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"Rich in Mercy"
Mark D. Roberts
Thursday, September 14, 2017

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"Rich in Mercy"

When I think of the phrase "Lord, have mercy!" I picture somebody's grandmother remarking on a situation that is both desperate and humorous. Perhaps she has just heard that her grandson got his driver's license: "Lord, have mercy!" means "Oh, my! Help him! Help me! Help us all!"

Ironically, the phrase "Lord, have mercy!" has now made its entrance into pop culture via the Internet, though in abbreviated form. LHM appears regularly on Facebook, Twitter, and in text messages. For example, a recent Tweet reads, "It's Superhot today! LHM :(." As a resident of south-central Texas, I can retweet that one! Lord, have mercy, indeed!

David begins his prayer in Psalm 142 with a version of LHM: "I cry out to the LORD; I plead for the LORD's mercy" (v. 1). The Hebrew verb translated here as "I plead" is a form of the root verb that means "to be gracious, to show pity, to have mercy." David is not just crying out to the Lord. He is seeking mercy, pity, and grace. By implication, David understands that God does not owe him. God is not obligated because of David's position or exemplary behavior. Rather, David recognizes that he is utterly dependent on God's goodness, on God's choice to show kindness.

The good news for David, and for us, is that God does show mercy. In fact, mercy is central to God's character. When he reveals himself to Moses, God identifies himself as "Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy!" (Exod. 34:6). According to Ephesians 2:4, God is "rich in mercy." Hebrews 4:16 offers the following invitation: "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it the most."

So, when, like David, we are in a desperate situation, we can cry out to God for help, putting confidence in our richly merciful God. In a sense, though, every one of our prayers is a cry for mercy, whether we are in a crisis or not. We do not approach God on the basis of our own worthiness. Rather, we come before him because he is gracious, because he has invited us, because he will give us, not what we deserve, but much, much more and much, much better than we deserve.

Mark D. Roberts is the author of several books including Can We Trust the Gospels? His article is adapted with permission from the original article "Lord, Have Mercy!" at All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures quoted are taken from the New Living Translation.

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