, that is, as you forgive, so you reveal your heart. What you do comes from what you are, not the other way around. We are first transformed by God's grace and then come works of love. We are able to judge others mercifully, with the "good eye," because we come to believe that we are beloved by God.

When Yeshua rebuked the "holier-than-thou" attitude of some Pharisees, he said: "Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matt. 9:13). The pattern therefore abides: First you realize you are broken, impoverished of heart, and you mourn over your sinful condition (Matt. 5:3-4); then you hunger and thirst for God's righteousness, for his healing and deliverance, and finally you learn to trust the mercy of God, that is, you come to accept that you are accepted despite your unacceptability (Matt. 5:5-6). As you begin "suffer yourself" and forgive your own evil, you are enabled to extend this mercy to others (Matt. 5:7). In this way you begin to see God in your relationships and obey the heart of truth (Matt. 5:8; 1 Sam. 15:22). And though we love and honor truth, we must be careful never to use it as a weapon to judge or wound others.  The failure to extend mercy, to demand your "rights" or hold on to grudges, implies that you are relating to God as Judge rather than as Savior (James 2:13). If we condemn what we see in others, we have yet to truly see what is within our own hearts; we have yet to see our desperate need for God's mercy for our lives. If you don't own your own sin, your sin will own you. Being merciful is a response to God's love and therefore is essential to genuine teshuvah (repentance). Walking in love is the deepest expression of truth, since love heals untruth and embraces hope for what is presently broken (1 Cor. 13:7). In light of this, take a moment to ask the LORD to help you let go of the pain of the past by being full of mercy toward yourself and others.

Hebrew-English Transliteration:

Hebrew Transliteration

ki chesed chafatzti velo-zavach, veda'at Elohim me'olot

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