What does it mean to be merciful? Well, it sounds simple, but it is one who shows mercy. Sure, sounds good, so what is mercy? The Greek word is eleos and is the stand new testament word for mercy, or sometimes compassion. This is in response to pain, misery, and brokenness of others. The word is both used for our reaction to others and God’s reaction to us. The word being used for merciful has an active sense, so we are actively responding to people, we are showing people mercy and compassion.
So, in some ways, this one is fairly simple – show mercy and mercy will be shown to you. Maybe the questions is obvious, but who is showing you mercy? We know that just because you show mercy or kindness to people does not mean that people will show it to you. The answer, as has been to the doer of all the second clauses of the beatitudes, is God. The tense used for ‘be shown mercy’ has a future active sense, leading one translator to make up the word ‘mercied’, which I like as a way to understand this verse. This continues the eschatological theme of the Sermon on Mount. That in our knowledge of God grace and mercy to use in the end, out of gratitude and obedience, we show others mercy and compassion today.
Both verse 7 and 9 are very much continuation of the promises of the Old Testament, but this is probable the most direct of the three. There is almost nothing to comment on. We are supposed to love God with all our…heart. The Psalms call out to God, asking for Him to create in us a clean (leading to pure) heart. One commentator defined the pure heart as one of ‘inner moral purity and single mindedness,’ the single mindedness being in devotion to God.
What do we receive for this pure devotion? To see the face of God. This is the ultimate sense of blessing in the Old Testament, the ultimate way of experiencing the Glory of God. Remember that this is exactly what Moses requested of God, thought even he was only allowed to see God has He passed by.
The most direct connection is Psalm 24:6 – the generation of those whom seek him, will see the face of the God of Jacob.
What exactly is a peacemaker? McKnight says it is one with ‘active entrance into warring parties, to make reconciliation. In Psalm 34:14(?) we are told to turn away from evil, seek peace pursue it. Being sons of God has two distinct meanings in this context. First, there is the obvious, that as a son(child) there would be an inheritance which of course brings us back to the overall eschatological sense of the Sermon on the Mount, specifically as it related to the Kingdom of God. The second, less obvious to modern readers is in the Hebrew, ‘to be called sons,’ has the meaning of sharing the characteristics of a father, in this case, God the Father, though Jesus Christ the Son.
There is a reason Christ is called the Prince of Peace. He is the ultimate reconciler, between us and God. Paul says in Colossian’s 1:20, ‘and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.’
What a great place to end our quick look into these three beatitudes. If you are thinking, aren’t there eight, you only did four earlier. We will look next week at the final one, those persecuted, and look at their connection to the following two verses.
Commentaries used in this series:
Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Bible Commentary)
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 : Christian Counter-Culture)
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
Matthew (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
The Expositor’s Bible commentary : Matthew, Mark, Luke, with the New international version of the Holy Bible (Expositor’s Bible commentary, Vol.8)
Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)
New Bible Commentary