Beatitude #5: “Blessed are the merciful”


Jeremy Stopford, Semi-Retired Pastor

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matt. 5:7)

We have come to the 5th of the beatitudes of our Savior’s “Sermon on the Mount” {SOTM!) found in its entirety in Matthew 5-7. With even a casual reading of this verse, it wouldn’t take long to discover what the main words are here: “MERCY” and “MERCIFUL”.

What is YOUR understanding of “MERCY”? Amazingly, I was most surprised to read the word “mercy” in print yesterday in of all places, ESPN! It seems that it appeared in a spring training baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves. In the first inning, the pitcher for Boston threw 23 pitches (!). And then? The Red Sox manager called for the end of the inning! After the Red Sox had their time at the plate, the Braves came back to hit in the second. And guess who was pitching for Boston? YOU BET! The SAME pitcher who pitched for Boston in the FIRST inning! It seems that Major League Baseball has initiated a “MERCY rule” during spring training. Now I must confess, when I was in high school back in the dark ages (well, a few years after Dr. Becker!), the “MERCY rule” was called when one team went ahead by 10 runs. Then the game was over! But here in the major leagues, it is enforced in order to give the spring training pitcher practice!

And MERCY is our word for today!

When YOU hear the word “MERCY” or “MERCIFUL”, what first comes to mind? One of my college professors said that the word “MERCIFUL” describes “someone who has a genuine heartfelt compassion.” However, it means more than just to feel sorry for someone else. That same educator said that the Hebrew word is untranslatable into the English. Why? Because it would literally mean “getting right inside another person’s skin until we can see things with his eyes, think things with his mind, and feel things with his feelings.” The Savior is thus inviting each of us, imploring with each of us, even giving us a BLESSING (you DO remember “BLESSING” don’t you?)! Before we judge another person for whatever word said or action done that disagrees with us, take a moment and…try to see things as THEY see things! Get “inside their skin” and ask yourself, “what has caused them to say what they did, to do what they did, to feel what they did? What?”.

When our Savior talked about “MERCY” or “MERCIFUL”, our Savior’s hearers would immediately have a picture, a taste of what He was referring to! Their minds would instantly go to the image inside the veil of the temple to the “MERCY seat”, a gold plated “box”, if you will, which at one time housed the 10 commandments (yes, the original!), Aaron’s rod that budded – indicating his position as God’s representative inside the veil of the tabernacle, and a pot filled with manna – putting on display a picture of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites throughout their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. I would encourage you to read Leviticus 16:11-16. The people would have a vivid mental image of Aaron as High Priest going once a year inside the veil, carrying a pot of incense (representing our prayer AND God’s holiness), and ministering on behalf of himself AND the people before the Lord. He would confess not only the nation’s sins but also his own! He would be wearing bells at the base of his robe. The people outside the veil would be listening for those bells. For if they DIDN’T ring, it would mean both that would Aaron have died AND that his sacrifices – for himself and for the people – would NOT have been accepted before the Lord.

Do we have to do that today?Do we have SOMEONE Who extended MERCY toward us so that we don’t have to go into a temple and pay for our sins on a regular basis? Do the scriptures have ANYTHING to say about that?


“For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, FOR THIS HE DID once for all when He offered up Himself.”

[Hebrews 7:26-27]


But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, HOW MUCH MORE shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” [Hebrews 9:11-14]


“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, YET WITHOUT SIN. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain MERCY and find grace to help in time of need.” [Hebrews 4:15-16]


Our Savior said that the one who is MERCIFUL – who extends MERCY by looking at people through their eyes, hearts, and hurts – is not only BLESSED but will also himself receive MERCY!!!

HOW is that possible. Let’s listen:

“The MERCIFUL man does good for his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh.” [Proverbs 11:17]

“He who has PITY [“MERCY”] on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” [Proverbs 19:17]

“We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did NOT please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.” [Romans 15:1-3]

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness (MERCY”), considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

[Galatians 6:1-2]

My older brother and I – when we were both MUCH younger – used to get in wrestling matches. Mind you, he is (still!) 8 years older than I. AND he was on the high school wrestling team. So invariably there came a time when there was only ONE WAY for me to get out of his seemingly “death grip”. I had to cry “MERCY!”. Well, you know, I learned the meaning of that word pretty fast! In order for ME to receive MERCY, my brother had to extend MERCY in return. Thankfully, he always did.

And so does Jesus! And so should we!

And don’t forget, Dr. Becker’s 81st birthday is on Monday, March 8.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”