The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
The term mercy is derived from misericordia; a compound of miserans — pitying, and cor — the heart; or miseria cordis — pain of heart. The mercy of God, then, is the pity, the pain of His heart, inclining Him to pardon the guilty and succour the helpless. Grace is the twin-sister of mercy — gratuitous favour, unmerited bounty, benefit bestowed where there is no claim, blessing communicated without worthiness in the recipient.
I. ITS BENEFICENCE. It is not an inert compassion, but communicative and bounteous. It flows forth a spontaneous stream from an infinite fountain. The air is not more free, nor the light more diffusive and impartial.
II. ITS FORBEARANCE. "The Lord is slow to anger." His "charity suffereth long and is kind"; and, though its patience is often abused by impenitence, it "is not easily provoked." He delays punishment that He may lead to repentance; men pervert the delay into an occasion and encouragement of crime; and when He can justly delay no longer, He hurls His thunder with an averted face and a backward aim. He always warns before He smites; generally suspends the judgment long after the warning; then executes it gradually and by slow degrees, with frequent intervals of kindest indulgence, and arguments of unwearying love.
III. ITS ABUNDANCE. "The Lord is plenteous in mercy." Wonderful words! "Mercy" — what music in those two syllables! There is no term of richer import in any language. It is sweeter than sympathy, more tender than charity, and lies deeper than the fountain of tears. The inspired writers adopt a variety of expedients to heighten its signification. Sometimes they connect an epithet with it, and we read of His "great mercy," "tender mercy," "loving mercy," "abundant mercy," "everlasting mercy." Sometimes they couple another term with it, and we have "mercy and grace," "mercy and truth," "mercy and goodness," "mercy and judgment," "mercy and compassion." Sometimes they employ the plural form "mercies" — to indicate the frequency, the variety, the endless modifications and adaptations, of this most engaging trait of the Divine character. Then the plural is intensified in the phrase "manifold mercies," giving the idea of mercies wrapped up in mercies, a thousand contained in one. At last enumeration is outdone in "the multitude of His mercies" mercies numberless, thronging upon mercies unnumbered — a host to which the stars of heaven multiplied by all their beams of light could scarcely furnish a competent arithmetic. The apostle calls Jehovah "the God and Father of all mercies," because He rejoiceth in His mercies as a father in his children; and tells us that "He is rich in mercy to all that call upon Him," because no monarch ever dispensed his bounty so freely; and, though infinite in capacity, "full of mercy" — full as the ocean is of water, as the atmosphere of light.
(J. Cross, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.