"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy," Matthew 5:7.
The word 'mercy' in the Old Testament was translated from the Hebrew term 'Hesed' which is the same root of three other Hebrew words: hanan, raham, and hasad, which appear 369 times. Depending on the context, they are also translated as 'goodness,' 'grace,' 'love,' 'favor,' and 'generosity.' In the New Testament, it was translated from 'Éleos,' which also means 'love.' In Latin, it is the junction of two words: miserátio (compassion) + cordis (heart). It can thus be understood as a heart full of compassion. Mercy is also derived from the Latin 'Miserere' which means, 'piety,' 'mercy,' etc.
Considering these definitions of mercy, it is not difficult to conclude that these are not natural attributes of the human heart. Ellen G. White wrote: "The heart of man is by nature cold and dark and unloving; whenever one manifests a spirit of mercy and forgiveness, he does it not of himself, but through the influence of the divine Spirit moving upon his heart. 'We love, because He first loved us,'” 1 John 4:19 (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, p. 21.2).
The throne of God is based on two foundations: justice and judgment on the one hand, and mercy and truth on the other (Psalm 97:2, 89:14). When the Lord passed before him and showed His glory, Moses, in an attitude of adoration, bowed to the ground as the Lord said: "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation," (Exodus 34: 6,7).
"God is Himself the source of all mercy. His name is “merciful and gracious,” Exodus 34:6. He does not treat us according to our desert. He does not ask if we are worthy of His love, but He pours upon us the riches of His love, to make us worthy. He is not vindictive. He seeks not to punish, but to redeem. Even the severity which He manifests through His providences is manifested for the salvation of the wayward. He yearns with intense desire to relieve the woes of men and to apply His balsam to their wounds. It is true that God “will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7), but He would take away the guilt," (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, p. 22).
The human being, in his sinful nature, is incapable of practicing justice and mercy at the same time, as they are elements antagonistic to his nature. If we are righteous, we are not merciful, and if we are merciful, we are not righteous. Parents, pastors, educators, and others ask themselves, "How can I be just and merciful at the same time in dealing with my children, flock, and students?" We must admit that the combination of justice and mercy are Divine attributes and not human. The Bible says that in God "mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other," (Psalm 85:10). When and how did this happen?
In Romans 5:12, the Word of God declares that we are all sinners because of Adam's sin. In verses 18 and 19 of the same chapter, it states that judgment came to all men for condemnation. This means that, as born sinners, we all deserve eternal death for the sins we commit. In the same verses, Paul presents the divine solution: the Second Adam. By one act of justice and obedience, He frees us from condemnation and judgment. In short: the condemned sinner deserves eternal death. Christ by His life of perfect obedience deserves eternal life. Christ takes upon Himself our sins and accepts the judgment of God upon Him that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled, and at the same time, mercy should be bestowed upon the sinner.
"Through Jesus, God's mercy was manifested to men; but mercy does not set aside justice. The law reveals the attributes of God's character, and not a jot or tittle of it could be changed to meet man in his fallen condition. God did not change His law, but He sacrificed Himself, in Christ, for man's redemption. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself,” 2 Corinthians 5:19.
"The law requires righteousness,—a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God's holy law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. More than this, Christ imbues men with the attributes of God. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine character, a goodly fabric of spiritual strength and beauty. Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ. God can “be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,” Romans 3:26.
"God's love has been expressed in His justice no less than in His mercy. Justice is the foundation of His throne, and the fruit of His love. It had been Satan's purpose to divorce mercy from truth and justice. He sought to prove that the righteousness of God's law is an enemy to peace. But Christ shows that in God's plan they are indissolubly joined together; the one cannot exist without the other. “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other,” Psalm 85:10.
"By His life and His death, Christ proved that God's justice did not destroy His mercy, but that sin could be forgiven, and that the law is righteous, and can be perfectly obeyed. Satan's charges were refuted. God had given man unmistakable evidence of His love," (The Desire of Ages, p. 762).
By accepting Christ and His vicarious sacrifice and abiding in Him by faith, divine attributes are communicated to us. Only then can we reveal the spirit of mercy. Thus the merciful are made partakers of divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and in them the compassionate love of God finds expression. Everyone whose heart is in harmony with the heart of Infinite Love will seek to recover and not to condemn. The permanent presence of Christ in the soul is a source that will never dry up. Where He dwells, there will be a fountain of beneficence.
"To the appeal of the erring, the tempted, the wretched victims of want and sin, the Christian does not ask, Are they worthy? but, How can I benefit them? In the most wretched, the most debased, he sees souls whom Christ died to save and for whom God has given to His children the ministry of reconciliation.
"The merciful are those who manifest compassion to the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed. Job declares, “I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out,” Job 29:12-16.
"There are many to whom life is a painful struggle; they feel their deficiencies and are miserable and unbelieving; they think they have nothing for which to be grateful. Kind words, looks of sympathy, expressions of appreciation, would be to many a struggling and lonely one as the cup of cold water to a thirsty soul. A word of sympathy, an act of kindness, would lift burdens that rest heavily upon weary shoulders. And every word or deed of unselfish kindness is an expression of the love of Christ for lost humanity.
"The merciful “shall obtain mercy.” “The soul of blessing shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself,” Proverbs 11:25 , margin. There is sweet peace for the compassionate spirit, a blessed satisfaction in the life of self-forgetful service for the good of others. The Holy Spirit that abides in the soul and is manifest in the life will soften hard hearts and awaken sympathy and tenderness. You will reap that which you sow. “Blessed is he that considereth the poor.... The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and Thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies. The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing: Thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness,” Psalm 41:1-3.
"He who has given his life to God in ministry to His children is linked with Him who has all the resources of the universe at His command. His life is bound up by the golden chain of the immutable promises with the life of God. The Lord will not fail him in the hour of suffering and need. “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4:19. And in the hour of final need the merciful shall find refuge in the mercy of the compassionate Saviour and shall be received into everlasting habitations," (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, p. 22-24).
Accept Christ as your personal Savior. Give yourself entirely to Him. Remain in Him through faith, prayer, and study of His Word. Deepen your relationship with Him every day. You will experience the joy of being in His presence and receiving His attributes. You will be merciful because God has shown mercy to you. He will be an inexhaustible source of mercy through which you receive and extend mercy. The Word of God ensures that you will be much happier because "happy are the merciful because they will obtain mercy."
*edited, a previous version of this article gave the impression Moses cried "The Lord, The Lord..." in Exodus 34:6, when in fact the SOP clarifies "The Deity proclaimed Himself, 'The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty,'” (Patriarchs and Prophets, 329).