Tender Mercy, Pure Heart
Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:7-12
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” — Matthew 5:7-8
I find it hard to receive mercy. I beat myself up; I thank God for forgiving me, but I have trouble forgiving myself. I have learned, though, that Jesus invites me into the mercy circle: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
Jesus is not saying that receiving mercy is a reward for being merciful. Rather, he is teaching us that receiving mercy becomes easier when we are merciful. The acts of receiving and showing mercy strengthen each other. As I share mercy, my own ability to receive mercy and also forgive myself become stronger.
Mercy is like a powerful detergent that purifies our hearts. And as the heart is purified, the eyes learn a new way of seeing. They come to see the presence of God in all kinds of unexpected places. The pure in heart “will see God,” Jesus declares.
With our hands open to receive mercy and a purified heart that refocuses our eyes, we grow to see all the people around us with God’s mercy, and we begin to appreciate how much he loves them, cares for them, and wants full life for them—for all of us!
Decades ago Christian singer Noel Paul Stookey (formerly of Peter, Paul, and Mary) recorded a gentle song called “Tender hands, softest eyes.” It captures some parts of Jesus’ teaching here beautifully. Tender hands and soft eyes become instruments of blessing that transmit the grace of God.
Streams in the Desert – April 21
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
And being absolutely certain that whatever promise He is bound by, He is able to make good (Rom. 4:20).
We are told that Abraham could look at his own body and consider it as good as dead without being discouraged, because he was not looking at himself but at the Almighty One. He did not stagger at the promise, but stood straight up unbending beneath his mighty load of blessing; and instead of growing weak he waxed strong in the faith, grew more robust, the more difficulties became apparent, glorifying God through His very sufficiency and being “fully persuaded” (as the Greek expresses it) “that he who had promised was,” not merely able, but as it literally means “abundantly able,” munificently able, able with an infinite surplus of resources, infinitely able “to perform.”
He is the God of boundless resources. The only limit is in us. Our asking, our thinking, our praying are too small; our expectations are too limited. He is trying to lift us up to a higher conception, and lure us on to a mightier expectation and appropriation. Oh, shall we put Him in derision?
There is no limit to what we may ask and expect of our glorious El-Shaddai; and there is but one measure here given for His blessing, and that is “according to the power that worketh in us.”
–A. B. Simpson
“Climb to the treasure house of blessing on the ladder made of divine promises. By a promise as by a key open the door to the riches of God’s grace and favor.”
New Mercies Every Morning
Bonny Mulder-Behnia. todaydevotional
Scripture Reading — Lamentations 3:19-26
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning. . . . — Lamentations 3:22-23
Lamentations is not lighthearted reading; it’s a collection of desperate cries from the bottom of a pit. The author laments the suffering of God’s people during their time of captivity, which left them trapped in misery for years.
But in the middle of the book, a glimmering light shines through the darkness, as the weeping writer lifts his head and proclaims hope in the God of love and compassion. We witness the progression from a downcast, bitter soul (verse 20) to an upright, resolute warrior refusing to be consumed by the troubles of life (verse 22).
The rallying cry of confidence is that God will ultimately save his people.
This passage is a favorite of my Aunt Ruth, who has become increasingly paralyzed over the past 45 years from a debilitating disease. For months at a time, she was unable to speak because of tracheal stenosis, and she has endured more than 30 surgeries. In those quiet seasons, she would still whisper to her soul, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him” (verse 24).
Aunt Ruth is one who knows that problems don’t disappear overnight, yet she testifies that God’s mercies to her are new every morning. We too can find God’s blessings in big and small ways each day if we make a point of looking for them. Great is God’s faithfulness.
“The Levites may go in to serve the tent of meeting. But you shall cleanse them and present them as a wave offering; for they are exclusively given to Me.” – Numbers 8:15-16 NASB
To God, it was not enough that the Levites were born into a special family or called to ministry. God required a personal commitment from each one. He wanted them to be dedicated, to demonstrate that they were set apart to serve Him and focused to not allow anything to distract them.
He also wanted them to be purified. Each Levite was to experience a complete cleansing. Their whole bodies were to be shaved and sprinkled with “purifying water” (v. 7). And all their clothes were to be washed.
They also were to be cleansed spiritually by confessing their sins. Then, they were to approach God with a special offering. They also needed to present themselves as an offering.
God was giving us a picture of the kind of dedication He wants from His people. Some people are satisfied with just going to church or living a religious life. But God wants people with a full-time commitment, who realize that their relationship with Him changes everything. Only in His presence can they find “fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11). He wants people who present their bodies as “a living and holy sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).
Follow the call of God on your life. Dedicate yourself to serving Him. Seek to be free of distractions. Allow Him to probe your life and help you be clean in spirit, soul, and body. Be a living sacrifice, an offering pleasing in His sight.
Lord, Have Mercy
Scripture Reading — Psalm 31:9-16
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. — Psalm 31:9
Sometimes the suffering of life feels overwhelming, as if we are under attack and can’t find any relief. We may be debilitated by the grief of losing a loved one. Or maybe we are sick from a medical condition or treatment. Whatever the case, there are days when we feel the weight of the world on us. Lord, have mercy.
The psalmist here is feeling besieged by relentless human forces, along with the abandonment of his friends. He uses words like distress, anguish, groaning, affliction, forgotten, and terror. He fears that he will die at the hands of his enemies, and he cries out to God in agony. Lord, have mercy.
Perhaps you can recall a time you felt that way, when the walls and ceiling seemed to be closing in on you. While my personal suffering pales in comparison to that of people with chronic illness, I do remember feeling particularly burdened when—a few weeks after my second surgery for cancer—my husband had a heart attack and also needed surgery. In his recovery room, a compassionate nurse prepared a bed beside him for me to rest in as well.
Looking back on turbulent times, we can see how the Lord was with us and delivered us. God answers the cries of his people and shines his loving face on us, lighting up the darkness.