Matthew – Day 23 – More Than Forgiveness
lease begin by reading the Shema out loud and continue trying to memorize it.
“Hear, O Israel. The LORD is our God. The LORD alone. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Amen.”
Continue trying to memorize “The Beatitudes” (Matthew 5:1-12). Today we add verse 7.
The fifth beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew 5:7. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
If you were to ask people what showing mercy means, you might get an answer like “showing forgiveness” or “showing compassion.” These two answers are very different, and they are both correct. There are also other parts to showing mercy. It involves treating others the way we would want to be treated. It is freely giving of what we have to help those in need. It is being patient and understanding. It is remembering how much help we have had along the way in our Christian walk. It is warning those who are headed down deadly paths (and caring about the condition of their soul). It is not seeking revenge when others mistreat us. It is treating others graciously. There is A LOT packed into this single beatitude!
God shows us what mercy looks like as HE deals with the Israelites and the Egyptians in Exodus. He warned the Egyptians through Moses and Aaron to obey Him and let His people go. When Pharaoh refused, ten increasingly terrible plagues were sent in order to get Pharaoh and the Egyptian people to repent, to turn away from their gods, and obey the true Creator. Unfortunately for Egypt, the stubbornness of their leader resulted in destruction in their land.
During the same time, the Israelites were protected from the more destructive plagues and from the Egyptians. He parted the sea for them and drowned the Egyptian army. He gave them food and water in the wilderness when they had none. What was their response? Griping! Complaining! Whining! He continued to give them good when they gave Him bad. He put up with similar behavior from their children, and their children’s children, century after century. He sent prophets to warn them to turn back – to repent. Sometimes they did turn back to Him for a short time, but then they would return to their old ways.
That is our standard of mercy. When we have put up with other people’s rudeness, pride, griping, ungratefulness, and abuse to the extent that God has, then we can say, like He eventually did, “That’s enough!” There are a few instances of “that’s enough” in the Bible. The flood. Jesus overturning the tables in the Temple. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. All were done to get the attention of the people and to turn them back to God.
In order to be merciful, we most definitely must forgive others as we have been forgiven.
Read Romans 12:19-21 (out loud).
In this scripture, Paul quotes Proverbs 25:21,22. “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” I used to think of this scripture as seriously passive aggressive! Ray Vander Laan completely changed how I viewed this scripture when he taught me to start looking for common threads in the Bible – themes that seem to reoccur or symbols that represent things.
The term “burning coals” was one of the metaphors of God’s Presence. Twice in 2 Samuel 22 “burning coals” is used in conjunction with God. In Isaiah 6:7, Isaiah lips were touched with a burning coal and his sin was atoned for. In John 21:9, after Jesus has come back to life, the disciples see a figure on the beach with a “fire of burning coals”. It is a beautiful picture if you are looking with an Eastern mindset.
Doesn’t it make more sense that by showing kindness and meeting the needs of our enemy, we heap God’s Presence on his head? Doesn’t that sound more like something God would reward us for?
Christians who humble themselves, choose to be submissive to God, and hunger and thirst for what is right, may still have thoughts of revenge, but we do not invite those thoughts to stay. We are aware that God has shown great mercy to us, and we in return, must show great mercy to others.
Is forgiveness really that big of a deal?
Read Matthew 6:14-15 (out loud).
We will discuss this more in detail later in the study, but for today, let’s assume that, yes, forgiveness is really that big of a deal.
How do we know if we are merciful? Our life will be characterized by these things:
- Being thankful for the forgiveness we have received through Christ
- Realizing that it is not right to accept that forgiveness without forgiving others
- Being patient
- Giving people the benefit of the doubt instead of being critical and judgmental
- Realizing that getting back at others is not the correct response
- Truly wanting what is best for all of God’s people
When someone continues to be humble (blessed are the poor in spirit); lives a life of repentance (blessed are those who mourn); remains teachable, open to correction, and submissive to God (blessed are the meek); and has a passion to be like God )blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness); then that person cannot help but appreciate what God has done for him or her. The natural response is to show mercy to others.
Do you make the path for others easier – or do you make their path harder? Do people feel better about themselves and about life after having been in your presence – or do they feel put down, ignored, or not good enough. You have an impact on every person around you. What will your impact be? One that draws people closer to Jesus or one that pushes them away from Him?
Stephen Willis’ Discipleship Materials