Mercy – the one word I find myself repeatedly praying this week. Lord, have mercy. Have mercy on our medical workers and migrants and people living in refugee resettlement camps. Have mercy on the poorest of the poor who live without doctors in the developing world. Have mercy on our government officials and grocery store clerks and farmers and elderly and frail. Lord, have mercy on us.
To ask for mercy — compassion or forgiveness from someone who has the ability to inflict hard implies that we need it. It also implies that there is one able to give it. “Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you,” Jesus said about how we ought to pray in the book of Matthew (7:7). For in the same way that a parent gives bread to a hungry child who asks for it, so God provides for his hungry children.
But first we need to ask. We must recognize our need and God’s ability to meet our need. This requires humility: the recognition that I am completely unable to meet my needs on my own. The ancient Israelites built the Ark of the Covenant, a gold-covered chest symbolizing God’s presence. On their journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land, they carried it with them. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest sacrificed a lamb and sprinkled the lid with its blood, asking God to take away the sins of the people. This lid was known as the Mercy Seat. Because the people had no way remove their sins on their own, God provided for their need through this ritual.
The Babylonians captured the Ark in 587 B.C. It has since been lost, but our need for mercy remains. It was for this reason that God sent Jesus, the perfect and final sacrifice, whose blood takes away the sins of the world. Not once a year. But once for every day of every year. Not just for the Israelites but for us all.
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God,” the writer of Hebrews says (4:16 NLT). “There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”
We are in the season of Lent – a time of repentance and seeking God’s forgiveness. We are also in a season of sickness and confusion and fear. Let us then examine our lives and seek God’s mercy for ourselves and for our neighbors and for our world. Let us repent for the wrongs we have done and ask God to forgive us for the ways we have broken his commands for how we ought to live. And as we look forward to the day of resurrection, let us pray the prayer of the Psalmist, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (139:23-24 NLT).
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the Lantern Hill Farm children’s picture book series. All personal proceeds from the sales of these books benefit children in the developing world. Connect at www.meadowrue.com